• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Mat Jackets 2nd at Castle Duals in W. Virginia

The Woodford County High School wrestling team travelled to Midland, W.Va., on Saturday, Dec. 17, for the Castle Duals, a tournament they won last year.

This year, despite three wrestlers missing weight, and also having to forfeit one weight class, the Mat Jackets came home with a strong second-place finish in the tournament.

“We had a good weekend. We really did,” said Woodford head coach Rusty Parks Jr. “It was a tough weekend for us because of the competition we faced. We wrestled some very tough schools in West Virginia. And, going out of state, you’re never going to get handed or rewarded anything. They’re going to make it as tough as possible on you just because you’re an out-of-state team. We expected that. … (But), I was very pleased with our performances.”

Overall, Woodford finished the day in second place with a 4-1 record.

Parkersburg (W. Va.), which defeated Woodford in the third round of pool matches, won the tournament. Finishing third was Cabell Midland (W.Va.) and Riverside, (W.Va.), two teams Woodford beat on the day.

Individually, three Mat Jackets went undefeated in the tournament: Adam Bender at 113 pounds, Chase Yost at 126 pounds and Max Andreoni at 182 pounds.

Here’s a breakdown of Woodford’s duals.

In round 1, Woodford defeated Greenbrier West (W.Va.) 68-15.

“A very one-sided dual,” said Parks. “We beat them pretty easily.”

In the second round, Woodford defeated St. Albans (W.Va.) 60-18.

“St. Albans was a team we wrestled last year in the finals,” said Parks. “A very competitive team. We ended up beating them pretty easily.”

In the third round, Woodford faced Parkersburg (W.Va.) and lost a close dual 46-35.

“A very close dual,” said Parks. “It was 35-40 going into the last match, and our wrestler had to get a tech fall to tie or a pin to win. He ended up getting pinned and we lost.”

According to Parks, though, there were a couple other 50-50 matches that the team should have won, so while it did come down to that final match, the team could have gotten the win earlier in the dual.

The one good thing about the Castle Duals is that, even if you lose a dual, you still have a chance to wrestle for a “true” second place.

In the tournament, there was a crossover bracket set up where the second-place team in one pool faces the first-place team in the other pool.

So, in its next round, Woodford wrestled the No. 1 team in the second pool, which was the host school, Cabell Midland (W.Va.), and won 57-24.

“They had won their pool pretty easily and we beat them very easily,” said Parks.

In their final match of the day, Woodford faced Riverside (W.Va.) and defeated them 63-12 to finish in second place.

“It was a good day for us,” said Parks. “We wrestled five schools (and) we went 4-1. We learned a lot; that was the main thing. We learned a lot. … Overall, I was pleased with how we did after we bounced back from our loss. It was a tough loss for us because we should have won; we really should have won.”

While he was pleased with how the team rebounded to finish in second place, he was still not happy with the wrestlers who did not make weight.

“That’s never happened at Woodford,” said Parks. “I take the blame for that.

“When we talk to our kids about winning a state title, there are two things that we think are very crucial and important to winning that state title: hard work and discipline.

“(The wrestlers are) doing great at the hard work, but the discipline part… that category of discipline there’s a lot in there – strength training, school, grades, health, keeping yourself healthy, and weight training – weights and your weight cut. If you’ve got to make a certain weight, then that discipline part of it is to maintain that weight, get on a healthy diet, plan and do your job.”

Individually, Woodford had three wrestlers finish undefeated: Bender, Yost and Max Andreoni.

“Three undefeated kids on the day, that is huge,” said Parks. “All are very tough. Those three guys have – and are going to continue – to dominate.”

About Yost (126 lbs.), Parks said, “When it comes to work ethic, he busts his butt. His work ethic is why he was a state champion last year. His work ethic is one of the best I have ever seen. Regardless of age, he gets the job done in the practice room.”

About Bender (113 lbs.), Parks said, “Adam is doing a great job. We’re trying to get more into his head to be a pinner, rather than a point-scorer. … Adam is good at putting the points on the board and winning 15-0, 17-1, etc. We’re trying to get him into that killer mentality of being a pinner; getting a pin, not just a tech fall, because that’s 14 points. … Pinning is the ultimate goal in wrestling.”

