NAPPANEE — Even Wawasee’s coach had to commend NorthWood’s lineup on its effort in Tuesday night’s Northern Lakes Conference dual in Nappanee.
But that effort wasn’t enough to put the young Panthers over the top against a veteran and skilled Warriors roster as Wawasee bounced back from its first loss of the season with a 46-19 win over host NorthWood at The Pit.
“Our lineup was very different from our ideal lineup tonight, but, again, how did we perform? NorthWood is looking to rebuild right now, and if you watch their team and you watch their coaches they’re worried about effort. I thought they did a great job giving good effort tonight up and down the lineup. Not so much on our part,” said Wawasee coach Frank Bumgardner.
“Did we have pride? Yes. Did we compete? Yes. Did we fight? Yes. And those are the biggest things that we’re trying to instill,” said first-year NorthWood wrestling coach Nate Andrews. “A family atmosphere and environment is what we want to get done and accomplish first and have kids cheer and compete for each other and have families show up and cheer us on.
“That family atmosphere and then second of all that toughness that encompasses those first three things that I mentioned, those things I think we did tonight and I’m pleased with that.”
Logan Baugh staked the Warriors to an initial lead when a late escape helped him edge out Tyler Becker, 5-4, in the 160-pound match. Jaden Miller tied it up with an 8-2 decision over Fernando Hernandez at 170, however, to leave the two teams knotted at 3-3 and set the stage for the evening’s most exciting match at 182.
Jake Lone, ranked sixth in the state at 170 after placing eighth there at the state finals as a sophomore last season, wrestled up a class to square off against Wawasee senior Alex Castro, rated 12th in the state at 182 pounds by Indianamat.com. The match featured a pair of blood stoppages for Lone and saw Castro’s singlet ripped in a back-and-forth battle between ranked opponents. Escapes by Lone in the second period and Castro early in the third were all the points either could muster until late, before Lone was able to finish a takedown with just over a minute remaining, then rode out the narrow, 3-1 win.
“Low-scoring match. Both guys maintained pretty good position, didn’t get out of position, battled quite a bit,” said Andrews of the match. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight going into that one. I thought that Jake just had a will at the end to secure a takedown. It was a good match.”
“He’s got three losses on him right now, all three to top six guys in the state. So he’s had a really, really tough schedule to this point in the year, and he’s wrestled all three of those guys really close but he’s very much not happy right now. He wants to win. We’re tired of this ‘It’s close’ kind of stuff,” explained Bumgardner of Castro.
“His last match against Culver he didn’t go into it properly mentally, so the focus this match was mentally let’s be in the right frame of mind. Let’s go compete the way we need to compete, and if we need to make technical adjustments, we’ve got time to do that. But mentally he performed much better tonight. Now it’s time to win.”
Raymon Torres’ ankle pick of Noah Alexander late in the second period at 95 helped key a pinfall win, Isaiah Tipping used some Greco-style clinching and trips to good effect on his way to a major decision over Zach Miller at 220, and Haegan Slusher survived a heavyweight war of attrition with Isaac Benjamin, 5-4, to give Wawasee a little separation at 16-6 before NorthWood’s next win at 106. Sam Schultz led by a narrow 2-1 margin after the first period but settled in in the second with a pair of reversals and two near falls on the way to a major decision victory over Landen Dilley.
“We thought he had a fall a couple of different times. We’ve got to get in a little better position to make sure we secure that, but Sam Schultz is learning and improving every day and I thought he went out and not only had fun and competed but wrestled well, too,” said Andrews.
Forfeits at 113 and 126 sandwiched around a quick Alec Wortinger pin of Armani Kimbroush at 126 pushed the Warriors out to a 34-10 cushion. Jace Alexander returned to the lineup all the way up at 132 and secured another first-period pinfall win over Cameron Jones, which put his team fully out of reach of the Panthers at 40-10 with only three more matches remaining.
“Being a short week, it was too much, too quick to make it on Tuesday. He’s close; he’s weighing like 21 tonight,” explained Bumgardner of his usual 20-pounder. “But then we started looking at the team score, and it was closer than it needed to be. He wanted to wrestle, and he wanted to go up to 32, so we’ll turn him loose.”
Alex Walker pinned Elliot Tinsley in the third period at 138 to cut into the Warriors’ advantage, but Braxton Alexander had his way with Jesse Mullett at 45, taking the latter down a full 10 times before finishing him midway through the second period. Trey Tobias gave NorthWood its last win at 52, where he edged out Jesus Malagon, 4-2, to bring the score to its final margin.
NorthWood slips to 4-3 with a 1-1 NLC record after last week’s win at Concord.
Wawasee improves to 11-1 overall with a 2-0 mark in the conference.
“Our number one goal this year is to win the conference. We haven’t done that yet so we want to win the conference, and it’s got to start in the dual season,” said Bumgardner. “Thursday we’re off to Goshen to get our third win there, and then next Saturday we’ll see Northridge, so we’re seeing a lot of conference teams real quick.”