Montague’s Alex VanVleet executes an arm-bar against Kent City opponent Jared Freeland during Thursday’s district wrestling tournament at Holton. The Wildcats lost in the finals, 52-28.
HOLTON — Montague entered its district final match behind the eight-ball right away. The Wildcats knew that they were giving up 30 points because they didn’t have wrestlers in five weight classes. As coach Chris Pineda said, the team’s attitude was “pin to win”, as Montague needed to make up those points to advance.
Montague’s grapplers wrestled well, but those five forfeit losses proved the difference in a 52-28 loss to Kent City in the district finals Thursday night.
“I think we responded very well today,” Montague coach Chris Pineda said. “We had kids not getting pinned in the matches we lost and going out there and getting pins for us where they weren’t in the regular season.”
The Wildcats had defeated Ravenna 37-25 in the semifinals earlier Thursday.
Those who did wrestle had mostly solid nights. Recently-injured Preston Kahl roared back with a major-decision victory at 189 pounds to lead things off. Two pins and four forfeits, though, sent the Eagles into a 36-4 lead that Montague couldn’t erase.
Still, there were bright spots, as the Wildcats recorded an impressive four pins of their own in the Kent City match. Gabe Flood at 130, Jasper Bailey at 135, Alex VanVleet at 145 and Sawyer Smith at 160 pinned their Eagles’ opponents.
“Everybody stepped it up today,” Pineda said. “It was a team effort.”
Smith’s victory was his 101st career win after he picked up win 100 against Jordan Grimm of Ravenna in the semis, also by pin.
“Sawyer’s been working since seventh grade,” Pineda said. “He works really hard in the weight room. He goes to camps in the summer and does open mat. For him to get that 100th win, that’s pretty awesome.”
The loss ended a season that Pineda confessed was disappointing, especially in conference play.
“I honestly thought we were going to compete more within our conference, and that didn’t work out so well,” Pineda said. “Coming in the postseason, I told them, let’s change that around.”
Montague dedicated the season to Tyler Cummings, a 171-pounder who suffered major injuries, including the loss of his right hand, after getting hit by a car while riding his bike in August.
Despite his injuries and a heavy therapy schedule, Pineda said Cummings served as an ever-present motivating force all year. The team wore t-shirts describing Cummings as their “15th man” at Thursday’s districts, alluding to the 14 weight classes in each match.
“He’ll get on the kids all the time, and tell them, ‘Don’t make me get out of my chair, get on the mat and show you how to do it,’” Pineda said. “He was there to tell us, ‘No excuses whatsoever. Get up and get at it again’. It’s great to have a kid like that around.”
The Wildcats need to get better in 2013-14, Pineda said, but the biggest factor in their improvement will be simply to get more bodies on the team so the Wildcats can field a full squad.
“We have to hit the halls and start recruiting,” Pineda said. “We have to get these kids to come out. Our biggest flaw is the lack of bodies.”