By MICHAEL BURWELL
In the blink of an eye, Liberty-Benton junior Race Gorrell flipped his match in his favor and sent the Eagles’ high school students into a frenzy.
Trailing 5-3 in the final seconds of his 170-pound match against Van Buren’s A.J. Overmyer, Gorrell got a reversal and quickly pinned Overmyer. That gave L-B a 28-24 lead, and the Eagles held on to knock off the Black Knights 40-33 in an in-school wrestling dual at Liberty-Benton.
“Race has really developed over this last year. He’s a smart wrestler. I didn’t have any doubt that he was going to pull out the win but to get the pin, it was really special,” L-B coach Chad Marzec said. “Especially in front of the home crowd, and you noticed it changed the whole atmosphere in here. We were kind of looking at the score, we needed that pin.”
The two schools competed in an in-school dual match for the second straight year, with the Black Knights hosting the event a year ago. High school students, staff, parents and fans watched as the two teams traded pins, takedowns and victories throughout the match.
Gorrell’s match proved to be critical.
Van Buren’s Dino Donaldson pinned Nolan Houck in 58 seconds at 152 pounds, and after teammate Grant Young’s win by forfeit at 160 pounds, the Black Knights built a 24-22 lead.
Overmyer and Gorrell traded scores, as Overmyer used an escape and reversal to go up 1-0 and 3-2, respectively, in the second period.
Overmyer went ahead 5-3 on a near fall in the third period and had control in the final minute. But Gorrell made his move, and it resulted in a pin at 5:46.
“(Overmyer) was riding really high, and I just knew at the end of the match, I had to do something,” Gorrell said. “Coach Marzec always says don’t quit, and I didn’t quit.”
Wrestling in front of his friends and classmates was something Gorrell enjoyed.
“It wasn’t so much nerves because we were out there wrestling like we do every day, as hard as we can, and it just helped having our classmates yelling for us,” he said.
In the final varsity match of the day at 285 pounds, Van Buren senior and Division III 220-pound state runner-up Kaleb Snodgrass used a pair of first-period takedowns to win his match 5-2 over Matthew Berger.
Snodgrass, who has been limited in practice due to recovering from an injury during football season, improved to 6-0 this year.
“I think the mindset was just to dominate. When I came out, tied up with him, he’s a pretty strong kid so I was just thinking gotta work, work out of that, use what I got to use,” Snodgrass said. “Just started practicing last week, so I got a slow start a little bit. But it was a good match. Pretty much just came out firing heavy on the head, just working my takedowns.”
Liberty-Benton’s Dru Baker drew some wild reactions from the Eagles’ students in his 132-pound match as the junior used three takedowns, two near falls and an escape to win by major decision 13-0 over Aiden Mowrey.
Eagles’ freshman Sam McFarland pinned Landyn Mowrey in 1:01 at 138 pounds, and Dylan Mersch won by injury default over Blake Jones at 220 pounds for L-B. Carter Oswalt (113 pounds), Gavin Gillig (145) and Nathaniel DiRe (195) won their matches by forfeit for the Eagles.
“I’m very pleased with the final score but we have work to do,” Marzec said. “Constant improvement. It’s not done, wrestling season is a marathon, it’s not a race. So this is a good indicator but we have lots of improvement.”
Van Buren won the first match as freshman Blaze Wickman scored an 8-5 overtime win over R.J. Coldren. Seniors Mateo and Andres Miranda won their matches at 120 and 126 pounds, respectively, for the Black Knights. Mateo Miranda pinned Luke Broerman in 1:02 and Andres Miranda picked up a 9-6 decision over Greg Musselman.
Van Buren’s Cade Whitticar pinned Jacob Dukes in 1:41 in the 182-pound match. Grant Young won by forfeit at 160 to complete the Black Knights’ scoring.
“On the wrestling side of things, got to get a little bit better,” Van Buren coach Justin Slauterbeck said. “Had a forfeit at (145), kid didn’t make weight. That hurt us. (At) 170, that’s wrestling for you, so it goes that way.
“Overall, I’m impressed with our wrestling. This atmosphere, Liberty-Benton brought it today. It was great, our kids responded well. I thought we wrestled really well so just move forward and get better for the rest of the season.”
Marzec marveled at the support and excitement from the students.
“It was really nice to have that support here. The student body was into it, and for every match,” Marzec said. “It was really cool. Beforehand, I kind of explained to them the basics of wrestling, this is what you want to do, you want to take them down and once you take them down, you want to put him on his back … so it was really special.
“As far as our kids, this is a once in a lifetime (opportunity) to have this atmosphere. These kids won’t have this again, and so kudos to the Van Buren administration and the coaching staff and then to our administration for allowing us to do this.”
LIBERTY-BENTON 40, VAN BUREN 33
106 — Wickman (VB) dec. Coldren 8-5 in OT.
113 — Oswalt (L-B) won by forfeit.
120 — M. Miranda (VB) pinned Broerman 1:02.
126 — A. Miranda (VB) dec. Musselman 9-6.
132 — Baker (L-B) maj. dec. A. Mowrey 13-0.
138 — McFarland (L-B) pinned L. Mowrey 1:01.
145 — Gillig (L-B) won by forfeit.
152 — Donaldson (VB) pinned Houck :58.
160 — Young (VB) won by forfeit.
170 — Gorrell (L-B) pinned Overmyer 5:46.
182 — Whitticar (VB) pinned Dukes 1:41.
195 — DiRe (L-B) won by forfeit.
220 — Mersch (L-B) won by default.
285 — Snodgrass (VB) dec. Berger 5-2.