WARSAW — It’s been a challenging season for Warsaw wrestling, and the wins have been few and far between for the young Tigers. But even if it’s not always apparent on the scoreboard, head coach Kris Hueber can see his wrestlers develop.
Visiting Goshen handed Warsaw a 56-12 defeat in a Northern Lakes Conference dual at the Tiger Den Thursday night, but that lopsided score didn’t tell the whole story.
“We have two seniors on our roster so we are very young, and even a lot of my sophomores are first-year wrestlers. So from where we were in our opening weekend to where we are now, individually we’ve seen tons of improvement,” explained Hueber.
“It’s one of those things that, with more mat time and as they’re buying into what we’re asking in the room, you’re seeing so much more, even if we’re not pulling off the wins. We’re seeing the progress; we’re getting there.”
The Redhawks opened with a major decision at 120 followed by four first-period pinfalls from 26 to 45 and led by 28 points before the Tigers were able to get on the board.
Jose Grimmett, bumping up from 45 to 52 to help the Tigers fill all 14 classes Thursday, scored a takedown on a counter and crossface of a Noah Shivley shot midway through the first period but led by a tenuous 2-1 margin after Shivley’s escape late in the round. Grimmett still only led by a point at 5-4 halfway through the third round, but rafter Shivley cut him loose with just 47 seconds to go, another Grimmett takedown and a near fall with 15 seconds on the clock brought the score to a 10-4 final margin and gave the home team three points.
“We bumped him up. He’s usually our 45, and he wrestled a good match,” said Hueber of Grimmett. “He definitely felt the weight a little bit. There were some times in there where I think he took some shots and changed his mind, but he handled the tempo of the match pretty well I thought, and for a guy that’s a little bit lighter to be the one in control of the tempo and the gas in the match I thought was good for him.”
The Tigers had to wait until the 182-pound match for their second win, as Grayson Drudge stayed busy on his way to a 12-5 decision over Jude Fitzgerald. Drudge scored five takedowns in the match — three in the first period alone on the way to an early 6-2 advantage — and, like Grimmett, showed good pace throughout the bout. His takedown with 23 seconds left sealed the win.
“Drudge has been a little bit up and down at times. That’s a match that on paper I would hope that he could finish that guy off, but I was happy with the pace of his match,” Hueber said. “We know that he’s had some areas that we’ve definitely been working on and pushing him in the room, and those showed up on the mat really well tonight. I thought he was really good on his feet. His takedowns were really good. He had a lot more drive, a lot more motor than he’s shown, and that’s something that is going to be big for him going forward is if we can keep him wrestling that style.”
Warsaw’s only other team points came via forfeit at 95, where Brock Hueber was disappointed not to get to wrestle. It’s been a challenging season for the Tigers sophomore, who, between some match-ups against a handful of top area wrestlers and a spate of forfeits, has had trouble finding competitive matches this season.
“I was a little surprised at 95 that Brock didn’t get a match, but their guy is just coming off an injury. He’s eager to get matches. He’s just had a weird thing where he’s wrestled a handful of semi-state and state qualifiers this year, and then he’s had a handful of forfeits,” said coach Hueber.
While the Tigers earned just three wins Thursday, two other matches were lost by razor-thin margins, both by wrestlers named Estepp.
At 160, Brandon Estepp, moved up from his usual 52-pound spot in the lineup to wrestle Goshen senior Rene Gutierrez-Villa. Estepp trailed 6-3 going into an action-packed third period following a pair of Gutierrez-Villa takedowns and some back points versus three escapes by his young Warsaw opponent. After choosing to start the final period down, Estepp scored an escape and a quick takedown a little over 30 seconds into the round to knot the score at 6-all but couldn’t advance position. With only 34 seconds to go, Warsaw’s coaches instructed him to cut Gutierrez-Villa and look for a takedown, but the final buzzer ultimately sounded on a 7-6 defeat.
“Even though he’s a freshman he’s got more mat time than a lot of my guys because he did some offseason stuff with us,” said Hueber of Brandon. “We asked him to bump up tonight; he wrestled another tough kid, and he’s right there in the end. He tied it up late, and we decided that our best bet was to try and get him to tempo with the guy and get another takedown. It just didn’t work out. He’s right in there, and it’s a good match for him against a tough kid.”
The Tigers came up on the wrong side of another one-point decision at heavyweight, where Dillon Estepp battled it out with Steven Worlds. Estepp got double underhooks at the edge of the circle and threw Worlds with 14 seconds remaining in the first period, but the ref ruled the takedown had occurred out of bounds and reset the competitors in the middle. The bout was still a 0-0 stalemate with one period to go, but with Estepp starting the round in the top position, Worlds managed an escape just five seconds in, then held on for the 1-0 win.
It was a disappointing decision for the Tigers. For his part, Hueber thought that after a nasty spill off the mat by the heavyweights midway through the opening period, the official was over careful near the edges of the circle.
“I don’t want to argue about stuff too much,” he said. “I think the ref when we had that out of bounds where they took a tumble on the floor, once he saw them go out of the mat, I think he was a little gun shy and blowing the whistle a little early. There were a couple things right on the edge that I thought we had. That was a little frustrating because I thought maybe that changes the match in a big way.”
Goshen moved to 19-7 overall with a 4-3 NLC mark with the win, while Warsaw dipped to 5-22 and 0-6 in Northern Lakes action. The Tigers will take a handful of wrestlers to the Woodlan tournament Saturday before returning home for its NLC capper and a senior night dual meet with Concord next Wednesday. After that it’s on to the conference tournament at NorthWood the following Saturday.
“Outside of seeing the scoreboard and how ugly that can look, the actual competition on the mat I’m pretty happy with the progress we’re making. It’s one of those things that’s rough because year after year we’re young, and we’re throwing kids in the fire,” Hueber said. “In years past, what you see is a lot of those freshmen, sophomores, they’re not coming back the next year. They’re having a hard time dealing with that. What I like right now is I think I’ve got some guys with some really tough resolve, and I think we’ve got guys buying in so that in the long run I think this could be good for us.”