Guy Ellis

The Grove Ridgerunners wrestling team began their 2008-09 dual season with a lopsided 64-12 victory over Stilwell Thursday night at the GHS gymnasium.

Grove, the defending 3A State Champions, have been bumped up to Class 5A this season by the OSSAA. The Ridgerunners entered the dual season with a number three ranking for 5A in both the dual and tournament polls.

The extended football season meant that the grapplers have had just a little over a week to prepare for their schedule.

“It’s been going good,” said Ridgerunner Head Coach John Henry Ward about the transition of his student-athletes from the football season to the new wrestling season.

“The kids have come out and done everything we’ve asked of them,” Ward said.  “Obviously the (wrestling) shape is not quite there. Several of them have had to get down to weight in addition to getting in shape. It’s tough, there’s no other way to put it. But they’re battling great and doing a good job.”

The ’08-’09 Ridgerunners feature some familiar faces and some new ones as well.

“We have several guys that are new,” Ward said. “A couple of them are new to us completely this year as far as the sport, and some of them were with us last year but weren’t starters.”

Both the new and returning competitors shone Thursday.

“They’re doing well,” Ward said of his team. “We’ve got some things we need to work on but they’re aggressive and they’re trying to do what we’re asking of them. The more experience we have and the more time on the mat we have the better we’re going to be.”

Three Ridgerunners who had podium finishes at last year’s State Championship Tournament came away with wins Thursday.

Zach Housley took an exciting 6-5 decision in the 112-pound class. The Grove junior was down 3 to 5 with 32 seconds remaining in the match when he executed an escape and a take down to claim the victory.

In the 152-pound class Connor Sarwinski, a senior, recorded a second period fall over Gavin Huard.

Senior Dusty Gehrke took a 9-2 win in the 160-pound class. Gehrke’s match was halted temporarily while his opponent, Jose Olivares, had a cut over his left eye attended to.

One returning starter and three grapplers new to the A-team found success as well.

Bryce Armstrong, a starter last year, took a 9-1 decision over Storm Paden in the 119-pound class.

Newcomers Spencer Rutherford, Levi Wangen, and Michael Fenlon all recorded falls against their opponents Thursday.

The Ridgerunners next dual is Tuesday at McDonald County. The team competed in the Tulsa Union tourney over the weekend and will return to tournament action in Claremore at the end of this week.

103lbs-Josh Popp (G) forfeit; 112lbs-Zach Housley (G) d Dominic Wick, 6-5; 119lbs-Bryce Armstrong (G) d Storm Paden, 9-1;  125lbs-Spencer Rutherford (G) d Jerrod Kimball, F1; 130lbs-Levi Wangen (G) d opponent, F2; 135lbs-Dusty Baker (G) forfeit; 140lbs-Chas Wood (G) forfeit; 145lbs-Dalton Dillard d Jerrod Leach (G), F2; 152lbs-Connor Sarwinski (G) d Gavin Huard, F2; 160lbs-Dusty Gehrke (G) d Jose Olivares, 9-2; 171lbs-David Means d Corey Davenport (G), F2; 189lbs-Michael Fenlon d Chance Philpott, F2; 215lbs-Weston Culvey (G) forfeit; HWT-Tyler Johnson (G) forfiet