• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Mat Jackets 2nd at Sectional Duals; advance to State Duals

MAX ANDREONI, shown in competition earlier this year, was one of seven Woodford County High School wrestlers who went undefeated at the Sectional Duals, which were held at John Hardin on Saturday, Jan. 16. The Mat Jackets finished in second place in the tournament and qualified for the State Duals on Saturday, Jan. 30, at Ryle High School. (Photo by Rick Capone)

Mission accomplished. Well, sort of… It wasn’t the ultimate podium finish they hoped to achieve, but the Woodford County High School wrestling team brought home a second-place finish from the Sectional Duals at John Hardin High School on Saturday, Jan. 16. With that finish, the Mat Jackets advanced to the State Duals on Saturday, Jan. 30, at Ryle High School, which was a major goal for the team this season. Still, even with that top finish, Woodford head coach Rusty Parks Jr. says his team has some things to work on going forward. “I was pleased with our performance,” said Parks. “They (his team) fought. They did what I asked. They fought. They did really well in that aspect, but we’re still giving up pins on the edge of the mat, (and) takedowns on the edge of the mat. (It’s) the little things. Rather than fighting, (or, what) I call it, wrestling to live another day, you should never get pinned on the edge of the mat, (and) you should never get taken down on the edge of the mat. “That happened to us multiple times against Oldham County (in the finals),” he continued. “We got pinned three times on the edge of the mat, and about four of five of my kids gave up takedowns. And, when I say gave up, all you’ve got to do is keep fighting a little bit more. Fight for two more seconds and you’re out of bounds and you get a fresh start. No harm done. But, you stop wrestling on the edge of the mat, or you stop wrestling before that referee blows the whistle, bad things happen.” As mentioned, advancing to the State Duals, which will be held at Ryle High School on Saturday, Jan. 30, was one of the major goals Woodford wanted to achieve this year, especially since they did not make it to the State Duals last year. “The positive part of it is that we qualified for State Duals,” said Parks. “That’s something we were not able to do last year, which was a big dagger to me, it really was. That was a streak we had going for a very long time of being in the State Dual championships as a team. So, that was a tough pill to take, not qualifying. But, we did qualify this year.” In the Sectional Duals, Woodford cruised into the finals with dominating wins over the first four teams it faced. In round one, Woodford defeated Central Hardin 60-22, and then followed that with a second-round win over Anderson County 75-6, and a third-round win over North Hardin, 63-9. With those wins, Woodford then defeated John Hardin, 45-18, in the semifinals to advance to the finals of the Sectional Duals. In the final they faced their old rival Oldham County and lost a close dual to them 37-27 to finish in second place. And even though it was a tough loss, the Mat Jackets accomplished their goal of advancing to the State Duals. “Oldham County is a tough team; there one of the top teams in the state, dual meet and individual. So, they’re a legit team,” said Parks. “I didn’t expect for us to go blow them out necessarily or kick their butt really, really bad. I knew it was going to be a close one. Not having Emir hurt us big time.” With Emir Bernabe, who wrestles in the 195-pound weight class, unable to wrestle in the tournament, Parks and his coaching staff made some adjustments to the lineup for the championship dual and moved a few wrestlers up a weight class for strategic purposes. The three wrestlers who moved up a weight class for the Oldham County dual were Tucker Hurst, who moved up from 120 pounds to 126 pounds; Marik Black, who moved from 126 pounds to 132 pounds; and Joey Roberts, who moved up from 132 pounds to 138 pounds. But in hindsight, those moves might have cost them in the end. “We went 4-1 on the day,” said Parks. “We dominated every other team. … It wasn’t even close in the other duals. But, those teams aren’t on our level in my opinion. “Oldham County is definitely on our level,” he continued, “(But) not better than us. Next time, I don’t think we bump kids up. I think we wrestle at (our) normal weights, full strength, full lineup, and I think it’s going to be another close dual; there’s no doubt. … But I think we definitely come out on top in the next one.” Individually, Woodford wrestlers had a good day in the tournament. Seven wrestlers went undefeated: Chase Yost at 106 pounds, Tylan Tucker at 113 pounds, Tucker Hurst at 120 pounds, Marik Black at 126 pounds, Dermot Cunningham at 138 pounds, Max Andreoni at 160 pounds and Michael Eldridge at 170 pounds. In addition, a few others had only one loss on the day: Joey Roberts at 132 pounds, Matthew Fallon at 145 pounds, Gage Thompson at 152 pounds, Andrew Varble at 182 pounds, and Helio Reyes in the heavyweight division. Still, Parks noted that his team has some things it needs to work on. According to Parks, there are three things that hurt Woodford in the Sectionals, and the team has to improve on them if they hope to have even more success going forward this season. “It’s the little things. The little things are hurting us,” he said. “I feel like if we can really touch up on (three things) in the next three, four weeks, then we’re right there still. According to Parks, the three key things he says his wrestlers need to work on are: 1) Not giving up easy takedowns on the edge of the mat; 2) Not getting pinned on the edge of the mat; and 3) quicker finishes on leg shots; a Woodford “trademark.” “Anybody in the state will tell … there’s no team better than us when it comes to leg attacks, because of the technique the kids are taught,” said Parks. “But you can’t shoot and hang out. You have to finish quick. Getting in on good shots and finishing right away. No pause. Get in and go.” With the Sectional Duals complete, Woodford travels to South Oldham High School in Louisville this Saturday, Jan. 23, 10 a.m., for the Dragon Invitational; one of the most competitive tournaments each year. “This weekend’s huge,” said Parks. “South Oldham tournament is always huge. Always at the end of the month of January. The Dragon is tough. We see some of the best teams in the state.” Some of those teams include Trinity, St. Xavier, Ryle, Henry Clay, and Oldham County. It is a tournament similar to Ryle and the WCI, where the best-of-the-best participate, and Parks believes his team has a really good chance of winning it if some things fall into place. “I really think we’ve got a good shot at winning this weekend,” said Parks. “Trinity is No. 2 in the state right now. They’re going to be tough to beat. St. Xavier’s going to be tough to beat. Oldham County is going to be tough to beat. “Can we beat them? Yes. What do we need to beat them? We need 14 kids, one per weight class. And, we need everyone healthy. If we can have that happen this weekend, I really think we can go beat them. “(So), this weekend, team-wise, is going to show us where we’re going to be at when it comes Feb. 19-20 at state championships,” said Parks. “So, this is huge. Hopefully, we can go down there and wrestle well and carry the momentum into the state dual championships.”

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