About Andreoni (182 lbs.), Parks said, “He’s a freak athlete. Like I’ve said many times, Max is really just getting the hang of wrestling. He’s a great athlete, but he’s just starting to figure it out and put it together. And he’s the best in the state right now. No. 1 at 182 pounds. …

“I honestly believe this is Andreoni’s year. … I feel like, this year, Max knows what he wants and he only has one more opportunity to do it. So, I definitely think he goes out there and gets that state title this year.”

In the other weight classes:

Reece Goss wrestled in the 106-pound weight class and according to Parks, “He did a good job. He’s still young. Made some rookie mistakes, but he’s getting better every day. He’s learning from those mistakes, which is a good thing.”

At 126 pounds, was C.J. Cardwell, who Parks says did a good job, but he’s got some things to work on to help him improve.

Wyatt Andreoni wrestled in the 132-pound division and had another good tournament, though he did lose a few times.

“Wyatt, same as Reece Goss, is still making some rookie mistakes,” said Parks. “We’ve got a lot to work on with those two kids. They’re both young. But Wyatt is getting better and better, and his big brother, Max, has really taken a lot more interest in his wrestling ability, and how he’s doing. So, that’s helping out big time with Wyatt.”

At 138 pounds was Ronan Wyatt, who, according to Parks, “(Is a) good athlete, great leader, (and a) hard worker, but we’ve got to figure something out when it comes to the technical part. That’s where he’s lacking right now. The moves and stuff and the takedowns on his feet. We need to find a go-to take-down move on his feet.”

Joey Roberts wrestled in the 145-pound weight class and won all but one of his matches. But the match he lost came against one of the top wrestlers in the country.

“Joey did really well for us on Saturday,” said Parks. “He competed against one of the nation’s best out of West Virginia, a kid named Josh Humphrey from St. Albans. That kid demolished everybody on Saturday except Joey. Joey only lost 8-0 and went down 7-0 in the first 30 seconds. You take that first seven points away, Joey only loses 1-0. That was something positive to look at in my opinion, because that kid demolished everybody (else). Joey hung with him and that opened Joey’s eyes that he is one of the best in the nation also.”

At 152 pounds, Juan Chavez had a tough day, but despite losing all of his matches, he came through when it really mattered.

“Juan did a great job,” said Parks. “One match in particular; our very last match before we went home. (In it), Juan had a very close overtime match and ended up pulling it out. (It was because of) what he’s been working on; his leg attacks, his take-downs from his feet. I’m very proud of that guy. That was huge from the coaching standpoint to see him dig deep and win that overtime battle.”

Isreal Angeles at 160 pounds, “Had a good weekend last week at Ryle (he placed 7th),” said Parks. “(But), comes back this weekend and struggled a little bit. He’s still doing some rookie stuff, and that’s tough because he’s a senior. He’s really got to focus on some things in the practice room now and improve on the areas that he is weak.”

Andrew Varble won all of his matches in the 195-pound division, but lost one when he was moved up to the 220-pound division for strategic purposes.

“Andrew did a great job,” said Parks. “His one loss this weekend was because we had to bump up to 220 in one match and he ended up getting beat. But it was good for him, honestly. I don’t like seeing my kids lose, I hate that, but it was good because we saw what Andrew needs to work on. The guy was stronger than him, obviously giving up weight, but when Andrew ran into the strength and muscle, he shut down.”

So that’s what Varble will need to work on to become even better this season.

According to Parks, when you face a strong opponent, you might not be able to go through him, so you have to find a way to get around him; find a weak spot.

For example, if the opponent has strong upper body strength, then you look for better angles, move your feet, get better looks, maybe attack his ankles or legs. In other words, don’t try to wrestle him where he strongest, but find another way to bring him down.

Jack Hill wrestled in the heavyweight position because he didn’t make his weight at 220 pounds. There, he lost four of his five matches.

“Jack struggled because of the weight class he was in,” said Parks. “No one’s fault but his. He’s going to work on getting back to weight for next meet.”

Next up, on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 22 and 23, Woodford wrestles at Fern Creek.

In an interesting scenario, the meet is broken up into two parts. On Thursday, Dec. 22, there’s the Gladiator Duals, a dual meet.

Then on Friday, Dec. 23, there’s the Gladiator Tournament, which is an individual meet. Start time both days is approximately 9 a.m.

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