• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Mat Jackets win Walton Verona Bearcat Brawl


Following its second-place finish in the season opening Woodford Quad Duals at home in The Hive on Wednesday, Nov. 30, the Woodford County High School wrestling team got back to work. For two straight days after its season opener, the team worked overtime to ensure the wrestlers were ready for the season’s second tournament, the Bearcat Brawl at Walton Verona on Saturday, Dec. 3. The hard work paid off, as the Mat Jackets dominated pool play and then handily won the semifinals and final to take home first place at the tournament for their first win of the 2016-17 season. “I was very pleased with how my kids did (in the Bearcat Brawl),” said Woodford head coach Rusty Parks Jr. “They really bounced back (from Wednesday) and they wrestled great. When you wrestle hard for six minutes like we did, and you get in people faces and you get them tired, and you get them frustrated, they break. And, my kids broke everybody this weekend. I was very pleased.” In the season opening Woodford Quad Duals, Woodford faced LaRue County in the first dual and lost 48-36. “Not making excuses whatsoever because they (LaRue) are a very good school and a good program,” said Parks. “They showed up and wrestled well that night. If we get them again, which we will I’m sure, (it will be) a completely different outcome. “(It was) definitely not our full lineup,” said Parks. “We had a couple guys injured, Tylan Tucker and Marik Black, probably two of our best kids. Then, some kids missed weight that night. So, we were pretty much starting (each dual) down 12-0. That’s a tough gap to come out of, in my opinion.” Woodford bounced back in its second dual and defeated Fern Creek 54-11, and then carried that momentum into the third dual and beat Taylor County, 69-0.

