By Bret Curren
A little home cooking is always a great way for a team to find success, but when the West Holmes Knights hosted a field of top talent and plenty of great teams at their own wrestling tournament, it took a whole lot more than being at home to find success.
The West Holmes High School varsity wrestling team had a respectable showing at the 2018 West Holmes Varsity Invitational Tournament, finishing sixth in the 17-team field on Saturday, Jan. 27 inside The Dungeon at West Holmes High School near Millersburg.
Leading the charge for the Knights were champions Cael Woods at 106 pounds and Tyler Masters at 113 pounds. Both sophomores finished a perfect 5-0 on the day with each recording four falls among their five victories.
Aside from the two champs, there were plenty of other reasons for head coach Scott Vaughn to be excited.
Senior 120-pounder Thane Kaufman went 3-1 with three falls and earned runner-up honors. Knights senior 160-pounder Skylar Cline went 2-2 with two falls, and freshman 182-pounder Stephen Baldridge went 3-2 with three falls, both placing fourth. Sophomore Walker Uhl went 4-1 with a pair of falls at 126 pounds and garnered fifth-place laurels, and sophomore Cruz Alexander rounded out the Knights placers in sixth place, going 1-2 with a fall win.
“This was one tough tournament,” Vaughn said following the grueling day. “This may have been the toughest West Holmes tournament ever, competition wise. Wow!”
Vaughn was correct as this year’s edition had the most returning state placers (four) and returning state qualifiers (11) ever entered in the long-running event.
Ashland led the way in the team race scoring 258 points to easily outdistance runner-up Grafton Midview (198.5) and defending tournament team champion Carrollton (188.5). Gnadenhutten Indian Valley (183) and Medina Buckeye (182) rounded out the top five. West Holmes (154.5) topped the second five, followed by Medina Highland (109.5), Zanesville Maysville (97), Holland Springfield (91) and LaGrange Keystone (87).
Woods rolled through his opponents, posting four fall wins to reach the title match, where he posted a 16-0 tech fall victory over Case George of Ashland for his second straight West Holmes title while pushing his season record to an unbeaten 30-0.
Masters notched three fall wins in the preliminaries and then got his fourth of the day with his flattening of Anthony Ashley of Medina Buckeye at 4:44 in the championship tilt. Masters improved to 29-2 on the season.
Trying to give the Knights back-to-back-to-back championships, Kaufman’s bid came up just shy as he dropped an extremely tough 2-1 decision to Zak Anderson of Grafton Midview in the gold medal match.
Cline suffered a 7-2 loss to Gage Adkins of Ashland in the third-place match while Baldridge lost to Brodey Parsons of Gnadenhutten Indian Valley by fall at the 2:02 mark in their matchup.
Uhl topped Hunter Wilson of Zanesville Maysville with a 4-0 decision to earn fifth. Alexander lost to Zach Love of Gnadenhutten Indian Valley by a 10-2 major decision on their fifth-place bout.
“All in all we did pretty decent,” Vaughn said. “The guys that placed where they did is about where they should’ve against this competition. I know I say it all the time, but wrestling against this caliber of talent is great prep for sectionals and districts.”
Vaughn lauded both Woods and Masters with this week’s Knights Varsity Wrestling Hammer of the Week Award.
“Both of them had great weeks,” Vaughn said of his choices for the award. “They both went 2-0 with pins in the state duals Wednesday and capped it off today with 5-0 marks, four falls and championships.”
Jarek Snow was 1-2 with a fall win at 126 pounds, Gavin Greer went 0-3 at 145 pounds, Tre Anderson ended up at 0-3 at 152 pounds, Hayden Baker was 0-2 at 170 pounds, and Ethan VanSickle went 1-2 at 285 pounds, earning a win on a scintillating overtime match with Keystone’s Tim Garn.
For the Knights’ B team, freshman Corbin Miller went 1-3 at 113 pounds, and Kendal Weber was 1-2 with a fall win.