By: Bret Curren
The West Holmes High School varsity wrestling team opened the 2016-2017 season Saturday, December 3 with a strong 3rd-place team finish at the 8th Annual Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center Sports and Orthopedics Services Bobcat Invitational Tournament held inside the Gene Ford Gymnasium at Cambridge High School in Cambridge, Ohio.
With championship efforts from junior Thane Kaufman at 113-pounds and sophomore Josh Baldridge at 182 pounds, plus seven other top-eight placers, the Knights racked up 188 points in the pool-style formatted 14-team tournament. Thornville Sheridan topped the field with 235.5 points while Lisbon Beaver Local notched 210.5 for the runner-up spot.
“That was a great way to start off a new season,” Jeff Woods, the Knights 26th-year head coach said following the tournament. “Some of our returning wrestlers that didn’t place here last year did this year and that’s a good sign.”
Both Kaufman and Baldridge rolled through their opponents for their championship hardware, each finishing with 5-0 marks on the day and each with four fall wins.
Kaufman dominated his weight class as the returning state qualifier also pocketed the tournament’s “Most Pins In Least Amount Of Time Award”, checking in at 3:21 total time, including his championship match fall win at 1:09 over Blake Sheppard of New Lexington. The title was Kaufman’s second straight Cambridge championship as he won the 106-pound title in 2015.
With a 6-1 decision win in his opening match, Baldridge went on a tear, flattening every opponent he faced from that point on, including his pin of Josh Sandozal of Whitehall-Yearling at 4:48 in the title match.
Nailing third-place finishes for the Knights were freshman Cael Woods (106-pounds) and senior Cody Woods (152). Cael Woods stopped Rann Zimmer of Warsaw River View with a 15-0 tech fall at 4:04 for the bronze medal while Cody Woods pinned Derek Moore of Washington Court House Miami Trace at 1:29 for his bronze.
Fourth-place finishes went to freshman Tyler Masters (120), junior Skylar Cline (170), senior Alex Walker (195), and fellow senior Jake Mullet (220).
Freshman Walker Uhl (126) and sophomore Ryan O’Donnell (160) both finished eighth to round out the Knights placers.
“We had a lot kids not wrestling in the weight class they will be later on this season,” Woods said. “A lot of them were wrestling up a class and to get the effort and places we got from them I’m happy.”
Coach Woods was also pleased with the improvement he saw from his team, but in typical coach fashion still saw things that need work.
“We showed a lot of improvement, but we’re a long way from where we want to be at the end of the season,” Woods said.
Kaufman and Baldridge were both tabbed as the season’s inaugural ‘Knights Varsity Wrestling Hammer of the Week’ award winners by coach Woods for their championship performances.