UTICA — The Utica Redskins
wrestling squad was barely edged on its home mats by Licking County rival Heath
In a good run-up to the Mid-Buckeye tournament, the Redskins put 236.5 team points on the board to place second in the 2009 Utica Invitational Tournament.
Utica scored an outstanding win in the 125-pound championship final by Dylan Wheeler, the tournament’s MVP. Wheeler and five other Redskins won their respective weight class.
“[Dom Barlow] beat me at the county tournament by two,” explained an elated Wheeler. “I learned that I needed to get in better shape. I wanted this one bad. It’s the last time I will see him throughout the season. It was a good match.”
“That was a big win for us,” said Utica coach Mike Garven. “A great job by Dylan.”
Heath, which also won six weight classes, also took three second-place finishes, as well as a third.
Heath coach Roger Morgan knew it would be very close.
“We were crunching the numbers and we knew it would come down to a win here or a pin there,” he said. “[Garven] has been coaching a long time. He was over there keeping track, too. I know he was over there crunching numbers.”
It came down to the final matchup of the day. With Heath (239 points) clinging to a slim lead, Utica’s 215-pound B.J. Douglas and Heath’s Alex Pettit stepped onto the center mat. Neither the wrestlers nor the coaches knew for sure how much of a lead Heath had in the total points standings.
Douglas, keenly aware that his team desperately needed points, quickly went on the attack and did what he needed to do. In a flourish, Douglas pinned Pettit to the mat at 50 seconds of Round 1. Unfortunately for the Redskins, when the final tally was posted, they came up 2 1/2 points shy of a victory. Still, not bad for a team missing three weight classes.
“I was thinking about [possibly beating Heath], said Douglas. “I knew it was between us and Heath, and we needed every point. We needed this one and I knew it could determine the outcome of the tournament. I treated it like all other matches. I just tried my best and it happenned. Hopefully, I do the same thing at the MBC.”
“He pinned him quickly,” said Garven. “It surprised me.”
Senior Kenny Poland of Utica maintained his spot among the best in the 145-pound weight class, defeating Centerburg’s up-and-coming sophomore, Jimmy Alexander, 7-2 in the final round.
“I was looking forward to that match all day,” said Poland. “I know [Alexander] is a good wrestler.”
“Jimmy was 4-0 until he ran into Kenny,” said Centerburg coach Mike Linkenhoeker. “That will be Jimmy in another year or so. He’ll be the guy people run in to.”
Poland has one more guy on his list this season.
“I’m looking forward to the league tournament,” said Poland. “Mr. Scotty Robinson of Johnstown. He’s the top dog at 145.”
Dylan Ware of Utica pinned Aaron Haught of Northridge in 21 seconds and Ricky Knuckles of Fredericktown (3:12) to win the 103-pound title.
At 119 pounds, Pete Hughes won the top spot for the Redskins, scoring a 16-1 defeat of Nolan Dilts of Fredericktown.
Hughes’ teammate, 171-pound Creston Gray, won all five of his rounds to finish atop his weight class.
Also for Utica, Seth Ware finished second at 152; Derrek Posey was runner-up at 160.
“All of our kids wrestled really well, and I was really pleased,” Garven said.
The East Knox Bulldogs, who placed third with a score of 187.5, got a first-place finish in the 140-pound class by Mark McNichols. Heavyweight Andy Van Winkle and 135-pounder Trent Simmons each added a second.
“We’ve had success in all of the tournaments we have been in,” said East Knox coach Keith Kaufmann. “The kids have performed well. Just getting everything clicking at one time has been a challenge.”
The fourth-place Fredericktown Freddies (156) were led by 130-pounder Rodil Rodriguez, who was first. Finishing second for the Freddies was Nolan Dilts (119.)
“The team is a little batterred and bruised right now,” said Fredericktown coach Steve Herbst said. “We lost a couple that we would have preferred to win. I would say, overall, we got really good wrestling top to bottom, and I would say that I am pleased with what they did. We are going to revert back to basics leading up to the league and just hammer in the basic wrestling skills because it looks like what we fell short on were the simple things.”
Linkenhoeker was encouraged as he continues to watch his young Trojans progress each week. Along with Alexander, 112-pound Thomas Thatcher, 130-pound Aaron Morris and 189-pounder Alex Hudson also got second-place finishes.
“Uunfortunately, none of them ended up first,” Linkenhoeker said.
Mount Vernon’s “B” team ended up with 109 points. It was led by third-place finishers Drew Cully (140), Collin Pillow (145) and Korey Bielecki (160). Six Yellow Jackets wound up fourth.