Numbers and strength: Polk Middle wrestlers rally to nip Apple Valley

The celebration Tuesday that followed Polk County Middle’s come-from-behind win over Apple Valley included a group of wrestlers standing behind the Wolverine bench.

Standing because there weren’t enough chairs on the Polk Middle sideline, a crowded bench that just a few short years ago would have seemed as unlikely as a Wolverine win over one of the traditional powers in the Blue Ridge Conference.

But Polk Middle head coach Jerry Cox and assistant Phillip Miller have steadily built the Wolverine program to its current roster of 28 wrestlers, many of whom took the mat Tuesday and helped Polk fight back for a 54-51 victory over the Knights.

Zalen McCraw’s pin at 182 pounds served as the first of three straight falls by Polk wrestlers, that string making it possible for heavyweight Kam Montgomery to have his hand raised for a forfeit win in the final match of the day to give the Wolverines the team points they needed for a victory.

The win improved Polk’s record to 3-1, that lone loss a 55-54 decision at Macon Middle last week that came down to the sixth tiebreaking criteria after the teams ended competition deadlocked at 54.

“We’re definitely happy to pull that one out,” Cox said. “We had two sixth graders who were key. Liam Jackson doesn’t get pinned at 83 (Jackson lost a 9-7 decision, with the winning points coming in the final seconds of the match), and that was big when you look at the final result. Then another sixth grader, Ben Winkel, goes out and puts their kid on his back. That was big for us.”

Polk Middle led early as Blake Cole and Aiden Billings earned forfeit wins and Brody Wolfe, Amon Villarreal and Carson Bell each scored victories by fall. That put Polk up 30-15 before Apple Valley dominated the middle weight classes, taking six straight wins that in turn set the stage for Polk’s late heroics.

The day began with four preliminary matches, three of those only involving Polk Middle wrestlers. That alone offered testament to the growth in the Wolverine program.

“I’ve never had that happen since I’ve been here,” said Cox, in his fifth season. “That may never have happened here.”

Tanner McKinney had one of Polk County Middle’s wins in the final four matches Tuesday, a run that propelled the Wolverines to a team win

The Wolverines will return to the mat on Thursday, traveling to Hendersonville Middle for another conference match. Eastern Division powers Flat Rock and Rugby loom on the Wolverines’ schedule, but Cox wasted no time Tuesday reminding his team of what the just-completed victory meant.

“We’re 3-1 now and 1-0 in our division. We just want to keep climbing and try to beat Hendersonville to get to 2-0,” Cox said. “I told them after the match that now we’re 1-0, and as long as we stay in the driver’s seat, we don’t have anything to worry about.”

76: Blake Cole (PC) by forfeit
83: Sofia Williams (AV) d. Liam Jackson, 9-7
90: Brody Wolfe (PC) p. Logan Baird
98: Logan McMinn (AV) p. Alex Martin
106: Gavin Howard (AV) p. Conner Ahlert
113: Aiden Billings (PC) by forfeit
120: Amon Villarreal (PC) p. Azlyn Villafranca
126: Carson Bell (PC) p. Yoshua Diaz
132: Elisalde Roman (AV) p. Zack McCraw
138: Ilia Ciudinov (AV) p. Shane Jaskowiak
145: Huntley Cooper (AV) p. Chester Wilson
152: Eduardo Rodriguez (AV) p. Sam Rhein
160: Eli Blanton (AV) by forfeit
170: Michael Lopez (AV) by forfeit
182: Zalen McCraw (PC) p. Silas Adams
195: Tanner McKinney (PC) p. Heriberto Dominquez
220: Ben Winkel (PC) p. Brodie McHome
280: Kam Montgomery (PC) by forfeit

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