West Holmes Wrestling

Three champs and a great team effort for Knights at their own invite

Alex White

While West Holmes couldn’t quite pull out a championship on its home turf, the nights did a remarkable job of performing well across the board in grabbing the bronze in a tough field of competition.

The West Holmes High School wrestling team placed third out of 14 teams Saturday, January 28 at the West Holmes Varsity Invitational Tournament held inside The Dungeon at West Holmes High School.

Three Knights wrestlers worked their way into the championship match, where all three emerged victorious as individual champions.

“Having three tournament champions and having 11 placers total, that is a great day for us,” said West Holmes coach Jeff Woods.

The list of champions included junior Thane Kaufman at 106-pounds, who went 3-0 and recorded three straights falls in the process, freshman Cael Woods at 113-pounds and senior Cody Woods at 152-pounds. The rest of the Knights also did a commendable job, placing eight wrestlers in the top six.

“I think out of all of the champions, maybe Cael’s effort surprised me the most because he knocked off a state-ranked kid in the finals,” Woods said. “Thane was basically unchallenged the entire day, and right now we are seeing Cody really wrestling up to his potential.”

Third place finishers were freshman Walker Uhl (126-pounds) and sophomore Josh Baldridge (170), while freshman Tyler Masters (120), junior Skylar Cline (160) and senior Jake Mullet (195) snaring fifth place honors. Rounding out the Knights placers in sixth were junior Colton Bowling (138), freshman Cruz Alexander (145), and senior Alex Walker (220).

Kaufman stopped Nathan Blake of Carrollton in 2:34 for his gold medal, the victory marking his 99th career win, putting him one shy of the 100-win milestone. Cael Woods downed returning state qualifier Brady O’Conner of Gnadenhutten Indian Valley by an 8-4 count for his title while his cousin Cody Woods earned career win No. 105 after decking Jarrod Setliff of Medina Buckeye at 3:35 in the title bout. Uhl downed Michael Briggs of Triway by a 4-2 count for his bronze with Baldridge pocketing a 10-4 victory over Rick Thomas of Clear Fork for his third place finish. Cline scored a fall win at 2:23 over Tyler Smarrella of Wintersville Indian Creek ‘B’ and Mullet flattened Jessie Wilson of Ontario in just 52 seconds for their fifth place standings.

“I feel like we are heading in a really good direction right now, which is great for this time of the year,” Wood said of his team.

A rugged and talented crew from Carrollton won the event with 294.5 points, followed by Gnadenhutten Indian Valley with 237.5 and West Holmes close on their heels with 225.5. Medina Buckeye was fourth with 178.5, Triway earned fifth, led by runner-up finishes by Michael Yacapraro and Brian Persinger, with 114, sixth went to Mansfield Senior with 110.5, La Grange Keystone was seventh with 109.5, eighth place went to Indian Creek with 103, Fairless garnered 85 points for ninth and Maysville rounded out the top 10 with 82.5.

Woods said that the West Holmes tournament has really grown over the past years. While the Knights have collected a share of titles at their own event, in recent years they have really upped the level of competition, and Woods noted that it has become increasing more difficult to grab the gold.

“It has gotten to the point where we keep adding quality teams, and the competition continues to get better and better, which is what we want,” Woods said. “We have a lot of state-caliber kids coming to wrestle here now, and this has blossomed into a really nice showcase for some of really great talent.”

For their championship efforts, Woods tabbed Kaufman, Cael Woods and Cody Woods with the West Holmes varsity wrestling Hammer of the Week award.

With its own tournament now in the rear view mirror, West Holmes will begin to focus on the upcoming sectional tournament, where it is survive or go home time. The Knights varsity wrestling team will have a change of scenery for the upcoming 2017 Ohio High School Athletic Association sectional tournament. To even out the number of Div. II schools in the East and Central districts, four schools from the East district, including West Holmes, were assigned to the Central district for sectionals. One big change in that format will be rather than being a typical two-day tournament, the sectional tournament is now a one-day affair and will take place at Whitehall-Yearling High School.

“We’ve never been there but we are excited to try something new,” Woods said. “There will be pluses and minuses, but in the end, we just have to go out and perform the way we are capable of performing, I don’t care where we’re at.”

The 13-teams in the sectional tournament include Bexley, Carroll Bloom-Carroll, Carrollton, Columbus Bishop Hartley, Columbus East, Columbus Hamilton Township, Columbus Independence, Columbus Linden McKinley, Columbus St. Francis DeSales, Granville, Hebron Lakewood, host Whitehall-Yearling and the Knights. The top four placers at the sectional advance to the March 3-4 district tournament held at Heath High School in Heath, Ohio.

*****

Seven junior varsity wrestlers competed Friday, January 27 at the Black Bears Junior Varsity Invitational Tournament, and all seven Knights made the podium with top four finishes in the tournament held at River View Junior High School. Earning championships were freshman Hunter Bowling at 126-pounds and sophomore Ryan O’Donnell at 160-pounds. Both champions finished with 5-0 marks. Freshman Kendel Weber went 3-1 at 106-pounds, and brought home runner-up honors, with third place finishes going to freshman Justin Stapleton (120-pounds, 4-1) and classmate Josh Sayers (132-pounds, 0-2). Rounding out the Knights placers were fourth place finishers freshman Gavin Harter (120-pounds, 2-3) and sophomore Tre Anderson (138-pounds, 2-3).

*****

With four champions and four other top four placers, the West Holmes Middle School wrestling squad capped off its regular season Saturday, January 28 with a fourth place team finish at the 2017 Ohio Cardinal Conference Middle School Championship Tournament held at Ashland High School. The Knights champions included Tucker Kaufman (92-pounds, 3-0 with two falls), Conner Varnes (98-pounds 3-0 with two falls), Brayden Myers (160-pounds, 3-0, with three falls), and Stephen Baldridge (172-pounds, 3-0 with three falls). Earning a runner-up finish was Gavin Greer (134-pounds, 1-1) while Jack Welsh (80-pounds, 2-1), Dylan Strouse (86-pounds, 1-1 with one fall), and Corbin Miller (110-pounds, 2-1 with one fall) brought home third place finishes. The Knights racked up 151.5 points, trailing only conference champion Mount Vernon’s 211 points, runner-up Ashland’s 205 points and third place Mansfield Madison, who edged the Knights with 171.5.

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