An official’s hand fell down, wrestlers and coaches leapt and it felt like a victory that meant just a bit more than usual Thursday at Polk County Middle School.
The Wolverines defeated Rugby Middle and won a home wrestling match, two things that last happened when head coach Jerry Cox was in high school and most of his wrestlers were still enjoying snack time during the school day.
It was a hard-fought, well-earned 54-51 victory not secured until the final match, Donte Tingling’s pin at 132 pounds providing the clinching points. And while Rugby, now 1-5 this season, may not be the Raiders of years past, that took nothing away from a win that offered more evidence of the turnaround sweeping through Polk County wrestling.
“That’s pretty big,” Cox said. “We’re 3-3 at the halfway point of the season. After where we’ve been, I’m just super proud of them.”
Polk County Middle won two matches during the 2013-14 season, one of those over Rugby on December 7, 2013, the other a home win over Bethel Middle on January 23, 2014. Both dates are notable because neither event had happened since until Thursday.
Polk Middle’s middleweights opened the match with a rush, winning five straight matches by pins – Chris Wilmoth, John Wright, Kole Powell, Charlie Jackson and Luke Miller delivered the falls in the run – to give the Wolverines a 30-3 lead.
Rugby began to fight back in the upper weights, winning four consecutive matches, before Nathan Prince’s win at 83 pounds halted that surge and kept Polk in front, 33-27. The Wolverines doggedly clung to that advantage, Topher Pearson winning at 96 pounds and Shatter Johnson at 113; Rugby finally took the lead away with Maki Mao’s victory at 126 pounds.
One match remained and the Wolverines needed to win it, and Tingling delivered. He pressed Rugby’s Lance Miller from the outset, quickly seizing the upper hand. As Tingling forced Miller onto his back and began to drive his shoulders to the mat, Cox inched closer, intently watching, until the fall came with 33 seconds left in the period.
Cox soared. Polk Middle’s bench exploded.
“Competing with any team on this side (the Blue Ridge Conference’s East Division), especially against a perennial power, is something we haven’t done in so long,” Cox said.
“We’re not there yet. But we’ve shown we are capable of competing and we can keep winning.”
Polk County 54, Rugby Middle 51
76: Camden Kachilo (R) p. Brinson Ashworth
83: Nathan Prince (PC) p. Zach McMinn
90: Wyatt Gilbert (R) p. Carson Bell
98: Topher Pearson (PC) p. Aiden Holmes
106: Gauge Watson (R) p. Aaron Jackson
113: Shatter Johnson (PC) p. Levi Warshaw
120: Diego Castro (R) p. Aaron Dickey
126: Maki Mao (R) p. Justin Mendoza
132: Donte Tingling (PC) p. Lance Miller
138: Jaden Suttles (R) d. Aaron Morrison, 7-2
145: Chris Wilmoth (PC) p. Wilson Brittian
152: John Wright (PC) p. Eben Mann
160: Kole Powell (PC) p. Zane McCraw
170: Charlie Jackson (PC) p. Tyler Higgins
182: Luke Miller (PC) p. Jack Zalevsky
195: Bryan Valdez (R) p. Conner Cantwell
220: Travandy Olmos (R) p. Conner Davis
285: Karmon Cox (R) p, Jaiden McGill