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Wrestling Knights earn split of MVC crown

By Anthony Jones

TROY — Entering the Jan. 27 Mississippi Valley Conference Wrestling Super Duals, the hosting Triad Knights certainly had a target on their backs.

The Knights, who had won 15 of the last 16 conference championships, opened the five-round event with a 57-22 victory over Jersey.

Six Knights would score falls against Panther foes: Colby Crouch, Ben Baumgartner, Gavin Woolverton, Joseph Tappel, Bobby Patterson and Will Kelly. Brody Smith, Shane Seip and Glen Henry added forfeit wins, while Camden Wise rounded out the wins with an 8-5 decision.

Triad’s next foe, Mascoutah, proved to be a tougher test.

After starting with a win by fall courtesy of Smith, the Knights lost the next five matches to fall behind 27-6. A fall from Tappell and a subsequent 7-2 decision for Patterson began to turn momentum, however.

Triad would go on to win the final five matches en route to a 45-33 win over the Indians. Seip provided one of the late wins with a 32 second pin, while the rest came via forfeit for Landon Busch, Kelly, Henry and Crouch.

The third round dual against Civic Memorial would prove to be a pivotal turning point in the meet for the Knights.

Following a 45 second win by fall for Ben Baumgartner at 138, Triad would lose five consecutive matches by fall. A 3-2 decision win for Patterson and a Michael Baumgartner forfeit would pull the hosts closer before an injury loss put them in a 36-15 hole.

Kelly, Seip, Henry and Smith added on late dual forfeit wins for the Knights but a Civic Memorial win by fall at 120 led the Eagles to a 42-39 victory.

Triad, who dropped to 2-1 with the loss, had a quick turnaround against 3-0 Waterloo. The Bulldogs stood as the last unbeaten unit of the event and had bested Civic Memorial 42-39 in the day’s first round.

Once again, the home squad found themselves in an early hole as Waterloo jumped ahead 30-10. Pearse Goodfield contributed four of their first points with an 11-2, while an 8-5 Jacob Perez decision and a 4-2 Patterson decision supplied the rest.

With a 9-0 major for Kelly and a 44 second fall for Seip pulled the Knights within 30-20. Waterloo then tallied their final win with a 5-2 decision at 120.

After a forfeit win for Crouch at 126, Triad still trailed 33-25. In the final two matches, Smith recorded a third-round pin and Ben Baumgartner finished off the Bulldog bouts with a 16-1 technical fall to take the round 36-33.

“The lightweights came through for us all day and then some of our heavyweights came through in the last three matches. We had some tight ones,” Coach Russ Witzig reflected on the team’s late round rally.

With the Knight win, they entered the day’s final round with a 3-1 record akin to Waterloo and Civic Memorial.

To clinch a share of the conference crown, the Knights still needed to dispatch Highland in round five. Triad did so, recording a 48-30 dual victory over the Bulldogs.

A key swing in that match came when Busch, who was previously injured, returned to action for Triad at 285.

Witzig spoke of Busch’s effort, “I left the choice up to him and he said he would do it. He jumped in and that was awesome because that was a 12-point swing.”

Both Civic Memorial and Waterloo won their fifth round duals, leaving the three skills to split the MVC championship three ways.

“It is what it is, I’m glad we got a piece of it. All things considered and all that we’ve dealt with this year, with roster changes and lineup changes, these kids came and laid it on the line and we won a lot of close matches. We did what we had to do to get it done,” Triad’s manager spoke of partially retaining the league title.

Following the tournament, Coach Witzig was honored and recognized for his 31 year career as Triad’s head coach. The long-time program leader is set to retire at the conclusion of the season.

Dozens of former wrestlers for Witzig were in attendance for the recognition of his successful career.

The veteran coach spoke of seeing the coalition of former pupils, “It’s cool. I keep in touch with a lot of them. What’s cool about coaching and teaching is even if you don’t see them all the time, you still somehow stay in contact with them and see what they’re doing.”

Jan. 27 also served as competition day for the inaugural IHSA Girls Wrestling Regionals. Triad sent five Lady Knights to compete at West Frankfort for the first round of postseason action.

Junior Claire Crouch was the highest placing Lady Knight, taking third-place at 100 pounds to qualify for state. She lost her first match to the eventual second-place finisher, before rolling through the consolation bracket with a pair of pins.

Harmony Martin also qualified for sectionals after taking fifth-place at 145. She finished 2-2 in her bracket, scoring both her wins with first-round falls.

Will Kelly flings a Mascoutah foe on the mat. (Photo by Anthony Jones)

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous on February 4, 2024 at 11:06 am

    The pic is Triads, Shane Seip but its a great one! Thank you and great article

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