By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – In a rare sight Saturday morning, four Northern Lakes Conference teams all came together in what became a battle for the crown. In the end, Mishawaka did its job and left town NLC champions while Wawasee, Northridge and Plymouth all battled as part of the quad at the Hardwood Teepee.
The dual matches were largely part of make-up dates from earlier in the season with the exception of Wawasee versus Mishawaka, which led things off.
Mishawaka 46, Wawasee 25
Eight matches in, Wawasee and Mishawaka were deadlocked on the scoreboard at 19-all. It was from there the Cavemen flexed its muscles and scored the next 15 team points, riding a pair of pins and a decision. Wawasee would get six back on a forfeit, but got no closer as the Cavemen closed out its first-ever NLC championship with a pair of first-period pins.
The Cavemen, following a big dual win against Northridge Thursday night, finish the regular season round robin 7-0.
Hunter Miller held on for a pin with six seconds left in the first period over Tyler Thomas, Kaleb Salazar and Gavin Malone both ground out tough decisions at 106 and 145 and Wawasee had a pair of forfeits to cap its scoring.
“We see them a lot,” said Wawasee head coach Frank Bumgardner of Mishawaka, adding the teams train together in the summer and in offseason programs. “It’s not new to dual them, but to have them in a conference setting. You know in the back of your mind, hey, we’ll see you in regional, but you’re not in my conference. So it was different. It’s reinvigorating now to know that we’ll see them at least three times, in the dual, at the conference championship and then the regional. You know you are going up against some of the best three times.”
Northridge 45, Wawasee 20
Following a win over Plymouth in its opening action, the 2020 defending NLC champion Raiders (6-1) locked up second place in the NLC with a powerful showing against the Warriors.
A momentum changer came from Jasper Graber, who worked Brendan Dilley into a takedown late in the third period to record a 9-8 decision at 126, giving the Raiders a 9-8 lead. A marquee matchup at 138 saw Wawasee state finalist Jace Alexander take on the Raiders’ Logan Hooley. After nearly five minutes the two were deadlocked at 4-4, but Alexander worked into an escape off a restart and hold on for a 5-4 decision.
“Jace hasn’t wrestled a tough schedule to this point,” Bumgardner said. “You look at Hooley, he’s a tough wrestler. He’s a solid kid. It was good to get a match like that in. We were looking forward to Jace wrestling (Andrew) Sinkovics from Mishawaka, but he turns up sick, so he doesn’t even make the trip. Then finish the day with Cadyn Smith and this is a good day for Jace. He got some high level competition.”
Northridge would go from there, winning six of the next seven cards.
For Wawasee, Cam Zimmerman won a 10-6 decision over Ricky Lloyd at 170, Haegan Slusher scored a 1:38 fall over Connor Cripe at 285, and both Miller and Dylan Tom were victorious, Miller by tech fall and Tom by decision.
Wawasee 42, Plymouth 34
Without assuming, Wawasee looked to be in very good shape against Plymouth, leading 30-6 at the halfway mark, capped by an exciting pin at the final buzzer by Landon Dilley over Mason Keller at 152.
But the Rockies (2-3) responded in a big way, earning four straight pins to tie the match at 30, then taking a 34-30 lead after Anthony Popi controlled the 220 contest, 16-7, against Eleazar Vazquez.
But with the team win on the line, Slusher scored a pair of takedowns on Joey Garcia, using the second one into a pin at 2:18. With Wawasee up 36-34, Kaleb Salazar was granted a forfeit at 106 to finalize a long day in the Teepee.
“We didn’t want to change our approach any, and for the most part we didn’t,” Bumgardner said. “We knew today was going to be a good day of wrestling against three quality programs. To know the whole day was conference focused was unique. I’m really glad that we did it, good day of wrestling, and we couldn’t take off any matches. It showed there against Plymouth, you have to keep working or you might get beat.”
Wawasee (4-2 NLC) will wrap up its NLC round robin Wednesday against Goshen before turning its attention to next weekend’s NLC Championships at Warsaw. A win over the RedHawks will secure third place in the standings for the Warriors.