By Bret Curren
The West Holmes High School varsity wrestling team powered past Norwalk 48-31 in the finals of the 2019 Ohio High School Athletic Association Div. II-Region 9 Team Duals Championship Tournament at Lexington High School on Saturday, Feb. 2 to win the regional championship and move into the final eight of the OHSAA DII Team Duals State Championship Tournament.
“That was impressive,” Knights wrestling head coach Scott Vaughn said following the regional championship trophy presentation. “In all of our duals today, especially the championship against Norwalk, the boys came through by winning bonus-point matches. If we don’t win our matches by bonus points, we don’t win this regional championship. It’s as simple as that.”
Starting with a lightning-quick fall win by Jack Welsh (Soph., 106) at the :24 mark in the opening period, the top-seeded Knights kept racking up the bonus-point wins, nailing down four straight fall wins against the Truckers. Cael Woods (Jr., 113) won in 2:22, Tyler Masters (Jr., 120) followed suit in 2:16, Kendel Weber (Jr., 126) finished off his opponent in 3:19 and Tucker Kaufman (Fr., 132) won in 2:28, all of them helping push the Knights out to a 30-0 lead.
Walker Uhl (Jr., 145) got a fall win at 2:23, and that would be the only Knights victory from 138-182 as the second-seeded Norwalk team fought back, winning five of six matches to get back into the meet at 36-25. Vaughn then made a strategic move and bumped Stephen Baldridge (Soph.) up to 195 pounds from Baldridge’s normal slot at 182 pounds, and it paid off big time. Baldridge sewed up the regional championship for the Knights with a fall win at :52 seconds, pushing the Knights lead to an insurmountable 42-25 advantage with two matches left. Skylar Anderson (Soph.) scored the final WHHS team win when he received a forfeit at heavyweight.
“The last two weeks we’ve been preaching to the team they need to win the fight within the fight,” Vaughn said of his squad’s smart wrestling throughout the day. “Don’t give up unnecessary points because those lead to bonus-point wins for the other team. For the most part we did that today. Dillon Miller against Norwalk was a perfect example. I bumped him up a weight, so he’s giving up 10 pounds, and he’s a freshman going against a junior. He may have lost the match, but he only lost by a major [decision]. He didn’t get pinned, and he didn’t lose by a tech fall. On the other side of winning the fight within the fight, we got huge bonus-point wins in the match with Norwalk from Kendel, Tucker, Walker and Stephen. Those wins were huge for us.”
With the number-one seed, the Knights received an opening-round bye, then downed Warsaw River View, the number-nine seed, by a 53-27 count in the quarterfinals before posting a 39-33 triumph of number-four-seed Bellevue in the semifinal round.
Posting 3-0 records on the day were Woods (113/120, one fall), Masters (120/126, two falls), Uhl (two falls) and Baldridge (three falls) with Dylan Strouse (Fr., 113) and Kaufman (one fall) finishing 2-0.
Notching 2-1 records were Welsh (two falls), Hunter Bowling (Jr., 138, one fall), and Gavin Greer (Soph., 152, one fall) while Weber was 1-1 with a fall.
Finishing 1-2 were Ethan Raber (Jr., 160/170) and Anderson. Also competing for the Knights were Miller (Fr., 160/170) and Colt Cox (Soph., 195).
Receiving the Knights Varsity Wrestling Man of the Match awards were:
Hunter Bowling (Jr., 138) in Warsaw River View dual. “Hunter went into the second period at 0-0, got an escape that eventually worked into a pin. That was good to see,” Vaughn said.
Gavin Greer (Soph., 152) in the Bellevue dual. “Gavin was super aggressive and just overwhelmed his opponent,” Vaughn said. “That’s the best he’s looked all season.”
Stephen Baldridge (Soph., 182) in the Norwalk dual. “Stephen bumped up a weight and didn’t disappoint,” Vaughn said. “His win was the regional championship clinching win.”
The Knights will face Aurora, the Region 11 champion, in the quarterfinal round of the 2019 OHSAA Div. II Team Duals State Championship Tournament at 1:15 p.m. at St. John Arena in Columbus on Sunday, Feb. 10.
The other six teams in Div. II gunning for a state title include Sandusky Perkins (Region 10), Lisbon Beaver Local (Region 12), Gnadenhutten Indian Valley (Region 13), London (Region 14), Hamilton Ross (Region 15) and St. Paris Graham Local (Region 16).