The Pickens Wrestling team traveled to Lambert High School on Wednesday Night for a set of matches with Lambert and Duluth High School. This set of duals were the last road matches for the Dragons and would see them face two 6A schools for the first time this year.
“We have traveled and faced some big schools and wrestled against kids from other classifications all year”
said Coach Grady Flanagan,
“so I expect nothing new. Every dual is a test for our young kids and Lambert is no exception. Coach Contardi has a really good program that features several highly ranked wrestlers and Duluth is a 6A school. 6A kids, even in wrestling, are a different kid altogether.”
The night started with Lambert and Pickens facing each other in a dual. The first match was the premier match of the night as Pickens’ star wrestler Koby Milner was matched against Lambert’s Payton Mitchell. In a rare occurrence, Milner was pinned by Mitchell in the third period. Mitchell is thought by many to have a good shot at winning the 6A title at 106 if his own teammates don’t push him out of the lineup at the end of the month when wrestlers get an extra pound, enabling some to drop weight classes. That loss marked Milner’s second loss of the season, both of which have been to projected state placers from higher classifications.
Much of the rest of the dual continued in the same fashion as Lambert continued to pin Pickens wrestlers. From 106-170, the Dragons lost every match, including giving up three forfeits. Lambert, however, lacked wrestlers at the next two weight classes, enabling Pickens to pick up to forfeits and also allowing Coach Flanagan to send Senior John Holbert out at 220 pounds. Despite giving up 20 pounds to his opponent, Holbert showed why he is one of the best in 7-AAAA by pinning the Lambert wrestler in under a minute. Another forfeit win for the Dragons at 285 pushed the final score to 60-24 in favor of Lambert.
The Dragons would turn right back around to wrestle Duluth in a very fun dual. Starting at 113 pounds, Freshman Michael Hernandez wrestled a back and forth match that eventually went into overtime. Under overtime rules in wrestling, t is basically the first to score. The Duluth wrestler shot in on Hernandez, who sprawled out and after a scramble, ended up stacking the Duluth wrestler for a pin. “That was big, both for our kids and for Michael,” said Coach Flanagan. “He had the match won but he finished him with a pin instead of just taking the points. That’s a three point difference right there.”
Again the Dragons would forfeit at 120, 126, and 132 pounds and find themselves in an 18-6 hole. After Sophomore Kyle Tidwell was pinned at 138, the deficit grew to 24-6. Michael Casey picked up a forfeit at 145 to shrink the deficit but Will Logan was defeated at 152 pounds. However, Will managed to fight for the entire three periods, saving the Dragons two points.
“Will understands wrestling in a dual. He knows how costly a pin is and he does everything he can to keep from getting pinned.”
Another loss at 160 put the Dragons in a deep hole, trailing Duluth 34-12. Pickens caught a break at 170 as Duluth’s best wrestler, Rodney Jones, was out with an injury. Josh Massey made quick work of his replacement and earned another 6 points for the Dragons. His brother, Joe, wrestled at 182 pounds, and after some early match mistakes, fought for a well earned 3 period decision to shrink the score to 34-21. John Holbert picked up another win, this time at his normal weight of 195 and further shrank the deficit.
A forfeit win for Trey Lunn at 220 put the Dragons 1 point behind with two matches to go. Knowing that one of those matches would be Milner, an almost guaranteed 6 points, the coaches told Senior heavyweight Elliot Gallagher that all he had to do was not get pinned. Gallagher rose to the occasion and even went above it to pin his opponent. Milner, as expected, earned a fast first period pin to seal the dual at a final score of 45-34.
“I could not be happier for our kids. We have been preaching to them about being tough and not giving up and strategy. It is starting to show. Michael’s match at 113, Will not getting pinned, Joe wrestling his heart out against an older guy, and Elliot taking it on himself to make sure we won shows that things are starting to click.”
Coach Flanagan said.
In Junior Varsity action, the Dragons continued to dominate as they won over 75% of their matches. Mason McKenzie and Kelton Gilbert both went undefeated on the night, each winning 3 matches by pin.
The Dragons JV wrestlers will be at Cherokee on Saturday. They will then host Cherokee and Union for senior night before ending the season with the Burnt Mountain Classic and the Area Traditional tournament.