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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, February 1, 2020

Wawasee’s team earned a Plymouth Sectional three-peat with five individual champions and regional qualifications in 13 of 14 weight classes. (Photo provided)

PLYMOUTH — Wawasee was once known for its wrestling program, with dominant championship streaks during the late 1970s, early ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s. It seems safe to say that wrestling is fully back in style in Syracuse.

The Warriors claimed a three-peat at Saturday’s Plymouth Sectional, with 261 points to the host Rockies’ runner-up tally of 221.5. Tippecanoe Valley broke up a top-three sweep by Northern Lakes Conference schools with 167 points ahead of Warsaw’s 164, while Triton rounded out the team standings with 54 points.

Wawasee placed 13 of its 14 entrants into the top four to advance to next weekend’s Penn Regional, including six in championship matches, five of which the Warriors won in a dominant showing at the Rock.

“We want to be leading, and that’s what we’re doing right now,” said Warriors head coach Frank Bumgardner of his team’s third consecutive sectional title, the fourth such three-peat in program history. “We want Wawasee to be known for wrestling. We’ve been known for wrestling in the past, and we’re being known for wrestling currently. These kids put a lot of time in, not just in the high school room but offseason, youth, things like that. This is a program; it really is. There are a lot of people that have been involved in this program for a long time, and it shows.”

“I’m just proud. You put in the work in the wrestling room, and it shows here,” said junior Jace Alexander.

Alexander and Garrett Stuckman both earned their second individual championships for Wawasee Saturday.

Alexander pinned his way to the 126-pound title, stopping Triton’s Gage Sobieck in a mere nine seconds, sticking Culver Academies’ Samuel Suppes in under a minute and collecting a 2:45 fall of Plymouth’s Dominic Smith in a rematch of last weekend’s NLC Tournament title match. Stuckman raced his way through the 152-pound bracket in similar fashion, needing a total of just 2:52 of mat time to pin his way through Bremen’s Bailey Moser, Triton’s Elijah Cox and eventually Plymouth’s Bradey Pittman in the final for his second straight sectional championship.

Garrett’s younger brother, freshman Logan only needed to wrestle one match at 106, and he pinned Bremen’s Bryce Darmer just before the second period buzzer for his title. Another freshman, Hunter Miller, likewise benefitted from a bye and a forfeit but

Wawasee junior Jace Alexander controls friend and Plymouth wrestler Dominic Smith in a sort of wheelbarrow hold at Saturday’s Plymouth Sectional. (Photo by James Costello)

suffered a 9-0 major decision loss to Tippecanoe Valley’s Drake Montelongo in the championship round — Wawasee’s only loss in a final Saturday. Sophomore Dylan Tom also needed to wrestle just once en route to his 120-pound championship, stopping Plymouth’s Max Howard in 3:38 in their title tilt.

Following Alexander’s 26-pound title win, the Warriors’ next finals berth came at 138, where freshman Gavin Malone battled back from an early 4-1 deficit versus Plymouth’s Jordan Howard, taking a 6-4 lead with a reversal early in the second but giving up an escape with 39 seconds remaining in the period to lead by a tenuous one-point margin going into the final period. Malone rode Howard through a tense final two minutes despite several near-escapes to give Wawasee its fourth championship through the first six finals of the day.

“You’ve got to win. The whole point of the tournament style is to win — whether it’s by one, whether it’s by tech, whether it’s by pin, it doesn’t matter,” said Bumgardner of Malone’s championship match. “The whole point is just to win the match. We’re going to talk about some tactics. He’s a freshman, and obviously you can tell he’s wrestled a long time so he’s a pretty good wrestler, but we’re going to talk some tactics because if we’re in that position again, we’re going to handle it differently.

“With all that being said, he did a really good job. It was a tense environment, tense situation, but he handled it beautifully.”

The Warriors actually trailed Plymouth briefly following the semifinal round of wrestling but went seven for eight with seven pins in the first wrestleback round. Brenden Dilley (132), Tim Shortt (145), Isiah Faurote (160) and Logan Baugh (170) all finished third in their weight classes, while Fernando Hernandez (182) Austin LaJoice (195) and Quintin Spitzmacher (220) all finished fourth, each earning the right to wrestle at next Saturday’s Penn Regional.

