RV wrestlers continue to roll with the punches
If a team’s size is proportionately linked to its chances of success in the postseason, than the Royal Valley wrestling team is smack dab in the middle of the fast lane on the way to being an underdog by the time the regional and state tournaments roll around.
The Panthers were probably well on their way to underdog status before the Christmas break, but with two previous state qualifiers (Charles Todd and Matthew Bailey) departing in the past few weeks, due to a decision to quit the team and disciplinary dismissal, Royal Valley might have the longest odds once championship competition starts.
Royal Valley coach Jason Puderbaugh is trying to keep an optimistic outlook though, so while two doors may have been closed recently, he sees two more opening for wrestlers still on the team.
Once 24 strong, the Panthers now have 13 wrestlers on roster, but RV is lucky to still be spread out among the weights and open in only a few classes.
Despite all the negatives, Puderbaugh said the wrestlers were excited for the Panthers’ only home dual of the season last Thursday and gave it their all in a pair of tough match-ups against the defending league champion, Holton, as well as last year’s runner-up, ACCHS.
“I think everybody enjoyed themselves and I think most of our wrestlers took full advantage of the evening and the fact that they were at home on senior night,” Puderbaugh said. “Hopefully the sport in general got a little bit deeper in their blood and then that will help fuel their fire to work harder in practice every day and to finish this season as best possible.”
Jerry Coan, Zack Lux, Noah Hart and Garrett Rodewald all picked up two wins in the night’s matches and while the team couldn’t translate those individual highlights into team successes, there were still plenty of positives for the Panthers to take away from the duals.
One such high note was exemplified by the tenacity of Lance Bailey, who had two tough matches (including one against 2014 state-runner up Hunter Ostertag) on Thursday, but managed to go the full three rounds in both and that type of attitude is something that Puderbaugh said he hopes will rub off on similarly young and inexperienced wrestlers.
“One thing you can’t take away from the kid is he’s got a lot of fight in him. You know that every time he goes out on the mat he’s going to give it everything he’s got,” Puderbaugh said.
Wrestlers like Lux and Rodewald, despite being older, are in the same boat as far as not having much experience, so a night like Thursday was big for those two, though Puderbaugh said he saw strengths in how all of the wrestlers competed.
“I do feel like we wrestled hard. I think that we held our own. I think that we battled. I think that our guys performed to the best of their ability,” Puderbaugh said.
Some of that then carried over into the weekend as the Panthers split up to compete in a JV tournament at Pleasant Ridge as well as a highly competitive varsity tournament in Baldwin.
One wrestler in particular seemed to keep building from the duals into Saturday’s matches as Jacob Box came back from a 1-1 showing on Thursday to go 3-2 and finish fifth at the Baldwin Invitational, continuing to show his potential in only his first full year of varsity wrestling and second year in the sport overall.
“It just still amazes me every time I think about it that he stepped on the mat for the first time, never having wrestled, just last season,” Puderbaugh said. “We definitely have high hopes for him and he’s excited as well.”
The only other placer at Baldwin for the Panthers was junior Noah Hart, who took fourth and lost only to state-ranked wrestlers Justin Rieschick (2nd in Class 4A) and Tonganoxie’s Dalton Tavis (6th in Class 4A). While the near-misses continue to weigh on Hart, his results keep proving that he belongs on this level.
“Noah’s a kid who knows what he’s capable of. He knows he’s right up there with those top-ranked kids in the state. He just continues to get frustrated coming just short of a win against some of those ranked opponents,” Puderbaugh said.
At this point in time, those matches become more critical to postseason seeding and Hart will try to continue to break through, as he will likely see both wrestlers again in regional competition.
Royal Valley’s JV wrestlers also had some success at Pleasant Ridge, chief of which included Tim Martin Jr. taking the individual title at 120-lbs. and not being scored upon in the entire tournament. Blake Garrison and Lance Bailey also turned in some solid second-place finishes as those young wrestlers continue to progress.
Down to one state qualifier following the departure of Todd and Matthew Bailey, the Panthers will be even more inexperienced as a team, but those two were out for a large chunk of time before even coming back in 2015, so Puderbaugh believes the team should have no issues marching on this season.
Bailey’s departure actually provides an opportunity for two surging wrestlers, Box and Garrison, to wrestle at their true weights, with Box sliding down to 182-lbs. moving forward and Garrison getting a chance to wrestle at 195-lbs.
Yes, the Panthers may have had more obstacles to overcome this season than in any other recent ones, but adversity builds character and Puderbaugh says he is hoping to see that from this team not only for the remainder of this season, but also in the bigger picture moving forward.
“Hopefully we’re going to take all these challenges and we’re going to roll them into experiences and things that’ll make us in the long run a tougher, more resilient group of wrestlers,” Puderbaugh said.
The coach will get to see the first evidence as the Panthers head to Onaga for a double dual with the Buffaloes and Blue Jays of Sabetha on Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m.
Royal Valley double dual
ACCHS 47, Royal Valley 27
Holton 45, Royal Valley 39
RV vs. ACCHS
(106): Karl Scholz (ACCHS) won by tech fall over Ethan Ashley.
(113): Austin Hager (ACCHS) won by fall over DJ Kester.
(120): Jordan Lee (ACCHS) had an open round.
(126): Hunter Ostertag (ACCHS) won by major decision, 14-0, over Lance Bailey.
(132): Zach Lux won by fall over Hunter Evans (ACCHS).
(138): Jerry Coan won by fall over Nick Hager (ACCHS).
(145): Noah Hart won by fall over Josh Weaver (ACCHS).
(152): Dylan Birkinsha (ACCHS) had an open round.
(160): Garrett Rodewald won by fall over Mike Regan.
(170): Joey Landwehr (ACCHS) had an open round.
(182): Matthew Bailey won by decision, 10-9, over Dillon Weaver (ACCHS).
(195): Jacob Handke (ACCHS) won by decision, 9-2, over Jacob Box.
(220): Bratton Forbes (ACCHS) won by tech fall, 16-1, over Blake Garrison.
(285): Ryan Hanshaw (ACCHS) had an open round.
RV vs. HHS
(106): Arturo Reveles (HHS) won by fall over Ethan Ashley.
(113): Coulter Bissell (HHS) won by fall over DJ Kester.
(120): Lucas Hogan (HHS) had an open round.
(126): Jameson Lutz (HHS) won by major decision, 11-1, over Lance Bailey.
(132): Zach Lux won by fall over Willie Bowman (HHS).
(138): Jerry Coan had an open round.
(145): Noah Hart had an open round.
(152): Spencer Baum (HHS) had an open round.
(160): Trey Haverkamp (HHS) had an open round.
(170): Garrett Rodewald won by fall over Logan Cannon (HHS).
(182): Mason Baum (HHS) won by fall over Matthew Bailey.
(195): Jacob Box won by fall over Brandon Lehnherr (HHS).
(220): Blake Garrison won by fall over Joseph Saucedo (HHS).
(285): Kegan Meister (HHS) had an open round.
Pleasant Ridge Tournament
(106): Ethan Ashley won two matches, lost two matches and finished fifth.
(113): DJ Kester lost three matches and took fifth.
(120): Tim Martin Jr. went undefeated, winning all three of his matches, to medal in first.
(126): Lance Bailey won one match, lost one match and came in second.
(132): Eli Shane lost three matches and placed sixth.
(195): Blake Garrison won three matches, lost one match and finished second.
(132): Zack Lux lost two matches and did not place.
(138): Jerry Coan lost two matches and did not place.
(145): Noah Hart won three matches, lost two matches and came in fourth.
(195): Jacob Box won three matches, lost two matches and placed fifth.