OTTUMWA — To be successful at this time of the season, wrestlers need to be aggressive. Ottumwa learned what can happen with a lack of aggression over the weekend.
Tuesday night was Senior Night at Evans Middle School Gym. At stake was second place in the CIML Metro Conference against the team who had prevented the Bulldogs from that position last year.
If ever there was a motive to be aggressive, the Bulldog grapplers had it. On Tuesday, the Ottumwa wrestling team didn’t let the opportunity slip away.
From the opening match, Bulldog wrestlers hit the mats with a purpose and jumped on top of their Railsplitter opponents. Ottumwa won their first three matches by fall in just over three minutes, then scored three more falls to clinch a much-wanted team victory. In their final night on the home mats this season, the Bulldogs doubled up Des Moines Lincoln, 54-27, to lock down at least a share of second place in the Metro.
“Overall, I’m pretty proud of everyone up and down the line,” Ottumwa head wrestling coach Kevin Cochran said. “We’re not champions, so we’re not where we want to be yet, but I’m proud of everyone in that room. They’ve worked hard and they deserve this.”
At worst, Ottumwa will finish second alone in the conference should Des Moines Roosevelt avoid being upset by Des Moines East this week. An upset, however, would leave the Bulldogs in a three-way tie with the Roughriders and Scarlets for first place in the Metro crown.
However it plays out, it will be another step forward for a squad that sent nine underclassmen out to the mat on senior night.
“When I was a freshman, we finished last in the conference,” 145-pound junior Karsten VanVelsor said after winning his team-best 24th match with a match-clinching fall in 84 seconds against Luke Williamson. “Last year we were third and this year we’re (at least) second. Hopefully next year, we’ll be (outright) champions.”
Ottumwa was also looking to battle back after a disappointing precursor to Tuesday’s final dual. The Bulldogs finished 15th in the 17-team Southern Iowa Classic Saturday in Fairfield, scoring just 67.5 points in what Cochran described as a “displeasing” performance.
The Ottumwa head wrestling coach made sure his team was well aware of his feelings toward his team’s performance heading into Tuesday night.
“After our performance on Saturday, practice wasn’t very much fun (Monday),” Cochran said. “Maybe the guys got the message that we needed to turn the intensity level up.”
From the opening match at 182 pounds, the Bulldogs appeared to be the more intense team as Cole Eklund set a tone by immediately taking down Corey Glass. Eklund never let Glass off the mat, pinning the Railsplitter sophomore in just 32 seconds.
Fellow Bulldog sophomore Conner Mier kept it rolling, scoring six points on the first move of his 195-pound match before working a pin on Choung Nguyen three seconds before the end of the first period. Up next on the mat was 220-pounder Emanuel Guevara who certainly didn’t need much more motivation being the only Ottumwa senior in action.
“It felt like an obligation. I couldn’t let this one get away from me as the only senior wrestler competing,” Guevara said after joining Eklund and Mier with a dominant performance in scoring a 34-second fall against Briles Christensen. “We had a snowball effect going. I just went for it. There was a lot of intensity going into this match.”
“This is his last hurrah,” Cochran said of Guevara. “I told him to go out and give the crowd a good performance.”
Despite the quick start, Ottumwa found themselves just as quickly in a tied dual as Lincoln scored three straight falls with Lincoln’s Ty McGhee scoring a fall against Theron Morrison in just 15 seconds to tie the dual at 18-18. The Bulldogs then showcased an ability to score pins late as Garrett Goodwin ended a back-and-forth 126-pound match with Aaron Havens with just 30 seconds to go.
“That’s another thing I was proud of. The guys didn’t quit,” Cochran said. “They wanted to put the match away. Matches like Garrett’s and Tad’s (Howard) where they kept battling and battling.”
Howard finished the night for Ottumwa in style, pinning Gabe Chatelain in the final minute of their 170-pound match. The Bulldogs (4-7, 3-1) finished the night winning seven matches all by pin.
“Once we took them over to their backs, we were able to tighten them up and get the fall,” Cochran said.
The win over the Railsplitters (3-12, 1-3) sends Ottumwa into a tough close to the season on Friday as the Bulldogs take part in the CIML Conference meet Friday at Southeast Polk before heading to districts next Saturday.
Ottumwa 54, Des Moines Lincoln 27
106 — Tyler Powell (Lincoln) won by fall at :31 over Nathan Cary (Ottumwa). 113 — Ty McGhee (DML) won by fall at :15 over Theron Morrison (O). 120 — Tyler Reinhard (O) won by forfeit. 126 — Garrett Goodwin (O) won by fall at 5:30 over Aaron Havens (DML). 132 — Dakota Durbin (O) won by forfeit. 138 — Shawn Foster (O) won by fall at 1:13 over Yonto Tarlue (DML). 145 — Karsten VanVelsor (O) won by fall at 1:24 over Luke Williamson (DML). 152 — Dakota Sanchez (DML) won by dec. over Sky Holmgren (O), 9-5. 160 — Justin Powell (DML) won by fall at 1:24 over Chase Wood (O). 170 — Tad Howard (O) won by fall at 5:04 over Gabe Chatelain (DML). 182 — Cole Eklund (O) won by fall at :32 over Corey Glass (DML). 195 — Conner Mier (O) won by fall at 1:57 over Choung Nguyen (DML). 220 — Emanuel Guevara (O) won by fall at :34 over Briles Christensan (DML). HWT — Hunter Alexander (DML) won by fall at 5:52 over Kevin Chiles (O).