The West Holmes High School varsity wrestling team kicked off its dual with rival Waynedale on Wednesday, Feb. 7 with a red-hot start, bolting out to a 25-0 lead through the first five bouts of the annual backyard dust-up contest at Waynedale High School in Apple Creek. However, the Knights could not keep that lead, winning only two of the nine remaining matches, resulting in a 42-31 loss to the Golden Bears.
The contest was much like last year’s rivalry match, only that one went the Knights’ way.
“Last year they kind of won some pivotal key matchups, and this year we kind of turned that around,” Waynedale head coach Louie Stanley said. “This has been a great rivalry, way back to when I wrestled. They have had our number for awhile, but the last 10 years we have really been back and forth, and it’s been a really great rivalry. It’s a good, clean, hard-fought match, and the timing is great because it helps prepare us for conference and state duals.”
“We really look forward to this one because they have a great team top to bottom,” West Holmes coach Scott Vaughn said. “I kind of had this one circled because it has become a really good rivalry.”
While the two teams evenly split the 14-match event, it was Waynedale’s ability to put away West Holmes with fall wins that led to them pinning the loss on the Knights.
“Our light weights did what we expected them to do and got us the lead,” Vaughn said following the meet. “They’re the strongest part of our lineup and got us out to a good lead.”
Things looked rosy for West Holmes as they roared out to the huge lead. Freshman Jack Welsh started things off for the Knights with a forfeit win at 106 pounds. That was followed by Cael Woods earning a fall victory over Waynedale’s Gabe Mathias at 2:49 at 113 pounds. Tyler Masters dominated with an 8-0 major-decision victory over the Bears’ Storm Stanley. West Holmes senior Thane Kaufman kept things going for the Knights with a 0:39 fall win at 126 pounds over Nate McClelland, and Walker Uhl completed the early run, earning a 9-3 decision win over Waynedale’s Jaden Varner, which put the Knights up 25-0.
That was when the fun stopped for the Knights and started for the Golden Bears.
While the Knights’ strength is the light-weight classes, Waynedale thrives in the middle of the lineup and showed dominance in getting right back in the match to storm to a 30-28 lead.
Evan Hostetler got the Golden Bears on the board with a fall win at 4:50 over Hunter Bowling, and Jarrett Varner followed that up with a win by fall at 3:38 over West Holmes’ Josh Sayers. Knights’ sophomore Cruz Alexander was able to extend West Holmes’ lead to 28-12 by stopping Micah Hershberger 5-3 in sudden victory in what proved to be the match of the night, but the Golden Bears went on a rampage after that, peeling off three straight fall victories to take the lead. That string included Max Lemon’s win at 0:49 over Skylar Cline, Kane Murray’s stop of Hayden Baker at 3:01 and Logan Stanley’s victory over Stephen Baldridge at 1:44.
Trailing by two, Knights’ junior Josh Baldridge continued to get back into the flow of things after recovering from a hand injury by taking down Ben Wilkinson in a 6-2 decision.
Now trailing by one, Waynedale got a boost with Ty Straits’ forfeit win at 220 pounds with the match coming down to the big boys at 285 pounds to decide it.
Waynedale’s Ben Farrar left no doubt, taking care of Ethan VanSickle in a fall win at 1:02 to pave the way to victory for the Golden Bears.
“The matches we needed to win we didn’t get,” Vaughn said. “But they’re a good team. We just need to learn to finish matches.”
For the Golden Bears, senior night turned into something special when all four of coach Stanley’s seniors came away victorious, Straits winning via forfeit and Logan Stanley, Farrar and Hostetler all winning via fall.
“It’s nice to see our four starting seniors max out in points like that on senior night, and we needed every one of those in a closer match like this,” coach Stanley said.
With the loss, West Holmes drops to 12-5 in duals this season but still has an opportunity to tie the 2006-2007 team for the school record of most dual wins in a season when they face both New Philadelphia and River View next Wednesday, February 14 at New Philadelphia High School in this season’s final duals.
Meanwhile the Golden Bears are looking to continue their romp through the state duals. Having reached the state quarterfinals again, they will take on a talented Versailles team, a team they defeated with relative ease in last year’s state duals.
Coach Stanley knows they can’t take anything for granted.
“They’re solid,” coach Stanley said. “Last year we beat them pretty good, but this year they are seeded fourth and we’re fifth, so we know it is going to be a battle. I feel like our kids are ready for the challenge, and we have wrestled well in duals this season.”
Additional information courtesy of Bret Curren