By PEDRO VELAZCO
---- — PERU — The Peru Bengal Tigers kept their attention focused on the mat, but also made time to glance at the team point totals Saturday at the Peru Wrestling Regional. The Tigers had a tense battle brewing with Oak Hill.
Each team had already assured itself of nine wrestlers in next Saturday's Fort Wayne Semistate when the championship round rolled around. Oak Hill had five wrestlers in the final, and Peru four.
That's where Peru pulled away. The Bengal Tigers got title-winning efforts from Kegan Kern at 132 pounds, Evan Loe at 145 and Nick Cress at 195 while Oak Hill went 0-5 in title matches. Loe dominated. He scored three pins and his longest match was a 1:06 in the final.
Peru won the team title with 134 points, ahead of Oak Hill (120), Kokomo (100), Western (91) and Eastern (60). It's the sixth regional crown for Peru.
"Kids wrestled their hearts out, wrestled loose, hard," Peru coach Andy Hobbs said. "[We] had two kids get 100 wins. Connor Quin got his 100th win [Saturday] morning, Nick Cress got 100 wins in the second round. Evan Loe wins his fourth regional."
The team battle was a source of pride to the Bengals, who also advanced 106-pounder Shane Garretson (third place), 120-pounder Quin (third), 138-pounder Peyton Sturgill (second), 160-pounder Garrett Sparks (third), 170-pounder Danny Fisher (fourth), and 220-pounder Erik Hobbs (third).
"Very close team score, very exciting all day long," Hobbs said. "We led most of the way, but we had one round where we came out down a point or two. Oak Hill's got a phenomenal team. I'm thrilled for the kids to be able to put it together to win the regional."
The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the semistate.
Maconaquah 126-pounder Chase Wilson remained undefeated after winning a title.
Also advancing to semistate were Maconaquah 195-pounder Nick Ingram (fourth place) and three North Miami grapplers — 182-pounder Lane Eckrote (third), heavyweight Evan Beech (third) and 126-pounder William Mikesell (fourth).
North Miami and Maconaquah were 10th and 11th in the team standings.