The wrestling team is off to an amazing start. They are 3-0 in duals and walked away with a team title at the Bentonville West Invitational tournament this past weekend. This is the best start for the team in many years, and the exciting thing is this is a very young team. This team is starting 2 freshmen, 6 sophomores, 2 juniors, and 4 seniors. This start is special but it is just the beginning of what these young men are capable of this year and in years to come.
Now let’s get into what happened this past week. The Zebras entered the week 2-0 and traveled to wrestle the #8 ranked Catoosa Indians. Going into the dual the Zebra’s were underdogs and it was going to take a full team effort. The coaches have spent a lot of time preaching the importance of dual points and how important each one is when trying to win. These young men are really starting to buy into the idea that this is a team sport. It is just you on the mat but it matters how you win, and it matters how you lose. By thinking like this and wrestling for each other is how you win a wrestling dual.
In a dual there are 14 matches and a team can score 3,4,5, or 6 team points that is determined by how many points you win by or if one of the wrestlers pins the other. With that being said we needed all 14 wrestlers to win and I could talk about all of them, but I won’t. I am going to talk about 4 matches, 2 we won and 2 we lost, and these four matches decided the match in our favor. The first match was Mason Gillespie at 120 pounds. Mason was taken down and was losing 2-0 at the end of the first period. His opponent chose the bottom position in the second and it didn’t last much longer as Mason went to work. He got both legs in and used a power-half to put his opponent on his back for a fall (pin) which earns the team 6 points. Why is this match one of the four matches I picked? Because people said he could not win the match. One of the opponent coaches said Mason can’t beat him. Someone told his dad, he can’t win. Well, that did not phase Mason and proved he is a force to be reckoned with.
The next match was Alex Llanas at 126 pounds. Alex had some things not go his way and found himself down by 10 points with about 1 minute to go. He stayed focused and was able to change his mindset from an individual with a goal, to a team player with a team goal. You see if the match ends and Alex loses the match by 8 points or more, Catoosa would receive 4 team points. Alex got a takedown with about 15 seconds left, let his opponent go, and got another takedown at the buzzer to lose by 7. Instead of Catoosa getting 4 points they only got 3. He showed that he is wrestling for himself, but also wrestling for the team. As you continue to read you will see why it was so important for him to wrestle until the final buzzer.
A few matches later it was Bill Embry stepping on the mat as a huge underdog. Bill goes from his feet to his back early in the first period and he stayed there for almost a minute. Bill fought as hard as he could to not get pinned and give Catoosa 6 points, and he did it. Do you know how hard that is to do? It is like someone holding you underwater and you have to make a choice to survive. Bill chose to survive and went on to lose by 10 which only gave their team 4 points instead of 6. Those two points mattered.
Remember that team point Alex saved us by getting the last-second takedown. Remember the two team points that Bill saved us by fighting as hard as he could and not getting pinned. Well, those 3 points allowed us to go into the final match at heavyweight losing by 5 points. Josh Felciano stepped on the mat needing a pin, no problem, right? Well, what most don’t know is Josh was as sick as a dog, but he showed up for his team. No way was he going to let being sick be the reason the team did not win. He showed up not for himself but for his team and got the 6-point pin to push the Zebras to a 33-32 victory. What a way to end the night, and what a huge step in the direction of this team’s goals.
Not only did the Zebras have a big dual win last week, they traveled to Arkansas over the weekend to wrestle at the Bentonville Invitational. The girls started us off wrestling on Friday and went to war. Hannah Hall went 4-1 and finished 5th, Abby Tietz went 4-1 and finished 2nd, Emma Heath went 4-1 and finished 5th, Karly Shisler went 3-2 and finished 4th, Keekee Bacon went 4-1 and finished 2nd, Kat Molester went 3-1 and finished 2nd, and Dezi Bulwin went 3-1 and finished 3rd. Over all the girls had a great showing and finished 6th as a team.
Saturday it was the boys’ turn and they showed up as they do every day, ready to take care of business. Maddox Jacks had 4 pins on his way to a 1st place finish at 113. At 120 we had two wrestlers, Mason Gillespie and Andrew Handcock, go 4-0 with 4 pins and split a 1st-place medal. The same thing at 126 with Gunner Murray and Alex Llanas both going 4-0 and splitting a 1st-place medal. At 132 Micheal Robertson went 4-1 and finished 5th, 138 Tate Hepler went 4-1 and finished 5th, at 150 Cooper Zickefoose went 4-1 and finished 3rd, at 190 Cameron Braswell went 4-1 and finished 5th, and at Heavyweight Josh Feliciano went 4-1 and finished 2nd. With all of those boys wrestling well and wrestling as a team they were able to accomplish something that the Zebra wrestling team has not done in years. They won the whole tournament. Again, the ones that did not finish 1st did not sit in the stands and pout because they lost, they moved on to the next match and did what they were supposed to do and that was win their next match. They competed and did what was best for the team, not what was best for themselves. If we keep doing that all the other 5a teams better look out.
I know this article is long and I apologize, but the last thing I want to say is a big congratulations to our wrestlers of the week. For the girls, it is Abby Tietz. Abby is a first-year wrestler and was able to go 4-1 and take 2nd. She definitely does not look like it is her first year. For the boys, it goes to Mason Gillespie. Mason got a huge pin for us against Catoosa and finished the week 5-0 and five pins. Congrats to you two and the entire team. Let’s keep it going this week as we wrestle 9 duals at the Donnie Morgan Dual Tournament.