by Michael Smith
First-year head coach Donald Horner has built a strong program and helped get about 70 athletes to join the Grain Valley wrestling team.
The Eagles needed that depth in Wednesday’s dual at Blue Springs. They were missing some wrestlers who are normally in the starting lineup, including returning state medalists Tanner Barker and Dru Azcona, who were out with injuries.
Several newcomers stepped up to help Grain Valley earn a 56-24 victory over the Wildcats.
“I am really blessed,” Horner said. “We have a large group of freshmen. We have 26, 27. They do everything you asked. If I asked them to run through a brick wall, they would do it.”
One of those newcomers was freshman Caine Nelson, who wrestled at 165 pounds in place of Barker. It was his first varsity match, so unsurprisingly, he was nervous.
“I was about to pee my pants,” Nelson said, “but got more comfortable as the match went on.”
It didn’t matter as he earned some key team points to essentially put the match out of reach for Blue Springs. Nelson overcame a 4-0 deficit and got a reversal against Blue Springs freshman Mason Booheister to tie the match at 4-4 before getting the pin at the 3 minute, 15-second mark. The pin gave Grain Valley a 44-12 lead.
“I definitely could have done better,” Nelson said. “I should have built up quicker and freed my hands and I need to get to my half (nelson) quicker.”
Horner said he was pleased with the way Nelson came up big for the Eagles.
“He was nervous,” Horner said. “He had a case of the shakes. I think he went out there and did his job. He’s earned it. He’s worked hard.”
Junior Aven Aumua (215) also wrestled in his first varsity dual and got a pin in 2:44 against Blue Springs freshman Carter Atagi. He countered a throw attempt by Atagi and got a throw of his own and pinned him shortly after.
“My key thing when wrestling is just to be patient,” Aumua said. “A lot of times they get mad and go in full force and I just stand there and wait for them to make one wrong move and it’s a wrap.”
It wasn’t just the newcomers helping either as seasoned wrestlers like Tyler Groves (144), a used his experience to help out a shorthanded Eagles squad, as well. He got two 3-point near falls in a 12-0 major decision against senior Devin Baldwin.
“I have been really good on the head outside single (leg takedowns) and double (leg takedowns,” Groves said. “There are some things I could shape up on but overall I think I did pretty good today.”
Other Eagles to win were sophomore Colston Parks (106) by forfeit; Zach Bleess (113) by a 16-4 major decision; Gavin Parks (120) by fall in 3:16; Brock Smith (126) by fall in 2:48; Ehtan Jones (132) by pin in 3:07; Justin Deweese (157) by fall in 1:45; and Andrew Czeschin (285) by fall in 29 seconds.
There were only three contested matches in the varsity girls dual in which Blue Springs won 30-18.
Grain Valley sophomore Adalia Del Real (170) topped Natalia Perra with a first-period pin. Madison Hobbs (135) and Sevreign Aumua (140) both won by forfeit.
Grain Valley senior Tyler Groves turns Blue Springs senior Devin Baldwin for a 3-point near fall. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley junior Gavin Parks goes for the pin against Blue Springs freshman Liam Taylor during a 56-24 win over the Wildcats in Wednesday's dual at Blue Springs High School. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley freshman Zach Bleess hooks in a half Nelson against Blue Springs senior Aleksei Wojkiewicz. Photo credit: Michael Smith
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