Rolla high school let their students out of class early on Tuesday, Nov. 21 so they could flood the gym to watch the Bulldog wrestling team open their season in front of an excited crowd against Union. The energy in the gym carried over to the wrestlers on the mat and Rolla crushed Union 54-21.
Roll started the night with a free six points, as Union was open at 126. The Bulldogs then hit the meat of their lineup and won three straight matches. Justin McEnany got things started at 132. The reigning Wrestler of the Week faced off against Joshua Wegescheide and controlled the match from the opening whistle. McEnany allowed just one point in a 10-1 major decision victory. Coleman Brainard followed him with a win that was over in a flash. After an almost instantaneous takedown, Brainard needed just 36 seconds to pin Jordan Waldman. Lucas Lambeth then stepped in at 145 and dominated Ben Cox to the tune of a 19-0 tech fall victory.
Rolla had one of their few bumps in the road at 152. Freshman David Redding had a tough time in his first ever varsity match, getting pinned in the first period. Bryce O'Connor turned things around for the Bulldogs at 160 with a quick pin of Christophe Poinsett, needing just under a minute to win the match. Rolla then had another six free points, as Union was open at 170.
Union had a nice run for the next three matches, earning 15 team points over that span. Jacob Phillips took a loss for Rolla at 182 after getting off to a strong start in the match. Phillips came out gunning for a quick takedown, but Ryder Kuenzel caught him for a pin midway through the opening period. Colton Franks then lost at 195 in a slow match. After a scoreless first period, the only point scored inthe second was an escape by Union's David Clark. Franks opened the third with an escape, but was taken down to lose the match 3-1. Union's Haiden Meyer then pinned Jacob Dobkins for their final win of the night at 220. That win closed the gap for Union a bit, as Rolla's lead was cut to 33-21.
Rolla dominated the remaining matches after a jolt of energy from Justin Briggs. The Rolla heavyweight got takedown after takedown against Connor Ward on his way to a 16-3 major decision victory.
"With Briggs, the crowd got excited, he got excited," said head coach Marty Hauck. "I just told him to calm down and just be Justin, have fun. That's what it's all about. When he's himself, he's a big, strong, explosive kid."
Anthony Sederburg then pinned Dominick Beine at 106. Union was again open at 113 for six more team points, before Nathan Pulliam capped off the night with another win. Pulliam fought through a cramp in his calf to dominate Carter Sickmeier for a 16-1 tech fall win.
"Nate Pulliam had an outstanding match against a really good kid, that Sickmeier kid is good," said coach Hauck after the win. "He was cramping up and had a couple of little dings in his way, but he's a good wrestler and he's gonna be solid all year long, he showed it tonight."
Rolla also had JV wins from Dathan Mickem, Titus Taylor, Emmanuel Rogers and David Rogers. All four of the JV wins were by first period pins. Rolla won the JV dual 48-24, as Union was also open at four weights.
At the end of the day, it was a fun afternoon of wrestling that saw some great student support, which is exactly what coach Hauck was looking for.
"It was a lot of fun, a lot of excitement," said coach Hauck after the victory. "We showed a video to teach the kids what to look for, what to cheer for and what wrestling is a little bit about and they did a great job responding to that...the kids came out and cheered for our kids, our kids got excited, they got into it. It was fun to see."
Coach Hauck liked the way his team responded to having some issues in the middle of the dual, as Rolla was able to close out the afternoon by winning three straight matches.
"Union is a good team, they're well coached and we knew it would be a good dual," said coach Hauck. "When it came down to it with about four matches to go, it could've gone either way and our kids wrestled hard and they pulled it out."
Rolla had several first time varsity wrestlers in the lineup on Tuesday and coach Hauck liked seeing the fight they had. While some of those newer kids didn't get the victory they were gunning for, it was a good chance to get some experience before taking some time off for Thanksgiving.
"They did a great job," said coach Hauck of his younger wrestlers. "David Redding was in his first ever match and when he came off, I told him it was a whole lot of fun. He's gotta calm down, but he's gonna be in some adverse situations in life and in matches and that's what you have to do, just stay calm in the storm and trust and believe in yourself and the work you've put in."
As for what improvements coach Hauck wants to see from his wrestlers over Thanksgiving, it's simple.
"We've got a lot of work to get to where we wanna go," said the Rolla head coach.
Rolla will be back in action with a tri at home on Tuesday, Nov. 28.