Triad Wrestlers Finish Fourth at State Meet
By J.W. Campbell, Sportswriter
The Triad wrestling team brought home a fourth-place trophy from the Class 2A Team Dual State Meet, which was held on Saturday, February 23 in Bloomington.
The Knights guaranteed themselves a trophy by winning their quarterfinal round match against Chicago Noble/Comer on Saturday morning, beating the Catamounts by a lopsided 61-10 score.
Triad won 10 of 14 matches against their Chicago opponents.
Winning by a fall were Triad’s Kaleb Port against Jeremiah Dobine at 182, Everett Walsh over Bobby Redmond at 285, Chase Hall over Elijah Akinwale at 113, Brian Byrd over Donovan Hall at 126, Will Hillard over Caleb Butler at 138, Layne Sparks over
Zakari Willis at 152 and Hunter Boyd over Kevon Powell at 170.
Coming up with technical falls for Triad were Collin North over Sam Lara at 220 and Garrett Bakarich over Tevin Lewis-Johnson at 145.
Earning a 15-8 decision over Immanuel Haskell was the Knights’ Miguel Estep.
Ethan Zawodniak picked up a forfeit at 106 for Triad.
In the semifinal round, the Knights lost to the eventual state champions from Washington by a score of 45-24. Against the Panthers, three Triad wrestlers, Bakarich, Sparks and Port, pinned their opponents.
Winning by decision for the Knights against their Washington opponents were Hall at 106 and Kaden Marmon at 160.
The third-place match pitted the Knights against Woodstock Marian Catholic. Woodstock defeated Triad 44-18. Winning their bouts against Marian Catholic were Tanner Durell by a pin at 132, Bakarich by a pin at 145, Hall by a decision at 106 and North by a decision at 220.
“We knew going in that we had a favorable draw and that if we wrestled like we know we are capable of wrestling that we would have a decent chance to place in the top four,” Triad Coach Russ Witzig said. “We wrestled O.K. in our first match against Chicago Noble to get to the semi-finals, but I felt like our effort against Washington was below expectations even though they are the number one ranked team and three-time defending state champs. It doesn’t matter who we wrestle or if we win or lose, I am always looking for effort and fight and I didn’t feel we had much of that against Washington.
“We lost our third-place match to the number two ranked team (Marian Catholic), but gave a very solid effort and battled pretty tough in all of our matches. I told the kids after we lost that third-place match that I can live with that loss because they all battled and went after them in every match. They were 24-0 coming into this tournament so for us to come out and battle them like we did showed the fight and pride that our kids have.”
Witzig went on to praise his team for the progress they made from the start of the season to the end.
“This group has probably made more improvement in one year than any other team I have coached,” he said. “They went from being totally overlooked and unknown to a state ranked team. The good thing is that we only lose four seniors and we hope to be very competitive again next season.
“Taking fourth in state is a great way to end the year. Our kids should all feel good about the success that we have had but we also need to realize that we are going to have to start working toward next year pretty soon again.”
Triad’s fourth place finish this year replicates the Knights 2009 performance. Overall, Triad has reached the team dual state tournament five times, finishing fourth twice and being eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2010, 2012 and 2015.
In addition to their team showing, the Knights had two wrestlers, Bakarich and Hall, place fifth at the individual state meet held on February 14-16.
“It was nice to break the two year drought of having a state place winner,” Witzig said. “Chase Hall and Garret Bakarich wrestled well all weekend and it was nice to see them both take fifth and end the tournament on a winning note.
In addition to Bakarich and Hall, Collin North, Kaleb Port and Will Hillard also qualified for the state individual meet this year.
“The great thing is that Bakarich and Hall, along with Will Hillard and Collin North will return next year and hopefully improve on their state performances from this year,” Witzig continued. “While Will and Collin did not place, they both won matches, which I feel should help them build some confidence heading into next season. Our lone senior qualifier, Kaleb Port, drew the number one seeded kid and kind of had a rough go in the wrestle back but it was a great experience for him to be able to compete at the state tournament.”