Thursday night was special for the Homer Central wrestling team.
It was the first Senior Night in their own gym in a couple of years, there were many youth wrestlers in attendance from Homer and neighboring rival Cortland High was providing the non-league competition.
It wasn’t a typical Trojan-Purple Tiger showdown, as Homer rolled to a 69- 15 victory at home to improve to 13-4 on the season. A very young Cortland team gave up 24 points on forfeits, but also provided some positive moments to build on as they are now 4-18 this season.
“We are a real young team,” Cortland coach Joe Nicholas said. “We just go out there and try to battle. It’s really a lot about planning for next year. We want to get our seniors some good matches and the rest is really building for the future. We are looking to rebuild the program to what it was some years ago.”
“It’s always nice to come out with a win over your cross-town rival,” Homer coach Jason Reynolds added. “Joe is a good coach, he’s gonna do good things. He’s down a little right now, but we’ve been there in the past. These seniors are my first crew since I took over four years ago. It’s a special night for them and a special night for me. They have done so many good things for our program.
“We do have 75 kids in the youth program and we have the right people in place everywhere you look from the youth program to junior high to my assistants. They are amazing, but it still comes down to the kids and the great community we have along with a school administration that’s on board. It’s a total collective effort.”
Homer seniors Collin Cronk, Paul Morse, Hunter O’Gorman, Anthony Parker, Nick Rice and Noah Thomas were honored along with their parents before the match and all six got victories.
“We wrestle hard to motivate the team,” Rice said. “”We are wrestling real good. We have a lot of young guys who are really wrestling tough. We have a lot of motivation in our matches. We have good technique and wrestle harder than the other teams.”
Thomas has 23 wins this season after posting 22 wins last year and 24 wins in each of his first two years. He’s knocked on the 25-win door and he hopes this season is the year that door opens.
“It’s been a goal for the three previous seasons, I’ve been close and I hope to finally do it this season,” Thomas said. “I’ve made a tremendous jump this season and it started with all the off-season work. I’m able to win matches on points now, which I really didn’t do a lot of. I’ve become a whole new wrestler. The time with Coach Reynolds is clicking and things are really starting to make sense. Just staying in good position and winning close matches. Not giving up small points and being a more technical wrestler.”
“That’s a goal and it’s one of those benchmarks you need on your way to bigger things as a team,” Reynolds said. “Guys like Nick, Noah, Collin, Paul, Hunter and Anthony have close to 300 wins between them. I’m proud to be around kids like that every day.”
The match started at 170 pounds and Lane Quaile (14-8) got Homer off right with a 46 second pin over Tyler Gavitt. Chase Kiner (7-6) received a forfeit at 182 as did Morse (17-6) at 195. O’Gorman (20-6) scored a pin at 220 over Brandon McClendon (16-10) in 3:20. Parker (19-8) followed with a pin over Tahlik Dennis at 285 in 47 seconds for a 30-0 Trojan lead.
Josh Rowland (21-6) got Cortland on the board at 99 pounds, pinning Sean Powers (9-6) in 53 seconds.
“He’s is just an eighth grader,” Nicholas said of Rowland. “We are expecting good things from him this year and into the future.”
Kaiden Haynes delivered a hardfought 2-0 decision over Jacob Rice at 106 pounds for three more Purple Tiger points. Haynes (24-7) got a takedown in the first period and made it stand up against Rice (17-10).
“He missed a couple of opportunities, but wrestled tough,” Nicholas said of Haynes. “He goes hard for six minutes and that’s what we want him to do. Kaiden is another possible top four in sectionals.”
Ryan Opanhoske received a forfeit at 113 pounds for Homer before Nick Rice (20-8) posted a pinfall in 1:31 over Noah Ryan at 120 pounds.
“I knew who he was coming into the match,” Rice said. “I thought I could get him a little quicker, but it took some time to get the fall.”
Thomas (23-5) received a forfeit at 126 pounds. Matt McUmber (13-6) scored a pinfall in 1:12 at 132 pounds over Noah Wurst.
The final Cortland points came from senior Aaron Kelchner (23-6) at 138 as he pinned John Denkenberger at at 3:34 mark of their bout.
“He wrestles well,” Nicholas said of Kelchner. “He should be in the top three in the class tournament and possibly the top four in sectionals. Aaron is our anchor. He’s a stud. He is one of my three cogs on the team with Rowland and Haynes.”
The Trojans got their remaining points on pins by Gabe Cline (15-10) at 145 and Cronk (12-15) at 152, plus a 9-4 decision by Charles Lines (15-9) over Bali Cornell in the last match of the night at 160. Cline pinned Gino Cinquanti at the 1:18 mark while Cronk used 1:09 to pin Jarrod Bush.
In the lone exhibition match of the night, Cortland freshman Zach Brafman (12-3) scored an 8-3 decision over Homer freshman Gavin Bennett.
Homer will travel to Vernon-Verona-Sherrill for the Red Devil Duals Saturday while Cortland will compete at the Jack Fisher Memorial in Newark.