Written by Bret Curren
Photos courtesy of Sara Sponseller-Uhl
The West Holmes High School varsity wrestling team ran into a buzz saw in the form of the Aurora High School varsity wrestling team, falling to the Greenmen 61-12 in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Ohio High School Athletic Association Div. II Team Duals State Championship Tournament at St. John Arena in Columbus on Sunday, Feb. 10. The loss dropped the Knights from the tournament and put their dual meet season mark at 10-2.
“We knew coming into this match that Aurora team was a top-level team,” Knights wrestling head coach Scott Vaughn said following the dual. “They were a two-seed and eventual state runner-up for a reason. With that being said, the score doesn’t show it, but I thought our kids battled the whole time.”
Aurora grabbed a major decision win at 106 pounds, where Jack Welsh fell to put the Greenmen ahead early 4-0, but the Knights, the seven-seed in the state duals, would counter with three straight wins to go ahead 12-4.
Junior Cael Woods started the winning streak with a 7-0 decision at 113 pounds, followed by a fall win for junior Tyler Masters at 120 pounds at the 2:50 mark. Fellow junior Kendel Weber scored the third Knights win with a gutty 10-5 sudden-decision victory at 126 pounds.
“I know this is repetitive, but I ask them to go out there and compete,” Vaughn said. “That’s what they did today. Jack had a solid match with a top-10 kid in the state. Cael beat a fellow top-five kid in the state 7-0 after a scoreless first period. Tyler came through with a big pin. Kendel had a gutsy overtime win. After that [Aurora] won 10 straight, but I was proud of how we wrestled.”
After Weber’s thrilling sudden-victory win for WHHS, from that point on it was all Aurora as the Knights failed to win any of the eight remaining contested bouts while forfeiting at 170 pounds and heavyweight.
“As a coach you are always worried about the first time a kid or team makes it to state,” Vaughn said when asked if nerves played a part in the Knights’ loss. “You don’t want them to be in awe by the lights or surroundings. You don’t want them to ‘just be happy they made it.’ I don’t think this team did that at all. We were just up against an all-star-caliber team. When you’re outmanned, you’re outmanned.”
When asked if there was an individual highlight he saw despite the loss, Vaughn said, “Cael.” The undefeated junior and two-time state placer for the Knights now stands at 32-0 on the season. He was selected by Vaughn as the Knights Varsity Wrestling Man of the Match Award winner.
“The Man of the Match goes to Cael Woods for his dominant performance against another top-five ranked wrestler,” Vaughn said. “Cael knew coming into the dual that this was going to be a kid that he could see at the state tournament. He was pretty amped up to face him. I think it took the first period to settle him down a little. Then he really went to work. This should give him a confidence boost two weeks away from the sectional tournament.”