7 Knights advance to wrestling districts

7 Knights advance to wrestling districts
Justin Smith

West Holmes senior Grady Toye, right, won his 100th career match with an 11-4 decision victory in the 126-pound championship semifinals at the Division II Steubenville Sectional on Feb. 24.


The West Holmes wrestling team experienced a day of ups and downs at the Division II Steubenville Sectional on Feb. 24.

The ups were advancing seven wrestlers to the Div. II Gallia Academy District, having six of those seven district qualifiers in the championship match of their weight class, and having three other top six finishers help the team to a fourth-place finish in the 10-team field.

The downs were having only one of those six sectional championship finalists grabbing a victory, losing the team lead in the final round after having the top spot to begin the round and seeing the season come to an end for six Knights wrestlers.

Advancing to the district tournament were Louden Dixon (sophomore, 144 pounds), who claimed his first sectional championship; runners-up Peyton Martin (sophomore, 113), Grady Toye (senior, 126), Hunter McCluggage (junior, 157), Cole Porter (junior, 175) and Grant Miller (senior, 215); and third-place finisher Dylan Sours (sophomore, 190), who advanced to his first district tournament. Earning a district alternate slot after his fifth-place finish was AAJ Roberts (junior, 132).

The Knights held a very slim lead in the team race entering the championship round but fell to fourth place with 164.5 points at the end of the tournament. Beaver Local edged past Steubenville 196.5-187.5, with Indian Valley just one point behind the Big Red with 186.5 points.

“Finally, it’s postseason time,” Knights coach Scott Vaughn said. “While it is very exciting to see kids reach their goals, it is also heartbreaking to see some young men’s seasons come to an end. This team has come so far this season, and it was awesome to see them compete today. I am so proud of how they competed.”

Wrestling in a loaded weight class, Dixon (3-0, two falls), a returning state qualifier and ranked sixth in the state, scored a championship quarterfinal pin before earning a hard-fought 6-4 sudden victory decision over fifth-ranked Cooper Smith (sophomore, Steubenville) in the semifinals to sew up his district berth. Dixon then faced 10th-ranked Owen Edwards (sophomore, John Glenn) for the sectional title, where he posted a fall win at 4:35 over Edwards for his first sectional crown.

“Louden earned his first sectional championship today in arguably the toughest weight if you are looking at high-end talent,” Vaughn said. “I could see a way that the top four district placers at 144 will be the same that came out of this sectional. Louden had a gutsy overtime win with the Steubenville kid (Smith), then followed that up with a pin in the finals over a John Glenn kid (Edwards) projected to finish fourth in our district. Louden had a great tournament and certainly earned Knight of the Week.”

Martin (2-1, one) squared off with Tristian Eckles (senior, East Liverpool) for the championship, and the two state-ranked wrestlers took it to the extreme. Tied 2-2 after regulation, Martin and Eckles, ranked 14th and eighth, respectively, went scoreless in the 1:00 sudden victory period and the two 30-second overtime periods, sending the match to the 30-second ultimate tiebreaker. Starting the period from the top, Martin tried everything to keep Eckles under control but gave up the escape with just seconds left in the deciding period with Eckles winning 3-2.

“Peyton wrestled an excellent match in the semifinals, pinning a tough kid from Indian Valley (Brock Albright, sophomore),” Vaughn said. “He followed that up by dropping an ultimate tiebreaker match in the finals. With some adjustments Peyton could reverse that result.”

Toye (2-1, one) scored an opening-round fall win and then locked up a district slot and his 100th career victory with an 11-4 decision win over Julius Mullins (sophomore, Steubenville). Toye, a returning state qualifier and ranked 30th, took on Leroy Steagall (senior, Indian Valley), also a returning state qualifier and ranked 28th, in the championship match, losing by fall.

“Grady wrestled well on his way to the finals,” Vaughn said. “He had a cradle locked up (against Steagall) but just couldn’t get it turned over. If that happens, that match is completely different.”

McCluggage (2-1, one) chalked up an opening-round fall win and then punched his ticket to districts with a strong 9-0 major decision victory over Aiden Price (sophomore, Beaver Local). McCluggage, ranked 13th, then faced two-time returning state placer and top-ranked Brody Saccoccia (junior, Steubenville) in the title match. McCluggage held his own against the highly favored Big Red wrestler, losing by an 18-9 major decision.

Porter, ranked 14th and a returning state alternate, posted two fall wins to reach the championship match including his district-berth-clinching pin at 2:30 over 38th-ranked Gibson Swartz (sophomore, Philo). Facing returning state qualifier and 17th-ranked Gabe Morgan (senior, Beaver Local) in the title match, Porter did his best but came up short, losing by fall.

Miller (2-1), ranked eighth, scored two fall wins to reach the championship match, where he faced returning state qualifier and 14th-ranked Jaxon Burcher (junior, Indian Valley). Miller battled hard against Burcher but lost by an 8-2 decision. Miller sewed up his district berth with a come-from-behind fall win at 5:38 over Chase McFadden (senior, Buckeye Local), using a body lock to put McFadden to his back and earn the pin.

Sours (4-1) may have had the performance of the day for the Knights. After losing his opening-round match to returning state placer and fourth-ranked Logan Niceswanger (senior, Morgan) by fall, Sours ripped off four straight fall wins including his third-place match 37-second pin of Noah West (junior, Steubenville). Sours, ranked 44th, upset Marek Hickman (junior, Buckeye Local), ranked 40th, at 1:41 in the consolation quarterfinals and then clinched a district berth when he toppled ninth-ranked Kane Curran (junior, Beaver Local) in the consolation semifinals at 1:32.

“I’d give Dylan the Knight of the Week for pinning the No. 8 kid in the state (Curran) in the consolation semifinals,” Vaughn said. “If he hadn’t won that match, he wouldn’t have qualified (for districts).”

West Holmes will compete at the Div. II Gallia Academy District March 1-2. The top four finishers in each weight class will advance to the state tournament, which will take place March 8-10 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.

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