SYRACUSE – It was a wild night Thursday under the solitary light in the Hardwood Teepee. Wawasee celebrated its final dual of the season wrestling old school with one light on the center of the mat. With the spotlight on a surging Wawasee program, Elkhart Memorial brought some old school toughness to the dual and made the top-ranked Warriors work in a 44-23 final in favor of the home side.
A tech fall at 152 by Koby Lundy over Logan Baugh put Memorial up a shocking 23-11, which included a decision in the night’s marquee matchup between two state-ranked 126-pounders in Christian Mejia and Braxton Alexander, won by Mejia convincingly 13-7.
But the night turned very quickly in the 160-pound matchup, where Fernando Hernandez scored a takedown with less than a second left in the third period on Logan Nichols, then rifled off a takedown in overtime to score a big three points and setting the capacity crowd into motion.
Xavier Ortiz and Alex Castro then rattled off pins, Damien Rodriguez and Dalton Pearish earned forfeits to secure the team win, and Ricky Nelson – filling in for an ill Elisha Tipping – set the gym ablaze with a pin in the third round of a very rowdy heavyweight matchup with Cameron Lightner. Nelson, who was down 10-5 to Lightner heading into the third, was nearly pinned in the first period and had to be restrained by his coaches after an altercation with the Memorial big in the same period.
Nelson found some room to work on Lightner and brought him down moments into the third, and as Lightner motioned in obvious pain towards his ankle, Nelson got the squash and six points. Lightner laid on the mat in severe pain for several minutes as some harsh feelings broke out in the gym between wrestlers, spectators and personnel.
Just part of what was a very memorable night for the 27-1 Warriors.
“We tried to build up tonight to make this an event for the community to support and have fun, and they did, and it was a lot of fun,” said Wawasee head coach Frank Bumgardner. “But man, we have to wrestle a lot better. We are better than what we just wrestled. We’ve got guys sick, hurt, whatever. It doesn’t matter. You step onto the mat under the spotlight, there is no excuse. We have to perform better than what we did.”
Wawasee finishes the Northern Lakes Conference season 6-1, its only loss to Northridge which has turned out to be its only team loss of the season to date. Ridge finished the dual season 7-0 for the second year in a row and has plenty of momentum heading into the NLC Championships on Jan. 20 at NorthWood.
Wawasee wraps up its regular season this Saturday at the Adams Central Duals.
“We are trying to have fun, and this is a fun sport, but people in this program haven’t had fun in a long time and it’s time to change that,” Bumgardner said of the night, which included an autograph night following the match. “We want to give the people a reason to come out and support us. Winning certainly helps, everyone loves a winner, but this is how we can give back to the community.”