“(Woodford) bounced back that night and won the last two duals very easily,” said Parks. “We wrestled well on Wednesday. We did get beat, but I’d rather get beat now. It was a humbling experience for me and the kids.” The team then worked very hard the next two days, some even staying after practice to ensure they were ready for the Bearcat Brawl. And, yes, they were ready. At the Bearcat Brawl, Woodford was once again down a few weight classes due to injury or wrestlers missing the tournament. “It was tough for us; we were down line-up-wise still,” said Parks. “Saturday, we were without one of our stars, Joey Roberts, who had some college stuff to take care of. Also, Brennan Clark was out, but we plugged in Mason Smith at 170, and he did awesome. “So, we were down (three kids) on Saturday going in, and I (thought) it was going to be a tough one to win for us. But, my kids really answered the call though. They kicked butts.” In pool play, Woodford defeated its first opponent, Boone County, 51-18. The Mat Jackets followed that with a 60-18 win over Bardstown, and then closed out pool play with a 60-28 win over Lafayette. “We dominated everyone in our pool play,” said Parks. “… (And) we started (each) dual without three of our best kids; so we started (each dual down) 18-0. (Then), we basically blanked all three of those teams, which is very impressive, if you ask me. (Especially) because Lafayette is a very tough school.” In the semifinals, Woodford faced Christian County and it was a very tough match. “A very competitive, very tough team,” said Parks about Christian County. “And, it got ugly, I’m not going to lie. A lot of drama. We see this a lot. And that’s why, before the dual, I called (the team over) and I said, ‘Guys, don’t take the bait. Don’t take the bait.’” The reason he told his team that was because the wrestlers on Christian County’s team were yelling obscenities at Woodford and trying to get in the Mat Jackets’ heads while they were warming up, and it continued into the dual. “I told them (my kids) they’re going to try to get in your head,” said Parks. “They’re going to try and do something to get you out of your game plan, or get you out of your element. Whether it be fighting, cussing, hands to the face, whatever they need to do to get you out of your element, they’re going to try. And, boy was I right. “Five matches in, we’re at heavyweight with Jack Hill, and he’s wrestling a very good kid of theirs, and things started getting heated. They get called for stalling, we get called for stalling. They get hit with a caution, we get hit with a caution. So, it was very equally refereed match. “But some words were said to my heavyweight, Jack Hill, and, … all I can say is my kids are very classy. Very classy young men. They did not take the bait.” The dual continued and it became even more heated, according to Parks. “It got to be a heated match. And these guys (Christian County) got upset and mad because of how we wrestle. Our kids go hard for six minutes, and it’s frustrating for other teams when they get tired because we’re still in good shape and going hard. “So, this young man (from Christian County) said some profanity to Jack Hill, which cost him a team point. Then the kid continued profanity to the referee, and the kid got disqualified and kicked out of the tournament. “Then their coaching staff got involved and started yelling and cussing and their entire coaching staff got kicked out of the tournament. Now, when the coaching staff gets kicked out of the tournament, they don’t have any coaches left, so their team had to forfeit the remainder of the dual.” Interestingly, before this incident occurred, the match was tied 18-18. After the disqualifications, Woodford got the win, 66-18, and advanced to the finals against Madison Central. The Indians are ranked No 5 in the state in duals, while Woodford is No. 4. (The Mat Jackets are ranked No. 2 in individual wrestling.) The championship dual itself was very intense, back and forth. Then, in one of the final matches, things got “interesting” once again. “One of the last matches was with Wyatt Andreoni, “ said Parks. “The match started with that kid poking Wyatt right in the face. And the ref told him right away, because this kid has been known to wrestle that way, very dirty and stuff like that. So, right off the bat, hands to the face, pokes Wyatt in the eye. “Then, Wyatt takes him down within the first 30 seconds of the match, and puts him on his back and is getting ready to pin him, and two punches come out of nowhere from this kids (as he’s) laying down (on his back) – boom, boom. It busted Wyatt’s lip.” With those two punches, the match was over as the Madison Central wrestler was ejected. The Mat Jackets got the win, 51-24, and first place in the tournament. “(It was the) first time in my coaching career ever, I’ve had two kids, from two separate schools, get ejected from the tournament,” said Parks. According to Parks, one of the big reasons his team won the tournament was because his team leaders – Max Andreoni, Andrew Varble, Joey Roberts, Isreal Angeles and Marik Black – stepped up big time. “Their leadership Thursday, Friday and Saturday was tremendous,” said Parks. “I was very, very impressed with how these kids ... Max and Andrew Varble, especially … how they got the kids to wrestle Saturday. “I’m always good at motivating and getting (the team) pumped up … ready to wrestle. But, Max Andreoni’s and Andrew Varble’s leadership on Saturday was outstanding. I was very impressed with those two.” To date, Woodford still has six wrestlers undefeated: Roberts, who is 3-0; and Andreoni, Chase Yost, Ronan Wyatt, Adam Bender and Andrew Varble, who are all 8-0. While Parks believes all those athletes should be considered the “wrestlers of the week,” there is one other wrestler he wanted to highlight – Jack Hill. In the championship match, Jack, who normally wrestles in the 220-pound weight class, took on Madison Central’s heavyweight, who is ranked No. 8 in the state. “Jack Hill was a monster Saturday,” said Parks. “… And he was wrestling a kid who’s ranked eighth in the state from Madison Central. A great match. Back and forth the whole time. Jack gets him tired and puts him on his butt and pins him. When Jack wins, he gets up, his mouth is covered in blood and he does a ‘hulk’-like muscle flex. “That was a turning point in his season (for him), I’m going to tell you right now. I guarantee that it was a turning point in his season. But I think that was a turning point in his life also, from a boy to a man. I’m not going to lie to you. That was a big win for him. That was huge. The enthusiasm when he stood up (after the pin), and the excitement and satisfaction after that win, was awesome. I saw it on his face. I heard it in his roar. Jack Hill is here to stay. He’s a force to be reckoned with this year.” Meanwhile, the junior varsity also had a good day at the tournament in Harrison County. Parks sent five wrestlers there to compete, and one of them, Richie Cunningham, took fourth place in the 145-pound weight class. The other wrestlers, Ian Ferrell (106 lbs.), Dylan Bourne (126 lbs.) Triston Brooks (132 lbs. and Maquoia Bernabe (195 lbs.), each won one dual and gained a lot of experience. Next up, the varsity travels to Ryle on Saturday, Dec. 10, for the Raider Rumble. Start time is approximately 9:30 a.m. The junior varsity will also be in action. They travel to Pleasure Ridge Park High School for a tournament hosted by Louisville Central. Start time is approximately 10 a.m.

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