Young Eagles Finish Runner-Up In Sectional

Posted on January 31, 2012 in Winter Sports, Wrestling

Cody Staggs wrestles to a 2012 Sectional Championship last Saturday.

By chuck landis

MIER – Kokomo was wrestling champions of the North Central Conference and added an Oak Hill Sectional title Saturday afternoon. Yet, that team in the Wildkats’ rearview mirror is closer than they appear.

The host Golden Eagles, receiving major contributi ons from three sophomores and five freshmen, came within 23½ points of overtaking the Wildkats. No doubt, they will be a team to reckon with in future sectional tournaments.

“It’s the second time in a row we lost to them in a very close match,” said Oak Hill sophomore Ethan Bowland, sectional champion at 285 pounds. “(Kokomo) is a solid team, and we are solid top-to-bottom. And we’re a young team.”

Oak Hill, runners-up in the Central Indiana Conference, had lost a one-point dual meet to Kokomo in the regular season. Although the Wildkats overpowered the sectional field with seven individual champions, the Eagles hung close with top four finishes in 11 of the 14 weight classes.

“We wrestled hard and Kokomo is a good team, and I say good luck to them,” Oak Hill coach Andrew King said.

Bowland, who decisioned Marion’s Matt Miller 6-1 in the final, was one of two Oak Hill champions. Senior Cody Staggs rallied to pin Eastern’s Tyler Smith in the final minute at 120 pounds.

Marion’s Gabe Flores became a first-time sectional champ with a 9-4 decision over Oak Hill’s Breighton Mullinix. Eastbrook’s Donovan Elliott won at 145 pounds after outlasting Taylor’s Logan Sarber, 10-7.

The top four finishers in each weight class advance and 27 Grant County wrestlers move on to Saturday’s Peru Regional. Kokomo also qualified for the team regional Wednesday at Logansport.

Although Oak Hill is young, seniors Staggs, Jared Wallace (second at 132) and Thomas Linna (fourth at 182) made contributions. Staggs was the No. 1 seed at 120 pounds but trailed Smith 6-4 nearing the final minute of the championship match.

Smith was in control, but Staggs took advantage of an opening and simultaneously executed a reverse and then put Smith on his back for the pin with just 41 seconds to go.

“I was able to pick the leg up and hooked it to hit the switch, and then I put him on his back and got in a half (Nelson hold),” Staggs said. “It’s a huge first step and I’m excited to have a fourth-place wrestler out of the (Peru) sectional.”

Marion finished fourth and advanced seven wrestlers to the regional, led by Flores and runners-up Seth Lloyd (106), Salvador Puente (113), Tanner Williams (160) and Miller. Lloyd was a returning sectional champ but lost in a 12-3 major decision to Western’s Caleb Maddox in the final.

“Heavyweight (285) and 106 we could have put on a better show,” Marion coach Heath Duke said. “We were in the right place – in the finals – and fell a little short. Both guys can do well next week … and they are in a good position to advance.

“I always want to beat the county teams,” Duke added. “But with all our sophomores and one freshman, we did pretty stinking good.”

Flores is a three-time semistate qualifier but had been a sectional runner-up the previous two years. He had defeated Mullinix, a freshman, twice in the regular season (8-2 and 11-1).

The match was tied at 4-all when Flores executed a reverse and three-point near-fall in quick succession.

“Wrestling somebody for the third time is sometimes the hardest thing to do,” Flores said. “He knows me and I know him, and I gave him two points (on escapes). After the second time, he took me down.”

Elliott was the No. 1 seed at 145 and improved to 23-4 after winning the championship. During the match he injured his right shoulder but continued to wrestle and said it wasn’t an issue.

Bowland had pinned Miller in a regular season match and was in control throughout. Last year, Bowland was a fourth-place sectional finisher.

“It means a lot to win, and it’s a great way to get started (in the state tournament),” Bowland said.


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