UTICA — Longtime rival high schools East Knox and Danville did something that they had never done before.
The Bulldogs and the Blue Devils met head-to-head on the wrestling mat for the first time in their collective history on Wednesday night in a Mid-Buckeye Conference quad-match between the two archrivals, along with the Johnstown Johnnies and host Utica High School.
The Blue Devils won Wednesday’s inaugural meeting, 36-24, in a dual where both teams were a bit thin in personnel and could only muster head-to-head bouts in four weight classes.
In the 113-pound weight class, Danville’s John Hammond pinned East Knox’s Robbie McDonald in the first period. Danville’s Cade Mickley defeated Cole Enderle in the 132-pound class with a second-period pin. The Bulldogs won the other two bouts with Noah Phillips (126 pounds) and Sully Howe (145) pinning Daniel Mickley and Kyle Mickley, respectively. Although they split the actual matches, Danville got the edge in forfeited weight classes.
Kyle Mickley only went out for wrestling recently, joining the Blue Devils’ mat squad this past Christmas Day.
“We have great attitudes,” said Danville coach Keith Kauffman. “I’d like to see more numbers. (Kyle Mickley) works hard and picks things up pretty quickly. We see all the kids improve. To them, it’s not fast enough but we’re going to get there.”
For East Knox coach Tim Moore, who replaced Kauffman this season, it will be a maturing process for his boys.
“We started off with a lot of young kids,” said Moore. “We have one senior, one junior and the rest are sophomores and below. We have a couple of kids who have never wrestled before. We are definitely hitting some speed bumps in the first part of the season.”
It was a much-anticipated meeting since Kauffman, a longtime area high school wrestling coach, took his career up the road a few miles from East Knox to archrival Danville, establishing the Blue Devils’ very first varsity wrestling program.
“It’s like building a jigsaw puzzle,” said Kauffman. “You start by putting the square edges on and making a frame. Now, we’re putting those pieces together. We put, maybe, half a dozen pieces together tonight. When that all gets put together, we’re going to be ready. Not everybody advances at the same level. We’ve got some kids still struggling, but we’ll get there.”
It was strange seeing Kauffman wearing blue instead of his accustomed Bulldogs’ purple.
“It’s difficult because I coached those kids last year but that’s what rivalries are meant to be,” said Kauffman. “It’s been a long time coming. This is an historic night.”
“I told our kids that we definitely want to come out the victors,” said Moore. “On the match score, we didn’t. There were a lot of forfeits but, head-to-head, we split — 2-and-2.”