The East Ridge wrestling team has been pointing toward January 10 for a long time. It's been circled on their schedule since long before Christmas.
Knowing that a key region match with defending state duals champ Central was awaiting on that date, the Pioneers were ready and waiting.
It wasn't a very close match. The two teams traded forfeits in the first two weight classes, but the match belonged to the Pioneers as they improved to 21-7 with a resounding 51-14 victory.
Michael Frazey earned a 20-10 major decision over Robert McAvoy at 145 and Larry Dickerson followed with a second-period pin at 152, but other than those two weight classes, the visiting Purple Pounders didn't have a whole lot to cheer about.
"That was a big one," said East Ridge coach Brad Laxton after William Garner had closed out the action with an 11-1 major decision at 285.
"That's the first step toward our goal of qualifying for the state duals and it's a big step in the right direction. We circled the match long before the season started, knowing just how important it was for our team, but the guys have been working their tails off in the practice room and it's beginning to pay off," Laxton continued.
"We felt like Central was the team to beat if we wanted to qualify, but we had a bunch of kids step up big tonight. I'm just sorry that Hunter Owens wasn't here tonight. He's our 106-pounder who found out his hip was broken and he had surgery yesterday. Our hearts are with him tonight, but I'm getting ready to call him to tell him about this match," the coach added.
Spencer Griffy gave the Pioneers their first lead at 12-6 with a 57-second pin at 126. Justin Hitchcock made it 16-6 with a 21-7 major decision at 132 before Ramon Bautista's forfeit at 138 stretched the difference to 22-6.
Frazey and Dickerson made it a little more respectable with their wins to make it 22-16, but East Ridge then reeled off six straight wins, including three by pins, to put the match out of reach for Central. The Purple Pounders saw insult added to injury when they were docked a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct on two occasions.
Needless to say, Central coach John Lennon wasn't real happy with the outcome.
"It's hard to win when we get pinned that many times, not to mention all of the forfeits," Lennon said afterward.
"Michael Frazey and Larry Dickerson went after it pretty good, but there were a lot of spots where we just didn't have any fire. To be honest, I was expecting more as I thought it would be a decent match, but we just have to learn how to work a little harder under pressure," he added.
Kendall Small, Brandon Cantrell and C.J. Baker all had pins for East Ridge in that last six-match surge, including Small and Baker with falls in 29 and 17 seconds, respectively.
DeAngelo Johnson posted a 10-0 major decision at 170 while Nakota Culver had the other win for the Pioneers, a harrowing 14-12 overtime decision at 182.
EAST RIDGE 51, CENTRAL 14
(Match began at 113 Pounds)
106 -- Double forfeit;
113 -- Bryson Leamons (C) won by forfeit;
120 -- Brandon Whitley (ER) won by forfeit;
126 -- Spencer Griffy (ER) pinned Jeffrey Gaines, :57;
132 -- Justin Hitchcock (ER) major dec. Kaleb Cook, 21-7;
138 -- Ramon Bautista (ER) won by forfeit;
145 -- Michael Frazey (C) major dec. Robert McAvoy, 20-10;
152 -- Larry Dickerson (C) pinned Josh Kilgore, 2:43;
160 -- Kendall Small (ER) pinned Xavier Norwood, :29;
170 -- DeAngelo Johnson (ER) major dec. James Hughes, 10-0;
182 -- Nakota Culver (ER) dec. Joshua Cooper, 14-12 in overtime;
195 -- Brandon Cantrall (ER) pinned Truman Martin, 4:31;
220 -- C.J. Baker (ER) pinned Curtis Noiseaux, :17;
285 -- William Garner (ER) major dec. Sam Stephenson, 11-1.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)