The Panther Wrestling Tournament is hosted by Litchfield High School. But it might as well be renamed the Vandals’ Invitational.
The Vandalia wrestling team continued its string of dominance at the tournament Saturday, closing out the regular season by claiming its 13th title in 14 years at the event.
The Vandals will look to keep a similar run of dominance going Saturday when it opens up the postseason at the Cumberland Regional, as VCHS will be shooting for its 14th straight regional title.
The Vandals won at Litchfield for the fifth year in a row by placing in 10 weight divisions, including first-place showings by Nate Stone, Matt Shroyer and Josh Eller.
Kevin Paulding and Adam Bowling added second-place finishes, as Vandalia (233) finished well ahead of Missouri powers Whitfield (186.5) and Parkway North (181) in the battle for the team title.
The Vandals also finished ahead of Orion (172), which is currently ranked seventh in Class A, as well the host Panthers (167.5), their top SCC rivals.
Shroyer capped a dominating regular season by going 3-0 in the 189-pound division, finishing off his title run with a 21-6 victory via technical fall over Mt. Olive’s Nate Rosenthall.
Shroyer advanced to the finals with an 18-4 major decision victory over Litchfield’s Michael Whitfield, and the senior needed just 1 minutes, 16 seconds to pin Whitfield’s Quintus Drennan in the quarterfinals after receiving a first-round bye.
Shroyer enters the postseason with just one loss all year.
Stone also enters February on a roll after needing a little over five minutes to record three pins on his way to an individual title.
Stone claimed the championship of the 275-pound division by pinning Pontiac’s Nick Melvin in just 48 seconds. Harrisburg’s J.C. Lambert was able to hold Stone off for 3 minutes and 49 seconds before the Vandal senior advanced to the finals with another pin.
Stone started the day by winning via fall over Lena-Winslow’s Zach Turnmeyer in 48 seconds.
Eller’s path to the 112-pound title pitted him against SCC foes Mike Caldwell of Roxana and Alex Brohammer of Hillsboro. Eller came out on top both times, taking a 5-0 decision over Caldwell in the title match moments after securing a 4-1 decision over Brohammer in the semifinals.
Eller received a first-round bye and advanced to the semis with a pin of Pinckneyville’s Walter Eiskant in 1:51.
Bowling steamrolled into the 145-pound championship match with a quick pin of Litchfield’s Zach Going’s (1:19) and a 19-10 major decision win over Parkway North’s Tyler Boyer.
But Whitfield’s Jason Ott – currently the top-rated Class 1 Missouri prep wrestler – stopped Bowling short of the title with a 9-3 win in the title match.
Paulding continued his late-season surge by advancing to the finals of the 130-pound division with a 7-5 overtime win over Orion’s Jacob Smith. The senior came up on the wrong side of another close match in the finals, however, as he was topped by Whitfield’s Conor Hovis, 7-5. Paulding opened the day with a pin of Hillsboro’s Nick Milanos in 3:29.
Foster made a strong third-place run in the 125-pound division, opening the tournament with a pin of Pinckneyville’s Dillon Jenkel (3:17) before winning by fall against Parkway North’s Kevin Canady in 5:02. The sophomore was stopped short of the finals with a 7-2 loss to West Frankfort’s Josh Johnson, but he closed out the day strong with an 11-2 major decision victory over Rochester’s Chase Tackett.
Cody Pyle rounded out Vandalia’s top-four finishes by placing fourth in the 140-pound division. The senior pinned Roxana’s Adam Hoffman (1:30) before winning a major decision over Litchfield’s Nick Farrar (14-2).
Parkway North’s Cody Farinella stopped Pyle short of the finals with a 24-9 win via technical fall, however, before Whitfield’s Mike Kissell won a major decision over Pyle, 15-5, in the third-place match.
Anthony Werhle (103), Jake Harris (135), Jake Etcheson (152) and Curtis Hemminghaus (160) all bounced back from early losses to add fifth-place showings for Vandalia, while Zach Ledbetter added a sixth-place finish in the 119-pound division.