By JAMIE BAKER
If you didn’t already know, you probably missed it.
Tucked inside The Courier’s wrestling roundup in Monday’s newspaper in small type was an odd entry in the team standings for Saturday’s Arcadia Invitational.
Pandora-Gilboa finished 15th in the team standings.
Yes, the Rockets have a wrestling team this winter, albeit a one-man team.
After wrestling in elementary school, Pandora-Gilboa junior Hayden Blank decided to take up the sport this season and has represented the Rockets in two tournaments to date.
He’s enjoying his experience on the mat so far.
“I started wrestling at a young age in kindergarten at the Putnam County YMCA. I loved it ever since. In junior high when I couldn’t wrestle anymore, I started MMA fighting and stuff,” said Blank, who was the 18-and-under kickboxing champion at The Arnold fitness competition which is held annually in Columbus. “I just love it and I needed to get better at ground fighting, so I decided to get back into it.”
Since Pandora-Gilboa doesn’t have a full team, Blank travels to Bluffton each day to practice with the Pirates. That arrangement has worked out well for everyone and during the first week of the season, Blank was able to get a few matches while tagging along with Bluffton at the Findlay Duals.
“His dad is a Bluffton graduate and talked to us and asked if it would be OK to practice with us,” Bluffton coach Jeff Kleman said. “We gave him some guidelines and got the approval from the OHSAA to do it so he comes over every day and practices with us.
“If he can figure it out, I think he’s going to be interesting to watch. He’s done some MMA stuff and he really likes wrestling.”
Blank will wrestle in tournaments at Defiance, Van Buren and Lima Central Catholic before representing Pandora-Gilboa in the Blanchard Valley Conference tournament in February. Pandora-Gilboa will be the ninth school in the BVC tournament. The only schools that don’t have any wrestlers are Vanlue, Arlington and Leipsic. Leipsic and Arlington both had teams in the late 1970s and ’80s before dropping the sport.
Blank is having fun and his classmates and school have been very supportive.
“I just want to get better. Some of my friends think it’s cool, they have been very supportive,” said Blank, who also plays football at P-G.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is you have to be in shape. I have to get in better shape if I’m going to get better.”
BIG SATURDAY AT MOHAWK: Mohawk will be plenty busy with wrestling Saturday as the school will host a high school dual meet tournament and a junior high pool tournament.
The Warriors, who will also welcome Sandusky St. Mary’s and Monroeville for a triangular match Friday, will host Van Buren, Fostoria, Indian Lake, Northwood and Gibsonburg in the round-robin dual meet high school tournament.
Carey, Hopewell-Loudon, North Baltimore, Riverdale, Bluffton and Upper Sandusky will be among the area teams competing in the junior high tournament.
Both events begin at 10 a.m.
WEEKEND SCHEDULE: Area teams will compete throughout northwest Ohio this weekend. Elmwood will enter the grueling two-day Frickers Duals beginning Friday at Defiance College.
Also on Friday, Upper Sandusky, which is coming off a championship at last week’s Bucyrus Invitational, heads to Bellevue for a triangular that also features Willard.
On Saturday, Patrick Henry will debut under new coach Alex Lopez at the Edgerton Invitational.
Hopewell-Loudon and McComb will head to Fremont for the St. Joseph Invitational.
Bluffton will compete in the Allen County Invitational hosted by Spencerville.
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