By Bret Curren
The West Holmes High School varsity wrestling team capped off their dual meet season with a pair of victories downing Warsaw River View 47-29 before dismantling host New Philadelphia 53-21 on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at New Philadelphia High School.
The wins push the Knights final dual meet mark to 14-5 this season, giving the squad a tie with the 2006-07 team for most dual meet season wins in school history.
“We had a discussion about winning matches that maybe you shouldn’t win before tonight,” first-year head coach Scott Vaughn said of his team’s performance against River View and New Philadelphia, “along with that, getting bonus points against someone maybe you shouldn’t. I think the kids took that to heart and wrestled really well tonight. Tying the dual meet wins record for a season really shows the hard work that this young team has put in this year. As I said at the beginning of the season, even though we were primarily a young team, they came in with quite a bit of experience. It is a great accomplishment for the team.”
The Knights and Black Bears dual wasn’t decided until freshman Stephen Baldridge scored a fall win over Max Nelson at :47 in the 195-pound weight class to sew up the meet. Up until that point the Knights held a 6-4 advantage in wins. Tyler Masters (Soph., 113 pounds), Kaufman (Sr., 126), Hunter Bowling (Soph., 138), Will Rowe (Sr., 145), Cruz Alexander (Soph., 160) and Josh Baldridge (Jr., 182) got those wins, and all were bonus-point wins including five falls and a tech fall, giving West Holmes a 35-17 edge with four bouts remaining. Stephen Baldridge’s win was the decider despite the Knights forfeiting at both 220 and 285 pounds. Cael Woods (Soph., 106) capped off the meet for the Knights with a fall win to make the final score 47-29.
“I was nervous about River View,” Vaughn said. “They have a full team that was really peaking at the right time. We won the matches we needed to and then some.”
It really was no contest for the Knights in the matchup with New Philadelphia.
West Holmes won the first three matches, getting a forfeit win for Kaufman, a decision win for Kendel Weber (Soph., 126) and a fall win from Jarek Snow (Soph., 132) to pull out in front 15-0. The Quakers captured the 138 and 145 bouts before the Knights came right back with a five-match winning streak. Tre Anderson (Jr., 152) started off with a major decision win, followed by an Alexander pin, a Hayden Baker (Soph., 170) major decision, Josh Baldridge’s second fall win of the night and a forfeit win for Stephen Baldridge. With the Knights forfeiting at 220 pounds and heavyweight going to the Quakers, Woods and Masters closed things out with a fall win and forfeit win, respectively, giving the Knights a tie for the school record with the 53-21 victory.
“New Phila is always a tough team to wrestle because they are strong kids that can throw,” Vaughn said of the matchup with the Quakers. “We were without Skylar Cline and Walker Uhl, who are both typically good point scorers for us. Kendel stepped up really well in Walker’s absence. Will Rowe did a really nice job for us as a first-year senior and got a big win against River View. Tre Anderson got a win for us and made it nice because we got to bump Cruz up in Skylar’s place. Overall that ‘next man up’ mentality really was in effect tonight.”
Vaughn handed out two Knights Varsity Wrestling Hammer of the Week Award honors, lauding Hunter Bowling (Soph., 138) and Kendel Weber (Soph., 126).
Bowling picked up the award for his fall win against River View. “Hunter got a big pin against a kid he’d typically decision or major decision,” Vaughn said of Bowling’s work. “That’s something we’ve been focusing on: getting bonus-point wins.”
Of Weber, Vaughn said, “Kendel stepped in to the lineup against New Philly with Walker out and took care of business, that ‘next man up’ mentality.”
And with the team tying a school record, an individual highlight also was achieved with another school record in sight.
Senior Thane Kaufman scored his 150th career win after earning a fall victory over Ross Gunn (River View) at the 1:43 mark in his first match of the night. Kaufman would win his second bout by forfeit against the Quakers, putting him at 151 career victories, leaving him five wins shy of joining West Holmes wrestling legend Colt Sponseller as the school record holder for most career wins at 156.
“Thane getting his 150th win is awesome,” Vaughn said of his senior co-captain’s achievement. “It really speaks to his dedication and work he’s put in to the sport throughout his career. The kid deserves every accomplishment that he earns. I am sure he is proud of the accomplishment but will still have bigger goals for the end of the season in Columbus. I know that is his overall goal. Thane having a chance to surpass Colt’s record is also very exciting for him.”