The St. James wrestling team opened their season with a dual against Osage on Monday, Nov. 20. St. James got a huge win at 182, which turned the momentum to their favor in a 44-30 win.
The night started with a free six points for Osage at 126, giving the Indians a quick 6-0 lead. St. James came back at 132 with Ty Lewis. The senior was among the many Tigers wrestling up a weight class, but that didn't slow him down, as he pinned Derrick Puckett to tie the match. He was followed by Mikey Crocker, who wrestled up to 138. The senior worked for the pin, but couldn't quite get Aaron Cuddy flat on his back, so he settled for a 17-2 tech fall win to give St. James an 11-6 lead.
Thomas Henderson had a touch match at 145, again a weight class higher than he normally wrestles. His match against Jack Creasy needed all three periods, but the senior was able to hold on to a 5-4 win.
Osage had their first match win of the night at 152. Logan Saxbury made a huge leap in weight to fill in against Bob Baker at 152, as the sophomore will spend most of the season wrestling at 120. The weight difference was tough to overcome. After the first period ended with Baker holding onto a 4-3 lead, the Osage wrestler controlled the match on the way to a 10-3 win.
Osage then got a free six points, as St. James didn't have someone to wrestle against Austin Magnuson at 160. That opening gave the Indians a 15-14 lead. Osage was able to extend that lead at 170 when Jesse Schillinger beat Sage Gibson 11-7. Gibson, who will generally wrestle at 152 during the season, was hurt by a few violations for illegal holds and a headbutt, which helped Schillinger extend that point gap.
Osage held a 21-14 lead going into the 182 weight class, but this is where the match shifted firmly into St. James' favor. Zach Woodson made another jump in weight class, going up from 170 to 182. Early in the match, it seemed like that weight difference would be his downfall, as Anthony Martin seemed to have Woodson pinned. When things were looking rough for the Tiger freshman, he came out of nowhere with a phenomenal reversal and back points. Woodson then let Martin off his back and found a new grip, getting the pin a moment later to give the Tigers a 20-18 lead.
"That was the interception in the fourth quarter right there," said head coach Beau Moreland of Woodson's win. "That was crazy. The kid is a great wrestler, he really is, but he's a freshman and he weighed in in the low 170s...I was like 'that's your spot for varsity, let's see what you've got' and one thing I know that kid has is heart. He won't quit and he showed it."
That pin gave St. James all the momentum in the match. Nick Wilson, who wrestled up one weight class, followed Woodson with a pin of Matt Russell at 195. Osage was open at 220, so the Tigers got another free six points before moving to the heavyweight match.
Drake Ortiz, who normally wrestles 220, faced off against Dillon VanNevel. The weight difference didn't get to Ortiz, as the defending State runner up dominated the match on his way to a pin to push the Tigers' lead to 38-18.
Kaylynn Crocker gave St. James six more points as the weights went back down to 106. She controlled her match against Hanna Carlson from jump street and got another pin for the Tigers.
"I gotta take my hat off to Kaylynn, because she has put in the mat hours," said coach Moreland. "What was so nice to see what the work that she's put in and to be able to test it against another female wrestler and kinda compare yourself there. Because some of these boys have the strength on her, but the technique, they may not have. That's what you can tell from Kaylynn. She puts in her time, she cares about the sport, she cares about getting better."
Osage took the remaining points in the match, as St. James was open at 113 and Kody Dowell pinned Tyler Dover at 120. Dover put up a solid fight early on, but was caught for a pin to end the night. The late points weren't enough to get Osage back in the match and the Tigers finished off a 44-30 win.
Coach Moreland gives a lot of credit to his seniors for setting the tone as they all went up weight classes to get wins against Osage.
"Those senior guys stepped it up tonight and went up a weight class. I mean all of them," said Moreland. "Ty Lewis is our 26 pounder, Mikey is our 32, Thomas is our 38. Logan Saxbury wrestled 113 for us last year and lost by a decision to a true 52 pounder weighing in at 135 pounds tonight. That's just what these guys are capable of. Every one of the guys stepped up and had a good match."
The Tigers will now have a bit of time off with Thanksgiving right around the corner. They won't wrestle again until they host North County on Thursday, Nov. 30. Coach Moreland is just hoping that his wrestlers can keep their weight in check on Thanksgiving, since they're already over their desired weights.
"We just tell them 'don't go gain 20 pounds, enjoy momma's cooking,'" said Moreland with a chuckle. "We will wrestle on the 30th at home against North County, that should be our next dual. That one we will start to see some of our guys at their actual weight classes as long as Thanksgiving doesn't put too much of a dent in our plans."