By JAMIE BAKER
COLUMBUS GROVE — This year it was the Bulldogs’ turn.
The Bulldogs recorded a pair of pins and took advantage of three open Riverdale weight classes for a 33-20 wrestling win over the Falcons in Thursday’s in-school dual at Columbus Grove.
It was the second straight year Columbus Grove and Riverdale wrestled in a dual match in front of the entire school.
The noise from the Columbus Grove elementary school section stomping their feet on the bleachers and the oohs and ahs from the high school and middle school students when Grove wrestlers scored a big takedown was deafening at times.
Getting the chance to wrestle a dual match in front of a big crowd, instead of a normal mid-week match that would be contested in front of a few family and friends, pumped up wrestlers on both sides.
“It was really fun to see the excitement at school this week. Everyone seemed to be excited it was going to happen. I don’t know if they were just excited to get out early or to watch the match,” Columbus Grove senior 182-pounder Enoch Jones said with a laugh.
“Honestly, there were a lot more kids at school asking us questions and wanting to know if we were going to win. I think they are excited that we have a decent team this season.
“It’s really fun, especially, when you get a win. It builds up the ego a little bit.”
In fact, Jones started the meet, which also featured several matches between the schools’ middle school teams, with a win.
Jones took care of Riverdale’s Creed Blakely by fall in 2:46. Teammate Dakota Sargent followed with a 10-3 win over Ethan Hayes to get things rolling for the Bulldogs.
Dylan Sargent added a pin of Max Stover in just 32 seconds at 220 pounds. Caleb Langhals (113), Evan Schroeder (132) and Jeff Meyer (285) added wins by forfeit for the Bulldogs.
The match wrapped up after most of the students had left. But Jones and a couple of his teammates had handshakes and high-fives to several of the elementary students filing out of the gym to catch buses headed for home.
“I’m buddies with a lot of the elementary kids, so it’s cool to say hi and to have them know this is what I like to do and there’s another option because basketball isn’t for everybody,” Jones said.
Columbus Grove coach Eric Siefker had been looking forward to the match ever since the two teams met in front of Riverdale’s student body last season.
“Just the chance of giving the all of the young kids at Grove who normally don’t get a chance to see wrestling an opportunity to watch us, that makes this worthwhile. Maybe some of them will remember this and want to participate in the future,” Siefker said.
“This is a basketball county. There are just two schools with wrestling and now Pandora has one kid. It’s hard, because the wrestlers don’t get as much exposure. We go to a lot of tournaments, so we don’t get many chances to wrestle here at home. It was a great environment today.”
Riverdale’s five victories all came between 138 and 170 pounds.
The Falcons’ Thane Gallegos scored a 15-0 win over Justin Flanders at 138 pounds, and Wayne Frey got Riverdale’s lone pin when he stuck Tanner Blankemeyer in 3:00 at 145 pounds.
The rest of Riverdale’s wins were decisions as Miles Frey (152) stopped Dylan Pitts 1-0, Tyler Hart (160) stopped Ryan Bogart 13-6 and Ethan Shane (170) defeated Ezra Jones 9-5.
“It was another successful in-school match. This one is for you guys today, for your seniors to do it in front of a crowd. That’s what I told Erie. Last year it was our turn and we beat them. This year, they beat us,” veteran Riverdale wrestling coach Duane Brodman said.
“I think for everyone who has never seen a wrestling match, it’s a good way to try and get some more kids involved. This is the only sport where you can go one on one with someone the same size as you. That should appeal to kids, especially small kids.”
With one of the biggest tournaments in the area, the Van Buren Invitational, just a week away, the Falcons still have some work to do, Brodman said.
“I think everyone needs to pick it up and start working harder and fix those things they are doing wrong. We lost a couple matches we should have won today and that we did win last year,” Brodman said. “They are getting better and we’re getting softer and we have to toughen it up.”
By JAMIE BAKER