The Decatur Daily Democrat
County wrestlers claim six sectional titles
PORTLAND—Saturday’s Jay County sectional was filled with ups and downs, surprises and disappointments, but in the end, there was one constant: The Jay County Patriots were the class of the nine-team tournament, cruising to victory with six champions as the number of wrestlers was whittled down from 97 to 56 in six hours of action.
The victory for the Patriots was just the second since the format changed in 2002 and it was just the second time that any team had ever beaten both Adams Central and Bellmont in a wrestling sectional. Jay County also accomplished that feat back in 2018.
Jay County’s six champions was tops in the field, although the Bellmont Braves finished on a high note with a perfect 4-0 record in championship bouts to steal second place away from the Adams Central Flying Jets. South Adams won two titles with two seniors, leaving just one individual title for Norwell and Bluffton in the fourteen weight classes.
The domination by the Patriots started in the very first round as coach Eric Myers’ team won their first 11 bouts by fall. Heavyweight Conner Specht dropped a decision, but Jay County’s 195 and 220 picked up wins afterward and Jay had a 12.5-point lead over Bellmont heading into the semifinal round.
That’s where the tournament and the championship were decided.
Knowing they would have to match Jay win for win in the semifinal round so stay close in the team score, the Braves felt the pressure early on. Ethan Curtis lasted just 37 seconds against JC’s Griffin Byrum at 106 and the two teams met again at 113. Wrestling the eventual sectional champ, Daniel Moore, Tate Krueckeberg scored a reversal and looked to have Moore turned, but the angle wasn’t enough for the official, who only gave two individual swipes, in the second period. Krueckeberg eventually got too high and was reversed and quickly pinned by Moore.
30 seconds later, Bellmont’s Will Franze was pinned by another eventual champ for Jay County, Taye Curtis, at 120 and the lead had ballooned to 51.5 points.
The Braves went on to lose their first six semifinal matches and by the time Gavin Davis stepped onto the mat for his semifinal at 152, Jay County had an insurmountable 87-point lead.
Davis looked well on his way to punching his ticket to the finals until Colt Bollenbacher put the biggest scare of the day into the Bellmont faithful, putting Davis on his back and nearly scoring the fall. Davis fought his way out and escaped with a 13-6 victory.
South Adams looked unlikely to defend their top seed at 160 with Silas Loshe when the senior trailed 7-3 heading into the third, but Loshe needed just 13 seconds to turn Max Walker and pin the Norwell wrestler.
The Patriots amazing semifinal round finally found a hiccup when AJ Myers, seeded second in the bracket at 170, was knocked off by a 7-6 decision against Levi Kahn. Jay County was 9-0 at that point in the round.
Heavy favorites Duke Myers and Keagan Martin advanced for Bellmont, while Henry Kukelhan showed plenty of confidence and control in taking out Tyler Luther of Norwell 4-2 in his 195 semifinal to join his three teammates in the finals.
For Adams Central, it was a competitive day for the team through the first round with 10 victories against just four losses. One of those losses came at a price, however, as Wyatt McAfee somehow suffered a serious head injury while pinning Bellmont’s Austin Christner. Although McAfee advanced, he was ruled out for the rest of the day and had to settle for a sixth-place finish, forfeiting to Christner in the fifth-place match.
The Jets put six into the finals with a decent semifinal round, winning most of the matches they felt they should have, but not necessarily winning one that they shouldn’t. Maverick Dubach wrestled well and advanced at 120, but Gavin Cook had his hands full with freshman Sam Wolpert at 132, advancing 7-4. Logan Uhlman beat Isaiah Meyer 5-2 in the semifinal at 138, but Christian Wittkamp of Jay County got revenge on Caden Funk from last week’s ACAC final and advanced at 152.
With the consolation semifinals acting as the blood round for advancing the following week to regional, there were several important bouts for county schools. Bryce Rickord won at 126 with a fall and Jaret Smith of AC knocked off Manny Juarez for the second straight week to survive for another week.
The Jets picked up a big win at 160, where Xavior Palacios, coming off an NE8 title the week prior, could not find any offense against Cashton Reynolds and the AC senior survived into the next week. Then Matt Heiser knocked off AJ Myers, the #2 seed, at 170 as the Jets looked to take a stranglehold on second place as a consolation prize. Bellmont took two more on the chin when Austin Christner and Yovani Hernandez were eliminated from advancing with losses.
With the race for the title over, it was down to who would finish second and Adams Central held a solid 16-point lead, but it was not meant to be for the Jets, who lost 11 of their final 12 bouts to finish 15.5 points behind the Braves in third place.
The Jets won third place at 106 with Myles Kaehr, who pinned Ethan Curtis.
“Getting the pin, it felt really good, being the underdog,” said Kaehr. “Now the goal is to be more aggressive and make it to semi-state.”
At 113, Tate Krueckeberg took third and Daniel Moore pulled off the upset, riding the Jay County wave, by beating returning state placer Levi Johns for the title.
Adams Central’s first finalist, Mav Dubach, lost to Taye Curtis 5-1 in the finals and Will Franze took third.
“It feels pretty good,” said Franze. “I didn’t see it coming but finishing third just makes it that much better. We’ve been working on my all-around wrestling all week and I have nothing to lose next week.”
At 126 it was Rickord winning another match for third, knocking off AC’s Jaret Smith. “Coming in to tonight, I was excited and I didn’t get to wrestle here last year. Something just switched in my head and I just showed up today,” commented Rickord.
Rickord was also quick to receive praise from his classmate, Austin Christner.
“He finally put it all together. He’s been up and down all year, from how he wrestled at Iowa to