The four Wapakoneta Redskins at the State Wrestling Tournament didn’t want to participate in the evening session on Thursday night.
Well, that was only for the wrestlers who lost their first match.
Alec “AJ” Brown, Holden Hengstler, John “JT” Martin and Nate Valentine went 4-for-4 on the mat Thursday afternoon to move on to the Friday morning session.
Martin was the first to wrestle in the 106-pound weight class. Martin dominated his opponent, Michael May of Eaton with one-legged takedowns.
“I pretty much just dominated the match on takedowns. Really wasn’t a close match,” Martin said. “Mentally you just got to take it one match at a time. I just got to stay focussed.”
Martin won the match, 11-3 major decision, and now moves on to face Tyler Warner of Claymont.
“It was fortunate for JT, because he wrestled an opponent he was familiar with,” Wapakoneta varsity wrestling coach Jason Rostorfer said. “JT’s in a good spot, he’s going to go out and wrestle, but he’s got a kid he’s already beaten this year.”
Next up on the mats for the Redskins was Valentine. This match was close in every aspect of the word. Valentine, after scoring a takedown in the second period, won the match by a narrow margin, 3-2.
“Nate’s first comment when he came off the mat was ‘I didn’t wrestle good,’ but hey, he won,” Rostorfer said.
Valentine defeated Dallas Lazear of Athens in the 145-pound class. He now moves on to wrestle Gabe Stark of Warren Howland in the Friday morning session.
With two seniors done and two left, next up for the Redskins was Brown.
“I knew my three friends were going to win, so I needed to win,” Brown said. “We all just wanted to leave early and go back and relax tonight.”
Brown’s match was against Blake Owens of Newark Licking Valley, and Brown came away with a victory, 6-2, in the 195-pound match.
Brown scored a key takedown in the third period to seal the victory.
“Knowing that I had him tired, I knew I had to get a takedown,” Brown said.
Rostorfer said Brown was wrestling defensively, and it was a factor in the flow of the match.
“Alec likes to wrestle defensively and run front headlocks, and that kid was good at countering front headlocks, so their styles kind of butted up a little bit,” Rostorfer said. “In the third period he got him finally. We got our escape points and got a couple takedowns, at this level, you’re not going to blow anybody out.”
Brown said he didn’t want to be the one to lose in the first round.
“I went out on the mat scared and afraid to do things, then I settled down in the third period and got the huge takedowns,” Brown said. “I realized that if I don’t step it up, I’m going to be the guy that loses and will have to fight back to try to place.”
The final wrestler for the Redskins was Hengstler. Hengstler came away with a victory over Kenny Jackson of Mantua Crestwood, 6-3.
“Starting off in the match, that kid was tough, I didn’t know how easy it was going to be to shoot in on him and get his leg. Once I got in on his leg once, he went down pretty easy,” Hengstler said. “I just kept my head up, worked my shots, and won it from there.”
Hengstler said once he got tied up with Jackson, it became easy to score the takedown.
“When we tie up, he didn’t have much of a shot. I knew that I could get in there and work my shot, without him coming in on me,” Hengstler said.
Rostorfer said Hengstler didn’t seem to struggle with the nerves of the first match, surprising for the atmosphere.
Other wrestlers who had not been at the state tournament before did.
“Nate and Alec had a little bit of nerves attack them. Holden was OK nerve-wise, but he was a little tight,” Rostorfer said. “That’s going to happen first time down here. I told them that it doesn’t matter what the score is. It could be ugly, it could be pretty, just keep moving on.”
Rostorfer said he was proud of his wrestlers and that they had earned this moment.
“Every kid that is down here has worked their tail off to get down here,” Rostorfer said. “Our goal was to go 4-0 today, and we did, I don’t think we’ve ever had four wins in the first day, going 4-0, they don’t have to be pretty, you just have to score more points.”
Hengstler said it felt great to have all four of them avoiding the Thursday consolation match.
“It feels awesome to do that, I was the last one to wrestle, and I didn’t want to be the one that didn’t win,” Hengstler said. “So I gave it everything I had.”