• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Mat Jackets win Sectional Duals in a thriller

JOEY ROBERTS, shown in action earlier this season, was wrestling at 152 pounds instead of his usual 145 pounds, and won the final match against Oldham County to give the Woodford County High School wrestling team the championship of the Sectional Duals, which were held at South Oldham on Saturday, Jan. 14. (Photo by Rick Capone)

In one of the most exciting duals – team vs. team competition – of the 2017 season for the Woodford County High School wrestling team, the Mat Jackets won the final two matches of its championship dual versus Oldham County to win the Sectional Duals, which were held at South Oldham on Saturday, Jan. 14. What made the win especially gratifying was that near the end of last year, Oldham County defeated Woodford in three straight head-to-head finals during the regular season. So, Saturday’s result was a big win for the Mat Jackets. “I’m just very, very proud of what our kids have accomplished and what they did (on Saturday),” said Woodford head coach Rusty Parks Jr. “As a coach, it’s very rewarding because of what I see them do in (the practice room). They bust their butt, they train so hard. All the blood, the sweat, the sacrifice is paying off.” Going into the Sectional Duals, Woodford was seeded second, while Oldham County was seeded first and North Oldham was seeded third. In the first round, Woodford faced North Oldham and won 71-12. “North Oldham is a very tough team, but we got some big wins,” said Parks. “CJ Cardwell went against North Oldham’s kid, Drew Johnson, who was fifth in the state last year, and CJ pins him in the second period. It was very impressive. … North Oldham was tough, but we kicked their butt.” In the second round, Woodford battled South Oldham and won 67-10. “South Oldham (was the) same situation (as North Oldham),” said Parks. “Very tough. They’ve got good kids, but we kicked their butts also. Again, South Oldham had a very tough kid, and CJ beat him in the very last 15 seconds of the match.

SECTIONAL DUAL CHAMPIONS. Woodford  defeated Oldham County in a nail-biter of a final to win the Sectional Dual Championships, which were held at South Oldham on Saturday, Jan. 14. (Photo submitted)

“He believed in his coaches,” Parks continued. “He was losing and we told him to cut him – try to go get the pin. They (the two wrestlers) were on their feet in neutral, and CJ believed in us coaches, and goes out there and puts the kid on his back and wins 6-5 – by one point. He was losing until the last 15 seconds and he got the job done. … So, I think that they’re starting to believe that I have their back; we have each other’s backs.” In the third round, Woodford faced Anderson County, and in a very strong performance, beat them 79-0. “We blanked Anderson County 79-0,” said Parks, “which is very impressive because they are tough. They’ve got good kids.” So, that set up the Sectional championship dual between Woodford and Oldham County; two teams that have built a big rivalry over the years. During the day, Parks noticed something about Oldham County, which he pointed out to his team. “Going into Saturday, from the get-go, those guys (from Oldham County) were lazy, they were sitting around, their captains were both sitting in their chairs doing nothing, and I told my guys, ‘Look at that, look at that. See if they really want it as bad as you do.’ “When you looked at Oldham County (on Saturday), they acted like they had it in the bag. They were underestimating us. They thought they were going to beat us again.” Parks also noted that they were also wearing their rings from their State Dual title from last year. “Our kids saw (all of) that, and they literally fed off that,” said Parks. “We wanted it more than them on Saturday; that was the bottom line. It was very, very awesome.” As the dual unfolded, both teams won six matches and the pressure and intensity of the dual picked up with every match “It was one of the most intense duals we’ve seen in a long time, and we knew that going in,” said Parks. “The whole crowd, everybody was into it. They knew what it was about. And, our kids knew what it was all about.” Winning their matches for Woodford were Adam Bender (113 lbs.), Chase Yost (120 lbs.), CJ Cardwell (126 lbs.), Wyatt Andreoni (132 lbs.), Max Andreoni (182 lbs.) and Andrew Varble (195 lbs.). One other wrestler, Ronan Wyatt, lost his match, but, according to Parks, he “wrestled one of the best kids they had on their team, and he did a great job. Only lost 12-4. But, this kid had Ronan in trouble a couple of times and had a few chances to pin him, but was unable to do it. So, Ronan did his job, which was great.” So, the scenario came down to this – Oldham County was ahead 34-26 with two final matches left in the dual. For Woodford, their two wrestlers were Marik Black and Joey Roberts. At 145 pounds, Black was wrestling in one of his first matches since coming back from an injury and “he dominated and got a tech fall with literally three seconds left,” said Parks. “Awesome.” That made the score 34-31. “And, it came down to our team captain, our leader, our three-time state placer, Joey Roberts at 152 pounds,” said Parks. “And, he was bumping up to 152 pounds for this dual meet, and he has to win to tie the dual. “Joey feeds off that stuff. He literally said, ‘Coach, I want that. I want to win it for my team.’ And, literally, I told him, ‘that’s how you ‘storybook’ here; (it’s) something you see in a movie.’” So, Roberts went out on the mat and he dominated his opponent and got another tech fall. So with two tech falls in a row, Woodford got the win, 36-34. It was very “impressive,” said Parks, “because that’s the defending state (dual) champions last year – Oldham County.” While Parks believes all of his wrestlers deserve his “Wrestler of the Week” nod for their accomplishments at Saturday’s Sectionals, if he had to pick out one person, he said, “CJ Cardwell would be ‘Wrestler of the Week’ (because) he knocked off two state placers, and he did great. CJ’s really picked it up and doing a good job.” With the Sectional meet complete, both Woodford and Oldham County advance to the State Duals, which will be held at Lindsay Wilson College on Saturday, Jan. 28. However, with the win, Woodford will be seeded in the tournament – No. 3 seed Parks believes – while Oldham County will go in unseeded and have a tougher route in the tournament. As the season moves along, Parks believes his team is really coming together, which is important in a team sport. One of the keys he believes in is team “unity.” “Something we talked about today was – unity,” he said. “Unity is a straight, strong line. Every one is important in that line. If one person takes a step back, or steps out of that line, that line breaks. So, we’ve got a good strong line right now, and I think the boys and girls see that we’ve got to stick together and it will pay off.” Next up, Woodford goes back to South Oldham, this Saturday, Jan. 21, for the Dragon Invitational. Start time is approximately 9 a.m.

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