BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — The Oak Hill Wrestling Sectional shook out as it was expected to Saturday, with the host Golden Eagles taking their first title since the 2001-02 season.
Oak Hill took a big lead into the final round and cruised to the finish with a total of 244.5 points to win the nine-team event. Kokomo was second with 200.5, Western third with 189, and Eastern fourth with 153.5. Taylor was seventh with a score of 87.
Kokomo and defending champion Western each advanced nine wrestlers to next Saturday’s Peru Regional, Eastern saw eight advance and Taylor four.
“We were hoping to get between nine and 11 out [to the regional] and we got nine out,” Kokomo coach Ryan Wells said. “Six guys in the finals is a good day.
“Any time you get second place, it doesn’t leave a real good taste in your mouth because you want to win it but I knew it was going to take a special day from us and an off day for Oak Hill to beat them. They wrestled well and our guys went out and did their jobs for the most part.”
Western led the local contingent in the finals, going a perfect 4 for 4 in championship matches. Caleb Maddox scored a 9-2 victory over Kokomo’s A.J. Nelson to win the 120-pound championship. Dustin Hinkle scored a 26-second pin of Taylor’s Stephen Sholty to win the title at 138. Corey Hinkle pinned Oak Hill’s Jake Mullinix in 2:24 to win the 182 title. And Russell McDorman won the 195-pound class with a 6-2 win over Oak Hill’s Aaron Hiles.
“The four guys that we really expected to perform did,” Western coach Chad Shpherd said.
“Those four guys, they’re the ones that have put in the time more so than anybody else. They’re reaping the benefits from it.”
Also advancing for Western are Payton Lechner (fourth place, 106 pounds), Tanner Heady (fourth, 126), Skylar Braden (third, 152), Dante Graham (fourth, 220), and David Ryan (third, 285)
The top four wrestlers at each weight class advance to the regional.
“It was nice to see Skylar come back, he’s been out since the 27th or 28th of December,” Shepherd said. “He was back and wrestled pretty good.”
The sectional was just three days after all nine squads at Oak Hill had to compete in mid-week conference tournaments after last weekend’s weather forced their postponement.
“We wrestled really poorly Wednesday, but I think it helped us [Saturday],” Shepherd said.
“I don’t think the boys really wanted to be there Wednesday, and I think with the weather, and school cancellations, the way it’s been, everything’s been kind of messed up, but I think that kind of got their feet wet again and put them back in the mode.”
Kokomo scored three champions. Chad Gaddis beat Taylor’s Kaleil Rucker 5-3 for the 152-pound title. Keair Ross beat Eastbrook’s Luke Elliott 7-2 at 170 pounds. And Fletcher Miller, the state runner-up at 220 pounds last year, scored a 17-0 tech fall victory over Eastern freshman Evan Ellis at 220.
“Hopefully we can continue to get better with those guys. I don’t think we’re where we need to be yet,” Wells said of the Kokomo champs. “All three of them, we expect to get in the state finals. And that being said, they know they’ve got some work to do.”
Six more Kats advanced, offering plenty of highlights: Jabin Wright (second, 106); T.T. Allen (fourth, 113); Nelson; Wyatt Lowe (third, 126); Brenton Etherington (third, 195); and Cameron Fitts (second, 285).
“Wyatt Lowe at 126, he comes back and gets third place,” Wells said. “With Scotty [Barbary] being out [unable to participate in the sectional], Wyatt stepped in there. He spent most of the season at 138 when Scotty was in, got his opportunity and took advantage of it.
“And Cameron Fitts going to the finals, he’s a second-year wrestler, he’s just 210 pounds at heavyweight, he goes to the finals and loses a close match against a quality kid [Oak Hill’s Owen Perkins].”
Eastern scored a pair of champs. Ty Swisher got the championship round rolling with a 15-9 victory over Kokomo’s Wright, who was the top seed going into action at 106 pounds. And Corbin Hetzner scored last-second escape for a 1-0 victory over Oak Hill’s Zach Gunter, who was the top seed at 126.
“Taking eight kids to next Saturday, I thought they wrestled well,” Eastern coach Bob Jarrett said. You come into the tournament forfeiting three or four weight classes, you can’t worry about winning team points, it’s just every individual, and overall everybody did a good job
“At 126, you’ve got a freshman that took out your No. 1-seeded kid, and the other match, the grudge match at 106, Swisher had gotten beat earlier in the year by Kokomo, and he handled him pretty well in the championship match.”
Eastern will also take Tanner Reed (fourth, 120), Taylor Arnold, (fourth, 132), Trevor Pharris (fourth, 138), Andrew Turner (third, 45), Chris Biddle (third, 170), and Ellis to the Peru Regional.
“[Ellis] is wrestling the best in the state [Kokomo’s Miller], so we can’t argue,” Jarrett said. “I told him I’d be happy to be second the next three Saturdays in a row.”
Taylor will take Chad Elmore (third, 113), Sholty, Rucker, and Logan Sarber (second, 160) to the regional. Sholty took out the top seed at 138 pounds before falling in the final.
“Overall, we wrestled well,” Taylor coach Aaron Schlueter said. “We improved throughout the day and we’ve definitely improved throughout the season.
“We’ve got to keep working like we are and if we do that I don’t see why we can’t get four to semistate, and once we’re at semistate, it’s anyone’s day there. If we keep working hard and keep grinding, good things are going to come for us.”