The timing of the Vandalia wrestling team’s ‘Senior Night’ was a bit unconventional.
The results were not.
The Vandals celebrated ‘Senior Night’ in their patented dominating fashion, kicking off the Thursday evening’s triangular with a surprisingly easy win over SCC rival Litchfield, 63-3, before easing by Class 2A Highland, 53-15.
The Vandals actually had their final home match of the year Saturday, as they swept a quadrangular at VJHS (see results on Page 9), but ‘Senior Night’ was celebrated a couple days prior so that the Vandals could be recognized at the high school gym.
‘It was coach (Brian) Kern’s idea, and I thought it was great for the guys,’ Vandals coach Jason Clay said. ‘We had a little bit of a late-arriving crowd, but it was a good crowd, and these guys deserve that.
‘They were able to come out and wrestle well and have a good night on ‘Senior Night.”
The Vandals’ seven seniors contributed heavily to the victory, combining to go 12-2 on the evening, helping Vandalia up its dual-meet record to a sparkling 14-1. The team moved to 17-1 with three more victories on Saturday.
Clay lauded a class that has helped the program to two straight state-tournament appearances.
‘We’ve got little ones, big ones, middle weights – they’re all over the place,’ said Clay of his seniors. ‘They’re doing a great job. They’re going to be hard shoes to fill, but we’ve got them for a few more weeks. We’ll see how far we can ride them out.’
Class of 2008 representatives Matt Shroyer, Nate Stone, Curtis Hemminghaus, Cody Pyle and Adam Bowling each went 2-0 on the evening.
Classmate Josh Eller added a 6-0 win over state-ranked Coy Davidson of Litchfield before suffering a 6-2 defeat to Highland’s Ryan Graminkski. Senior Kevin Paulding pinned Highland’s Alex Westerman after falling in his opener.
A 10-2 Litchfield team featuring four state-ranked wrestlers figured to give the Vandals a bit of a challenge. But the Panthers were less than 100 percent Thursday – and the Vandals took full advantage.
‘They were a little bit wounded,’ said Clay of a Litchfield team missing three starters, including undefeated 171-pounder Cory Hauter. ‘But you’ve just got to wrestle the team they put out there. It worked out in our favor tonight.’
Anthony Wehrle (103), Zac Ledbetter (119), Pyle (140), Bowling (145), Jake Etcheson (152) and Devin Cook (215) all recorded pins against the Purple Panthers in 2:38 or less.
Pyle needed just 54 seconds to pin Litchfield’s Zach Going, following that performance up with a hard-fought 6-4 win over Highland’s Phil Rensing.
‘I thought Cody Pyle wrestled real well against Highland,’ Clay said. ‘That’s a pretty tough kid (he beat). I’m real happy with Cody and the way he’s been stepping up in matches lately.’
Etcheson capped a two-pin night, needing just 1:39 to overwhelm Highland’s Ron Cornell after pinning Litchfield’s Vin Calcari in 1:11 in his opener.
Stone and Shroyer capped their 2-0 evenings with dominating wins, as Stone needed just 36 seconds to pin Jake Broadhurst in the 285-pound match, and Shroyer won via fall over Justin Huelsmann in 1:41 in the 189-pound match.
Alex Foster added a come-from-behind win in the 125-pound match against Highland, pinning Stephen Rensing in 5:03, while Caleb Walton continued his recent resurgence by capping a 2-0 evening with a 8-5 win over Blake Peterson in the 171-pound match.
‘Caleb Walton’s another kid that’s been wrestling better,’ Clay said. ‘He’s just now starting to get back his confidence. He’s always worked hard in practice. He’d wrestle well in practice and then totally different in a match. Now it’s started transferring over into the matches.’
The convincing victory over Litchfield could pay dividends come team sectional time.
‘It was a good win for us, because, if we can win our regional, we could wind up seeing them at team sectionals,’ Clay said. ‘It’s always good to get that win against somebody you’ll probably see down the road. It’s hard to come back when somebody’s beaten you soundly.’