Cortland High wrestler Josh Rowland had mixed emotions Wednesday night as he stepped on the mat for his 99-pound match with Homer Central’s Sean Powers in Shafer Gym.
The Purple Tigers led the Trojans 33-30 with two weight classes remaining to be contested, and the seventh grader, in his first varsity season, represented CHS in the first one. A win would be Cortland’s eighth on the night and wrap the team victory up by criteria even in the event of a Homer pin in the last match. A pin by Rowland would ensure that the hosts would triumph in the OHSL B league-opener for both squads.
And Rowland had it all figured out.
“I knew,” he said with a smile when asked. “I realized I could move him around when I tied up with him. I put in an armbar with a one on one and drove him over.”
The result was a pin just before the buzzer sounded to end the first period, giving Cortland a 39-30 lead and the win. “I feels good,’ Rowland said after improving his personal record to 5-4 with two pins., I was confident; there was a lot of pressure, though.”
The Purple Tigers’ Kayden Haynes scored a 7-3 decision over Homer’s Zachary Duff in a bout between freshmen at 106 pounds as CHS wound up with a 42-30 victory.
“Josh is a hard worker and has great practice partners, which is a key to a successful program,” said Cortland coach George Burkinshaw, his team now 9-4 overall. “If you work hard in practice, it comes easy on the mat. I’m proud of him.
“I did feel good going into the last two weight classes knowing who we had out there. They’re good kid you can rely on, who know what to do. We came to wrestle, and that’s what we did.”
“We knew it was going to be close,” Trojans coach Jason Reynolds said, his team now 7-6 overall. “Cortland wrestles tough; our kids showed a lot of heart, but the got the best of us.
“Our youth and inexperience showed a little bit technique-wise, but what we lack in technique we make up for in heart. I’m proud of the guys and how they fought.”
The visitors got off to a 15-0 lead after the first three weight classes. Junior Nick Rice improved to 9-4 on the season with six pins when he flattened CHS freshman Gildon Case in 58 seconds at 113 pounds to get things started. Sophomore Josh Markley (3-0) won by forfeit at 120, and at 126 freshman Matt McCumber (7-6) scored an 8-4 decision over sophomore Andrew Sawyer.
The Purple Tigers won the next four bouts to tie the score at 15-15. Junior Aaron Kelchner held on for a 5-4 win over junior Noah Thomas to stay perfect through 13 matches this season before senior Dane George (11-2) was a 7-5 winner over sophomore Gabe Cline at 138.
Senior Kiegan Brown needed just 53 seconds to pin junior Collin Cronk at 145 and improve to 11-1 (5), and a 7-3 decision by junior Bali Cornell (8-5) over sophomore Charles Lines at 152 evened the team score.
Homer went back ahead 18-15 on the strength of a 7-2 decision by senior Peter Davis (8-5) over Brandon Batsford at 160, and increased the lead to 24-15 as sophomore Lane Quaile 4-3) won by forfeit. Before that, Cortland’s scheduled 182-pounder had reported early, but CHS sophomore Brandon McClendon (2-1) was a forfeit winner there, as was junior teammate Jack Davie (9-0) at 195. Purple Tiger senior Dakoatah Miller then took just 48 seconds to pin junior Anthony Parker at 220, upping his record to 11-1 (8) with his 105th career win.
“I’d beaten him before; I went from a throw into a half on him. To me the important thing was keeping the momentum going,” Miller said. “Last year it ended against them with one pin (in the final weight class as Homer won 42-39). The other day the coaches realized that Homer doesn’t have anyone at 185 or 195 and I wanted a pin; this has been planned for a couple of days now.”
Homer senior Reno Gaffney (11-2) won by forfeit at 285 to close the gap to 33-30 and set the stage for the final two weight classes.
“Rice started us out with a big pin and McCumber got a big win,” Reynolds said. “Noah had a god match, except for all but around 20 seconds. I like how Kelchner wrestles; he’s strong. Due to our lack of depth we had to bump some guys up, and they wrestled well. Peter had a good match at 160.
“Even in losses, our young guys at 99 and 106 did well. They’re two heartbeats of the team and work hard. Both teams wrestled well, beginning to end.”
“We thought the difference would be around five points or so,” Burkinshaw said. “We knew that everyone had to wrestled and no one could relax, that we’d need every points. This won will boost our spirits, but we can’t stay too high.We have to get ready for reality; Phoenix shut us out last year (64-0).”
Cortland will host Phoenix on Jan. 4 starting at 5:30 p.m. after first competing in the SPC. Kenneth Haines Memorial Tournament in Oswego Dec. 27 and 28. Homer will be among the teams at the Windsor Christmas Tournament Dec. 28 and 29.