"Here's your 16th, coach," Alex Foster said to Vandalia wrestling coach Jason Clay as he handed him the regional championship plaque on Saturday as the Vandals won their 16th consecutive regional championship.
On Saturday at about 4 p.m. the Vandals were announced as champions of the Cumberland Regional with a total of 218 points, blowing out the competition, as the second-place school, Shelbyville, had 140.5.
Not only will Vandalia be heading to the team sectional later this month, but this weekend 13 Vandals will be heading to the individual sectional in Robinson. Even more impressive is the fact that Vandalia only wrestled in 13 weight classes on Saturday.
"It was a real good day – we got all 13 guys through. That was a goal," Clay said. "It was exciting."
Of the 13, four will receive first-round byes for winning their weight class. Sophomore Trevor Pyle (119), senior Alex Foster (152), senior Jacob Whalen (215) and sophomore Anthony Fladeland (285) will all receive first-round byes.
"(The fist-round byes) are big when you're trying to qualify for state," Clay said. "Trevor (Pyle) has looked good ever since he went down to 119."
Fladeland made a splash at the regional, as he entered the day with a record of 3-6, having not seen too much action over the year. By the end of the day Saturday, his confidence was soaring as he took the top spot on the podium. Fladeland ran the table in punching his ticket to the sectional.
"He's been getting better and better, and it's one of those things where he needs confidence in himself," Clay said. "He knows how to wrestle. He knows what he's doing, but he hasn't been in there (enough)."
Vandalia had six wrestlers place second. Levi Ulmer, who Clay thought had the tough bracket at 160 pounds, lost a close 7-5 decision after leading 4-3 going into the final period.
"Levi avenged a loss from earlier in the year; he lost to the kid for St. Joe," Clay said. "Levi looked better today, and that's encouraging, too."
Justin Hill was also on the short end of a close match in the 112-pound. Hill lost a 4-1 decision.
Although some of the pressure comes off once a wrestler makes it into the championship, the third place matches are packed with tension, pressure and anticipation. Of the three third-place matches the Vandals were participating in, they won all three.
"That's some pressure, because if you don't win it, you're not going to make it," Clay said. "Once you make the finals, the pressure is off a little bit."
A.J. Gaylord, a freshman with a record of 6-15 at the 103-pound weight class, was able to pin his opponent in 1:24.
"He's a guy that will do good at 103, he just hasn't been down there much," Clay said. Gaylord dropped down to 103 for the regional.
Trevor Alstat won his third-place match via a 12-4 decision. And senior Caleb Walton was able to pin his 189-pound match up in 47 seconds to be the last Vandal to secure a spot at the individual sectional.
"It was a pretty good day. Any time you get 10 through to the finals you've got to be happy with that," Clay said.
The challenge for Vandalia now is making weight on Friday and continuing to improve and hit its peak as the season comes to an end, with the sectional and state just around the corner.
Vandalia will wrestle as individuals in the Robinson Sectional this Friday, starting at 4:30 p.m., and continuing on Saturday at 9 a.m.
Vandalia will wrestle in the dual team sectional at home on Feb 23.