SYRACUSE — Thursday night had to feel good for the Wawasee wrestling team. The Warriors competed in their final home dual match of the season, celebrated their seniors and avenged a bitter loss from a year ago. Last season Wawasee fell to Concord in the two team’s annual dual 37-36, Thursday night gave the Warriors a chance to redeem themselves in front of their home crowd. The opportunity was not wasted as Wawasee rolled to a 54-15 win.
“It’s amazing,” said Wawasee’s Jeremiah Dilley. “The steps we’ve taken to get better and to do better as a team, and individually, are paying off. It really makes for a great feeling on nights like this.”
Dilley, one of Wawasee’s seven seniors that were honored before the meet, had plenty to be happy about as he picked up a 10-4 decision over Caleb Miller. Dilley let out a loud yell and pointed to the crowd as the clock hit zero in the 220-pound bout. Needless to say, the senior is enjoying the ride this season as the Warriors improved to 17-5 overall and 2-1 in the Northern Lakes Conference.
“It’s been tough,” Dilley admitted. “It’s definitely not given, it’s earned. I obviously like the way things are turning out and we’re only going to continue to get better.”
Things went from good to great for the Warriors real quick in Thursday’s match. Alex Castro started the night off with a 17-2 tech fall at 195 which rolled into Dilley’s win at 220. Elisha Tipping then earned a pin in the second period of the 285-pound match over Miguel Novoa. Wawasee held a 14-0 lead at that point and then the Warriors blew the match open.
Ricardo Romo (106) and Garrett Stuckman (113) earned back-to-back pins over Christian Laguerre and Logan Lawson, respectively. Those efforts were followed by Braxton Alexander (120) and Ashlee Luttrell (126) accepting forfeits at their respective classes. Geremia Brooks then earned a first-period fall over Jamyris Rice at 132. Now up 44-0, Wawasee had clinched the match before Concord had even earned its first point.
The Minutemen then won back-to-back matches at 138 and 145 pounds. Baily Stockman picked up the win at 138 over Wawasee’s Logan Baugh with a 4-1 decision while at 145 it was Harold Moon earning a pin over Michael Sautter.
Raymon Torres (152) and Jeremiah Ponsler (160) picked up decision at their respective classes in the next two matches followed by a pin from Concord’s Eliut Ramirez at 170. The evening closed with a 15-5 major decision by Wawasee’s Damien Rodriguez over Jordan Contreras.
“That’s more of how we want to wrestle,” said Wawasee head coach Frank Bumgardner. “That’s the important thing. We’re looking to score. We’re looking to get offensive and score more points and not leaving the match close. That’s what the purpose of tonight was.”
Wawasee fell 36-34 at Goshen last Thursday, a match that Bumgardner said was a direct result of giving up too many bonus points to the rival RedHawks.
“We’re still working to build our program to where we want it to be, it’s a continual process,” Bumgardner continued. “Trying to score a ton of points has not been the case in the past. It’s been about trying to throw a guy to his back and pin him early. That’s not how you win championship matches. You have to win those deep into the third period. That’s what we’re trying to emphasize.”
Bumgardner has helped to turn around a Wawasee program that slipped out of the ranks of being relevant from a team perspective after its last sectional title in 2010. With the Warriors winning two tournaments already this year and boasting its best conference record in recent memory, Bumgardner is content, but nowhere near ready for his team to be satisfied.
“If we want to look at it as an overall record, we’re probably ahead of where we thought we’d be this season,” Bumgardner explained. “But, if we want to look at it from a technical point of view, we’ve got a long way to go. We expect perfection every day and we’re not there yet. It’s a process.”
Wawasee will get a big test this weekend as it hosts its annual December Super Dual. Included in Saturday’s matches will be NLC duals with Northridge and conference powerhouse Plymouth.