• Thomas Mims, Woodford Sun Sports

Mat Jackets win Woodford County Invitational; Ashley Courtney makes history

The Woodford County High School wrestling team powered its way to a first-place finish at Friday and Saturday’s Woodford County Invitational (WCI) while winning six of the fourteen weight class championships. Ashley Courtney (106 pounds), Jonathan Pittman (126), Chase Yost (138), Triston Brooks (170), Jackson Geilear (182) and Tony Ornelas (220) all won their respective weight classes Saturday afternoon, but Courtney rose above the rest of the tournament’s competitors to win the Most Outstanding Wrestler award, making history in the process. Courtney became the first female WCI champion ever with her second-round pin of Western Hills’ Kelton Bailey. “Being the first female champ at WCI is really just the beginning for me,” Courtney said. “My hope for women’s wrestling in Kentucky is that it becomes the norm for girls to win tournaments like I did. Hopefully soon enough, women’s wrestling will be sanctioned in Kentucky so the next generation of girls will have their own division to compete in.” Coming from a wrestling family — her brother Harrison won four consecutive KHSAA state titles — Ashley has a name that carries weight in wrestling circles. As soon as the referee raised her hand in victory, Courtney dashed over to the coaching corner and leapt into her father Brent’s arms in celebration. “My body just sort of switched to autopilot as soon as I heard the ref call the pin,” Ashley said. “My dad, the girls’ coach, is always the first person I go to after a match, and this time I was so excited and overwhelmed that I just had to celebrate a little.” Courtney, a second-place finisher in last year’s Kentucky Girls’ State Championship tournament, credits part of her success this season to an improved mindset after wrestling in the off-season to stay sharp for the 2019-20 season. Saturday, that paid off with a spot in history. As a team, the Mat Jackets placed first with 252 points to defeat runner-up Lafayette. The Jackets still aren’t quite at full strength with a few wrestlers still recovering from injury, but the team is much closer than they were at the Derby City Classic. Two weeks before the WCI, Woodford finished three points behind Lafayette at Louisville’s Central High School. A fortnight of healing turned that three-point disadvantage into a commanding 54-point victory. Courtney said, “Our line-up has been missing some weight classes since the beginning of the season. After a tough loss to Lafayette at Derby City and a team full of holes at the Five Star Classic (at Lafayette), our team has been working on upping the intensity on the mat and fixing the little details. Our improvements really showed this week as we dominated the tournament.” Seven WCHS wrestlers made it to the finals of their weight class Saturday and all but one came away victorious in their championship bouts. In the 126-pound division, Jonathan Pittman took down McCreary County Central’s Ruben Martinez in the third round with a pin to win the class. Perhaps more impressively, Pittman defeated Grant County’s Isaac Thornton (ranked third in the state at 120-pounds) in the semifinals. Thornton was 18-1 before Pittman handed him his second loss. At 138, Chase Yost stayed unbeaten with a second-round pin of Harrison County’s Micheal Watts. The Woodford senior is too much for most wrestlers to handle and things were no different for the freshman who shared the championship ring with him. Triston Brooks won the 170-pound class by making quick work of Spencer County’s Devon Rahrig. It took Brooks 70 seconds to secure the pin and first place. Woodford also took the 182-pound division, as Jackson Geilear defeated Bryce Martin of Grant County with a pin late in the second round. Tony Ornelas mauled his way to victory at 220-pounds with a forceful 16-5 win. Ornelas and Knox County Central’s Seth Huff were deadlocked through the first round with neither wrestler earning a point. Ornelas won the second round to get ahead 9-3, led 11-4 with a minute to go, and finished strong for the final margin of defeat. Dylan Preston (152) was the lone WCHS finalist to be defeated in a championship match. Preston led 2-1 at the end of the first round but fell behind 3-2 after Lafayette’s Brayden Gianonne rallied. The third round belonged to Gianonne, who pulled away for the victory. Other notable Woodford finishes included Andrew Kartner (third, 145 pounds), Ashton Littrell (fourth, 160), William Smithers (third, 170) and Luke Hill (fourth, 285). The Mat Jackets compete this Saturday in Anderson County at the Mustang Brawl. A week later, they’ll be back in Lawrenceburg again for the Jan. 11 sectional duals.

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