“We knew that we had a chance to get quite a few guys out today, and as we were talking we thought anywhere between 10 and 14 had a chance,” said Bumgardner of his team’s 13 regional berths. “When you start talking that many numbers, you’ve got to win some toss-ups, and we had most of our guys win toss-up matches at some point, and that’s what you want to see.”

Drake Montelongo wrestles Wawasee’s Hunter Miller in Saturday’s 113-pound final. (Photo by James Costello)

Valley wrestling continued its steady march up the standings, meanwhile, leapfrogging from fifth at last year’s sectional tournament into third place Saturday. The Vikings qualified wrestlers in eight weight classes for the regional round of the state series and placed four in the finals in Plymouth.

“I’m pleased with how we did as an overall team, especially I know we lost to Warsaw in a dual and finished ahead of them, and they had a heck of a day,” said Valley coach Kyler Kearby. “We had a lot of lower classes really have some really good days. I’m pleased with how we competed. It was nice to see some guys lose a match early but battle back and really finish strong.”

The Vikings made the finals at 13, 32, 60 and heavyweight but brought just one title home to Akron via Montelongo’s major decision win over Wawasee’s Miller at 113. It was a big rebound for the sophomore, who settled for fifth-place at last weekend’s Three Rivers Conference Tournament and had to wait to wrestle his first match Saturday in the finals. After scoring a takedown midway through the first, Montelongo took control with another takedown and a near fall late in the second, then scored a reversal in the final round for the major and a second-straight sectional championship.

“TRC last weekend he got a fifth place, and I know he wasn’t pleased with that by any means. It was a solid weight class, but he’s better than fifth place,” explained Kearby. “We were interested in seeing how he’d do in his final match with not having a match until then. He looked pretty tough, and he ended up getting a major and that was good for him. His rhythm was there, and he’s ready for this time of year.”

Hunter Eherenman was pinned in the final minute of his 132-pound final by Warsaw’s Brock Hogenson, while Brandon Hammer got stuck at the 1:26 mark of his 160-pound championship by Tigers junior Jacob Linky, and Hagaen Slusher suffered a late second-period pinfall to Plymouth’s Andrew Himes in their heavyweight finale. Galvin Shambaugh wrestled his way back to a third-place finish at 106, Branson McBrier placed third at 138, Bazle Owens was third at 182, and Johnny Gonsalez finished third at 195 with a narrow 11-10 decision over Wawasee’s LaJoice in their console final.

“I know Drake was our lone winner, but even the guys that didn’t place still went and battled and put up a good showing,” Kearby said.

Warsaw’s Brock Hogenson looks for an opening against Tippecanoe Valley’s Hunter Eherenman in their championship match. (Photo by James Costello)

Warsaw got only seven through to the Penn Regional, but the Tigers did secure titles in three of five finals appearances Saturday.

Brock Hogenson pinned his way through the field en route to a 132-pound final, Linky did the same at 160, and Estepp won his 182-pound championship with falls in two of three matches, his 7-2 decision in the semifinals the only match an eventual Warsaw champion didn’t win by fall.

Liam Nolan lost via late pinfall in his championship with Plymouth’s Tyler Richey at 145 pounds, while No. 18-ranked Brock Hueber fell in just 31 seconds to unbeaten sixth-ranked Eli Pack of Culver Academies in a match-up of ranked wrestlers in Saturday’s 195-pound championship. Andrew Ross finished third at 126 pounds, and Isaiah Owens netted Warsaw another third-place result at 138 pounds.

But that’s where the Tigers’ regional berths ended.

“Today kind of showed that while we’ve made a lot of progress as a program, our depth is lacking,” said Warsaw coach Kris Hueber. “Where we were good, for the most part, we did our job in terms of holding seed. We won matches that we were supposed to most of the time. We just struggled with some of our matches where we thought we might sneak a four in here or there, or in those consolation matches where the hidden points in a tournament show up, too.”

