Guy Ellis

The Grove Ridgerunner wrestling team traveled to Vinita Tuesday night to square off in a triangle with the hosting Hornets and the Pryor Tigers. The squad (9-2) dropped a 39-38 thriller to Vinita before caging the Tigers 60-22.

The battle with the Hornets was a back and forth affair with the final outcome up for grabs all the way to the final match.

“There were places in the dual where we gave up points that we shouldn’t have. It’s one of those tough deals to swallow,” said Grove Head Coach John Henry Ward.

One match in particular displayed the special characteristics that define dual competition. In the 152 lbs match Grove’s Connor Sarwinski held a comfortable lead in the final minute. Rather than coast out the win the senior began a series of moves, sometimes even giving up points deliberately, in an effort to score a major decision or fall. With the team score so close the risk was worth it as a fall or major decision would gain the Ridgerunners up to three more points than would a close decision. In the end, Sarwinski bagged a fall in the closing seconds of the contest.

“That’s one thing we teach our kids: how to win duals is to go after points,” said Ward. “Sometimes you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to do that and he (Sarwinski) was a great picture of that tonight. Just keep working and go after points to get a major (decision) and possibly get a chance for a fall. He just kept working and good things happened.”

The Ridgerunners prepared for the event, their first action since before Christmas break, by practicing with other squads over the holidays, including Broken Arrow.

“You can only wrestle each other for so long. You get tired of beating up on each other,” said Ward. “It (traveling practices) gives the guys a chance to get different workout partners and it also helps to be exposed to different levels of competition. It’s good for them, it makes them well rounded.”

The ’08-’09 Grove wrestling team is a mixture of youth and experience. Of the 14 entrants at the triangle half are in their debut season with the Ridgerunner starting squad. They are paired with seven returning starters from last season’s State Champion team, including four state tournament podium finishers.

“We’ve got some potential but we’ve got to hook up and get a little better,” said Ward. “We’ve got a lot of young guys and some that really haven’t got to be on the mat a lot before now. So its good experience for them to get out here and work and get mat time but, sometimes you can’t get enough experience fast enough. As long as everybody keeps their heads up and keeps working then I believe we’ll be fine. We’ve got some good kids.”

Grove 38, Vinita 39: 103- Bubba Roberts d Josh Popp (G) F1; 112 – Damien Hopper (G) d Ryle Martin 13-2; 119 – Zach Housley (G) d Collen McDaniel 8-0; 125 – Dylan Miller d Bryce Armstrong (G) 9-8; 130 – Spencer Rutherford (G) d Toby Daniels F2; 135 – Toby Couch d Dusty Baker (G) F2; 140 - Scotty Mattison d Chaz Wood (G) F2; 145 – Tyler Porter d Jarrod Leach (G) F2; 152 – Connor Sarwinski (G) d Nick Jackson F3; 160 – Dusty Gehrke (G) d Cantu F2; 171 – James Allen d Brad Fitzgibbon (G) F1; 189 – Michael Fenlon (G) d Kyle Jordan F1; 215 – Hunter Hays (G) d Conner Couch F1; HWT – Casey Piguet d Weston Culvey (G) F1.

Grove 60, Pryor 22: 103- Popp (G) forfeit; 112 – Hopper (G) d Cody Wade F2; 119 – Levi Wangen (G) forfeit; 125 – Housley (G) forfeit; 130 – Armstrong (G) forfeit; 135 – Rutherford (G) d Kyle Buff F2; 140 – Mark Fraley d Wood (G) 15-3; 145 – Leach (G) d Jon Buck F2; 152 – Sarwinski (G) forfeit; 160 – Taytn Fee d Gehrke (G) F1; 171 – Marty Williams d Fitzgibbon (G) F1; 189 Robert Stanley d Fenlon (G) F2; 215 – Culvey (G) d Garrett Henning F1; HWT – Tyler Johnson (G) forfeit.