AKRON — With Wednesday’s Three Rivers Conference meet tied up at 36-36 headed into the final match, the Vikings found their fate in the hands of a freshman. Drake Montelongo never blinked.
The stage set for a dramatic finish at 113 pounds, Montelongo took the action to Rochester’s Dustin Siebert from the opening whistle with a takedown and two back points in the first period, then kept the pressure on through the remaining two periods for an eventual 13-0 major decision, lifting the Vikings past Rochester, 40-36.
“They thought they’d beat us, and we’ve got confidence in Drake. When we found out 113 was the last match, hey whatever happens, we know we’re going to get it,” said Valley coach Kyler Kearby. “He wrestled out there with great confidence as a freshman. Some freshmen, last match they’ll get jitters. He went out there, he took control of the match, and he never stopped.
“To end on that, the last match in the main gym here, that’s the environment these kids want to be in. I know it’s the environment I love to coach in. It was fun.”
Three straight pinfalls between 138 and 152 left the home team trailing 21-12 before Jon Humes took the mat opposite Noah Swango at 160 pounds. Kearby bumped his senior up a class in a last-minute lineup adjustment, and Humes made the most of the opportunity, using a bear hug to take down Swango early in the first period, then quickly turning him for a 1:28 pinfall and six points. Freshman Brandon Hammer followed suit with a slam of Waylyn Hayes and pin in a mere 44 seconds at 170, giving the Vikings a slight, 24-21 advantage in the team score.
“They shifted their lineup a little; so did we. We bumped up Jon to 60,” explained Kearby. “As a senior we count on him to get the win for us, get the pin, and he did. And then Hammer, another freshman, he wanted it, got in the position we needed to be in. He scored and attacked and got a big pin.”
A Rochester pinfall victory at 82 was followed by a pair of Zebra forfeits before Rochester’s Jesse Shriver claimed a 4-1 decision over Valley’s Ian Becker at heavyweight. While Becker may not have gotten the win, his refusal to give up extra points wound up making a difference. The same with Luis Vastillo at 132 pounds — although he came up short in a 5-2 loss to returning semi-state qualifier Justin Risten at 132, he battled to stay off his back, and that helped keep the Vikings in it on the way to the narrow final result.
Valley’s only other win in live action came in the meet’s opener at 120 pounds, where Hunter Eherenman gave up an early takedown but battled back with a reversal and near fall before finishing Aaron Arnett in the second period to stake his team to an initial 6-0 lead, which ballooned to 12-0 following a forfeit at 126.
“Hunter got down 2-0 in the match. He’s one that wherever it is in the match, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to keep wrestling,” Kearby said. “Giving up that takedown, it didn’t stop him. He kept battling and battling and found a way to win, and at this point in time against Rochester, you’ve got to do that.”
The Vikings move to 13-7 in duals and 5-2 in the TRC headed into the Goshen Invitational Saturday. They’ll wrap TRC dual action with Whitko Monday, then take the mats at the conference tournament next Saturday, Jan. 19 at Maconaquah.
“We’ve talked the last couple weeks, the second half is always tougher,” said Kearby. “We had a heck of a super six Saturday and some solid competition. We had a great meet tonight. Goshen is not going to be easy; there are some very good caliber teams there. Whitko, they’re going to be solid. My goal right now is to keep the kids’ heads on focus. Tonight, there were some kids that lost that are pretty upset. How are they going to respond? That’s how you’ve got to finish the season is how you respond.”