Triton’s Connor Pitney rides Bremen’s Cale Brown in their fifth-place match. (Photo by James Costello)

Triton had just two regional qualifiers in junior heavyweight Caleb Lemler, who outpointed LaVille’s Tyler Studon in their third-place bout, and freshman Cox, who placed fourth with a 3:19 pinfall loss to LaVille’s Matt Brown in the 152 consolation final. Connor Pitney (138) and Travis McCoy (170) both placed fifth, and Gavin Butler (132) finished sixth in the only other podium finishes for the Class A school at the sectional meet.

Regional-qualifying wrestlers now turn their attention to next Saturday’s Penn Regional, where they’ll be joined by top-four finishers from Saturday’s Mishawaka Sectional. Again, the top four finishers will move on to the following weekend’s East Chicago Semi-State.

“Whether you’re first, second, third or fourth, you’re going to draw into some tough kid,” forecasted Kearby. “The group we’re taking this year, they’re ready for it. They want it, and they welcome that opportunity. What it’s going to take is winning those nitty-gritty matches that some of our guys won today, and they’ve got to come out ready to go at 9:30 a.m.”

“All of our kids have wrestled a fair amount. They know how this all works. At this point, we’ll go and look at draws, see what that looks like, and then from there we focus on us,” Bumgardner said. “We’ve got to press hard. We’ve got to train hard this week. The season is not over. We’ve got to get better, every one of them. We’ll see how we perform next week, and hopefully we get 13 semi-staters.”

“It’s a process. You’ve got to trust it,” said Garrett Stuckman.

For Warsaw, the more semi-state berths the Tigers can win, the better. Not just for those individuals involved but to help push the program forward, explained their coach.

“It is an individual season and we care, but it’s not just about you now,” he said. “It’s about what you do to promote the growth of the program and help that next guy in. I’m excited to see the team aspect of things as we go here. If we’re really dedicated to becoming a great program.”

Northridge followed up its NLC championship with a third-straight team title at Memorial Saturday, scoring 266.5 points to runner-up Jimtown’s 227. Elkhart Central was third with a score of 158, while NorthWood finished just three points back for fourth at the meet.

‘Wood made the finals in four weight classes, going 2-for-4 there, and enjoyed seven top-four finishes in Elkhart.

Jake Lone won the Panthers a championship at 182, sticking Concord’s Logan Kidder in only 18 seconds in the semifinals and winning an 11-3 major decision over Northridge’s Andrew Lockwood in the finals, while fellow senior Jaden Miller collected his team a second straight title in the 195 class with a 2:29 pinfall of Central’s Moses Fortoso and an injury default win over Northridge’s Ibrahim Khaoucha in the championship.

Freshman Kaden Lone made the finals at 145 with pinfalls of Memorial’s Dylan Black and Northridge’s Brant Blasko but injury defaulted in the championship match. Junior Blake Herr made the heavyweight finals with a pinfall of Concord’s Jayden Ochoa and a 9-3 decision over Northridge’s Addis Rhent but came up a hair short in a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Central’s Jacob Sommer in the finals.

Sam Schultz finished third at 113, falling via first-period pinfall in the semifinals but pinning Goshen’s Juan Coliazo in the back draw and shutting out Fairfield’s Ryan Keller, 7-0, in the third-place console match. Cameron Jones placed fourth at 132, winning a 2-1 decision over Fairfield’s Jonathan Ortiz in his opener before falling to Goshen top seed Rasheek Bonds in 55 seconds in the semis, then coming up short, 9-7, to Jimtown two seed Ethan Eberhart in the consolation finals. Tyler Becker was fourth at 152 pounds, winning a high-scoring, 16-13 decision opposite Goshen’s Mitchell Daniels in the opening round but losing via early pinfall to Ridge No. 1 seed Oliver Eveler in the semis and via a 4-1 decision to Jimtown’s Lukas Medford in their third-place match.

NorthWood wrestlers advance to the Goshen Sectional next Saturday, where they’ll be joined by top-four finishers from the Westview tourney. Wrestling starts at 9:30 a.m.

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