A full starting lineup, a close loss to a 3A squad – Tuesday’s match with Asheville showed the progress that Polk County’s wrestling team has made this season.
The Wolverines dropped a 42-39 decision to the Cougars in their final home match of the season. Polk County led much of the evening, but the Cougars put together a string of wins in the upper weights to rally to eke out the non-conference win.
With the 1A West Regional set for Feb. 9-10 at Avery, the Asheville match also gave Polk County’s group another shot to prepare for that event.
“Every time we step into the mat, it makes us better,” said Polk County athletic director Rex Wells, also serving as the team’s head coach for the second half of the season. “Everyone got more valuable experience to get them ready for tournament time.”
Qualifiers for the regional will be announced next week, but Wells is optimistic about the number of wrestlers that he will take to Avery.
“It looks like we could have everybody,” he said. “At least 11 to 14. We have preliminary seeding, but people are starting to move around.
“It will be good for these kids to go and get the experience. That will pay off dividends for next year.”
Polk senior Devin Panchyshyn started the evening with a pin in his final home match. Triston Watkins added a pin at 113 pounds and Preston Burnett earned a forfeit at 126.
Perhaps the match of the night came at 132 pounds, where Evan Miller and Braxton Lathrop battled throughout three periods to a 13-13 tie. That set the stage for an overtime period with the first wrestler to score deemed the winner.
Miller moved aggressively at the outset of the overtime and eventually scored a takedown to win the match.
Senior Dillon Knighton, Mitchell Yoder and Hayden Shumate won their matches by forfeit to close out the evening.