• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Mat Jackets capture 4th at Tennessee tournament

The Woodford County High School wrestling team travelled to Johnson City, Tenn., for the Fandetti-Richardson Brawl at Science Hill High School on Saturday, Jan. 9, and took home fourth place against some very tough competition from seven states. Overall, the Mat Jackets had nine placers, with seven in the top four. Chase Yost, shown at the recent WCI tournament, was the big winner of the day, as he finished first in the 106-pound weight class. (Photo by Rick Capone)

Road trip. That’s what the Woodford County High School wrestling team did on Saturday, Jan. 9, as they travelled to Johnson City, Tenn., for the Fandetti-Richardson Brawl at Science Hill High School, and returned home with a fourth-place finish against some very tough competition from seven states. “Overall, we did really, really well this weekend,” said Woodford head coach Rusty Parks Jr. “I was very happy with our kids. (We had) 12 kids out of 14 weight classes. “The competition was up there. We had seven different states represented there, and we got to see some good out-of-state wrestling. That’s what we went for. “For the competition level that we (saw, of) the 12 kids I took, nine of them placing in the top eight, and seven placing in the top four, I’m very, very happy with that performance. The kids really stepped up.” In the tournament, Woodford was without two of its key wrestlers, Max Andreoni, who wrestles in the 160-pound weight, and Andrew Varble, who wrestles in the 182-pound weight class. They were both nursing some injuries, and Parks decided to rest them up for the Sectional Duals coming up this Saturday, Jan. 16. Winning the tournament was Bradley Central, which is currently the No. 1 team in Tennessee, with 281 points. Finishing second was Lake Norman, N.C., with 223 points, followed by Christian Brothers, Tenn., in third with 201 points, Woodford in fourth with 187 points, and Eastside, S.C., in fifth with 145 points. Here’s a recap of Woodford’s tournament. 1st Place Chase Yost wrestled in the 106-pound division and finished the day undefeated. In the final, he scored a 18-5 decision over Grissom’s Tyler Ivy to win his title. With the win, Parks named Yost his Wrestler of the Week. “(Chase) was the only middle school kid in the entire tournament,” said Parks. “Not just that weight class, not just from Kentucky, but in the entire tournament. (He was) the only middle school kid and he wins the whole darn thing. “And, I mean, he looked tough, tough. (In the) semifinals, he won with a (19-4) tech fall, and then in his finals match against a two-time state placer from Alabama, (Tyler Ivey from Grissom), who is a senior this year, my little eighth grader beats him 18-5; two points out of a tech fall. Very impressive.” Yost has also moved up in the rankings from No. 9 to No. 3 in Kentucky. 2nd Place Tylan Tucker wrestled in the 113-pound weight class and reached the finals of his division but lost to Bradley Central’s T.J. Hick by a pin to finish in second place. “Tylan was kicking this kid’s butt in the finals,” said Parks. “A state champion. And, this kid knew it (he was getting beat). You could read it on his face. Tylan was kicking his butt… and got caught. Literally, that’s all you can say there.” Joey Roberts wrestled in the 132-pound weight class and had an undefeated day going. But then in the final he lost by a 10-5 decision to Lake Norman’s Zak Rainess to finish in second place. “Joey Roberts (got) second place for me,” said Parks. “(He) ran into a North Carolina state runner-up in the finals and loses 10-5. Couple questionable calls could have sent the match either way. But loses 10-5 to a very tough kid. … But Joey did great for me. Another second-place finish. Michael Eldridge was another Mat Jacket who had a great tournament and brought home a second-place finish. He opened the day by going undefeated all the way into the championship match in the 170-pound weight class. In the final, he ran into Lake Norman’s Karter Baltich and lost a close 4-0 decision to finish a solid second in the tournament. “(Michael) lost to a tough kid from North Carolina in the finals, 4-0,” said Parks. “ It could have gone either way. … But, I’m very pleased with his performance. He had a heck of a weekend, and beat some tough, tough kids to get to the finals.” Eldridge has really impressed Parks this year, as he’s moved from No. 22 to No. 10 in the state, and the coach has high expectations for him now. “(Michael’s) overcome my expectations already for him this year,” said Parks. “What I’m really impressed with Eldridge this year is his maturity level has skyrocketed. This kid has grown up. ... It shows out there on the mat. When he loses, he stands up like a man, sticks his chest out and shakes your hand. ‘I’ll get him next time. Coach, he won’t beat me again,’ he tells me when he comes off the mat. His maturity level has skyrocketed. He’s winning like a man, and he’s losing like a man. And, that’s what wrestling is all about.” As to Parks’s expectations for his senior wrestler, he said, “Michael Eldridge will be top eight in the state this year. There’s no doubt in my mind.” 3rd Place Tucker Hurst wrestled in the 120-pound weight class and was having a good day. But, then he lost to Eastside’s Zane Mitchell by an 8-6 decision in the semifinals to move to the third-place match. There he defeated Lake Norman’s Nick Perrelli by an 8-2 decision to bring home third place. “Tucker Hurst lost to a South Carolina state champion who’s ranked No. 1 in the state of South Carolina,” said Parks. “Coming down a weight class from 128 (pounds) to 122 (pounds) now. So, Tucker loses 8-6 to him in the semifinals. But, Tucker wrestled great.” Emir Bernabe is another Woodford wrestler who is getting better with each tournament. In Tennessee he wrestled in the 195-pound division and took home a third-place finish with a pin over Heritage’s Javier Salvador. Prior to the third-place match, Parks and his coaching staff wanted to pull him out of the match. He was a little “banged up” and they wanted to try and protect him from any possible injury since the important Sectional Duals are coming up this Saturday. But, Bernabe wouldn’t hear of it. “No sir, no sir,” he said to his coach. He did not want to end the day in that fashion. “Then he goes out there and pins the kid (in the 3rd/4th place match). I mean quick, quick,” said Parks. “And, that was the agreement before the match. Let’s go out there and let’s try it (he told his wrestler), and if you’re in any danger, I’ll call the match before anything bad happens. “But, Emir said, ‘Coach, I’m going to pin him in the first period. You’ve got nothing to worry about.’ (I said), ‘Okay big guy. let’s see what you’ve got.’ And, the whistle started (the match), and boom, boom, boom, pinned. And, I’m over there like, golly, if I was a gambling man, I’d bet on this kid every time, because he calls his shots.” With finishes like that one, Bernabe has moved up from No. 15 in the state to No. 6 in the state in his weight class. 4th Place Matthew Fallon had a solid tournament. He wrestled in the 145-pound division and made it to the semifinals, where he lost a 10-2 decision to Heritage’s Michael Diemer. That moved Fallon to the third-place match, where he lost a 7-2 decision to North Henderson’s Paul Searcy to finish his tournament with a fourth-place finish. “Matthew Fallon did really well,” said Parks. “(In) Matthew’s first two matches, he was a hammer on top. This kid was riding people, turning people, chicken-wings, half nelsons; I mean he looked like a hammer on top. “(He) placed fourth. I think he did a really good job in his weight class. He was very competitive. That 145 weight class was stacked with some tough kids. So, (he) did really well placing fourth.” 7th Place Helio Reyes wrestled in the heavyweight division and came home with a seventh-place finish; his first placing of the season. He defeated North Buncombe’s Andrew Beck to finish in seventh place. According to Parks, Reyes, who’s a senior and has only been wrestling for seven months, wrestled some big, NFL quality size kids from different states in the tournament. “Helio Reyes at heavyweight placed seventh,” said Parks. “(It was his) first placement of the year and (in) a tough tournament. He wrestled, literally, some big, huge heavyweights that were tough, tough. Helio did a great job on the weekend. He’s a guy that could really help (Woodford) out at state right there. … He’s putting the time in and wants to win.” 8th Place Gage Thompson scored an eighth-place finish on Saturday in the 152-pound weight class. In the tournament, Thompson worked his way into the consolation bracket with a loss, then went into the seventh-place match after a very close loss to Hardin Valley’s Brandon Dougherty by a 13-10 decision. In the seventh-place match, Thompson lost by a 9-1 major decision to Abingdon’s Lance Levesque to finish in eighth place. “Two weekends in a row, (Gage’s) placed in the top eight now,” said Parks. “That’s a sign right there he’s getting better and better and better. In the beginning of the year, he didn’t place at any tournament. He was going 0-2, 1-2 kind of thing. … But, he won multiple matches and placed eighth. (It was) huge for him confidence-wise. This kid is getting better and better. “…In my opinion, when you start getting into those middle weights, you’re starting to hook men, not little boys anymore. Sometimes you see the little boys in the light weights, but you start hooking men at 152 pounds; juniors, seniors that are starting to become men. Some of them are already 18, 19 years old. “So, for my little sophomore, who’s not barely 16 years old, to go and place eighth, I was very, very impressed with Gage Thompson.” With his eighth-place finish he earned special praise from Parks; not just for his wrestling, but for something else that happened off the mat as well. “One thing that I liked from Gage the other day… He was doing (wrestling) stuff that I haven’t really taught him,” said Parks. “And, I went to him after a match and I said, ‘Gage, where are you learning this stuff?’ He said, ‘Coach, every night after practice, I’m watching wrestling videos on YouTube because I want to be a state champ.’ “Every night after practice, after me pushing his butt hard every single day, he’s going (home) to watch more-and-more wrestling. That shows me right there he’s hungry. “But, it hit home with me big time, the YouTube thing. I was like, man, a lot of kids, they go home and they want nothing to do with wrestling. But, Gage Thompson is going home and watching YouTube videos. That really stood out to me big time.” Other wrestlers who competed in the tournament, but did not place were Marik Black (126 pounds), Dermot Cunningham (138 pounds) and Jack Hill (220 pounds). “There’s three of my boys right now in one boat together,” said Parks. “They’re going up upstream with no paddle, but they’re fighting their butts off to keep their heads above water; Marik, Dermot and Jack. Tough weekend for all three of them, but they’re fighters. They’re tough kids. They’re staying after practice, they’re busting their butts, and they’re doing what they’re asked to do – go out there and try. You’re not going to win every match, and I know that. But, go try. Give it your all.” And, they have been week in and week out. In addition to the varsity tournament, there was also a junior varsity tournament, and Woodford had eight wrestlers participating. All of them won matches, with two of them – C.J. Cardwell (113 pounds) and Ronan Wyatt (132 pounds) – finishing their tournament undefeated. Other junior varsity wrestlers who participated in the tournament were Jordan Upton (106 pounds), Wyatt Andreoni (120 pounds), D.J. Bernabe (145 pounds), John Stork (160 pounds), Mason Smith (179 pounds) and Kyle Hamlin (285 pounds). Next up, Woodford heads to John Hardin in Elizabethtown on Saturday, Jan. 16, for the Sectional Duals. Woodford, which is currently ranked No. 1in the state in dual competition, must finish in second place to advance to the State Duals at Ryle HS on Saturday, Jan. 30. Along with winning a state title, winning the State Duals is a major goal for Woodford this year. “The whole team right now – the unity is awesome, the work ethic is awesome, the camaraderie that we’ve built is awesome – and, that’s taken us a long way this year,” said Parks. “…We’ve got a good shot at winning the State Dual title. But, have to get there.”

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