Trailing 3-0 in the waning seconds of the 182-pound Region 7-AAA championship match Saturday at Antioch High School, Mitchell Lambert of Page needed to make a move and make it fast.
The junior was waiting for an opening for most of the third period and finally, with less than 20 seconds remaining, Lambert tied up Hillwood’s Sikura Ekunsumi, picked him up and slammed the senior to the mat. Lambert kept Ekunsumi on his back and claimed a 5-3 decision with the near-fall and takedown as time expired.
From down-and-out to region champion, Lambert joined nine other Williamson County wrestlers as titlists from the large-school regional tournament. In all, 39 of the 56 Class AAA State Tournament qualifiers from the regional came from WillCo schools.
For Lambert, the region title win was a career achievement, but he hopes he could make more noise on the state stage.
“I mean it is the most awesome feeling,” said the Patriot junior, who narrowly missed qualifying for state last year as a sophomore, taking fifth in the regional. “It just feels so good to have all that hard work pay off.
“Like everyone else, I’m just hoping to go out there (next week) and do my best and show that I can compete with the best.”
The individual state wrestling tournament returns to the Williamson County Ag Expo Center in Franklin on Feb. 20. Wrestling begins Thursday and stretches through Saturday.
Lambert – Page’s lone region champ – is one of nine Patriot wrestlers to qualify for state. Senior Jacob Gifford added a runner-up finish at 126.
Brentwood claimed the team title with 217.5 total points to win the region team championship for the third consecutive season.
“I’m just thrilled for these guys and all the hard work they’ve put in,” Brentwood coach Damon Smith said. “Now we can prepare for state and you never know – everybody has a shot on that stage.”
The Bruins qualified seven for state with both Skylar Coffey (285) and Johnny Mac Feldhacker (195) winning region titles.
Feldhacker, who has been battling an ankle injury, earned a 4-1 decision over Centennial senior Samari Suddeath for his second region championship. He won at 160 last season.
“The goal is to be a state champ,” Feldhacker said. “I’m super excited and have been looking forward to this time of year all season.”
Brentwood also produced two of the three wrestlers who battled back and earned state berths with the adaptation of the true fourth-place match in this year’s region tournament format. Both Kizer Hensley (132) and Patton Bailey (113) were able to clinch state berths by winning back-to-back matches in consolation after falling in the consolation semifinals.
“So if you placed fifth and had not wrestled the fourth-place guy, you could challenge him to take his state qualifying spot,” Smith said. “We wanted the best guys from our region to be able to represent us so we added that true fourth-place match to hopefully create the best four from each weight class coming out of our region and man, those are loaded with excitement.”
I love the intensity of the true fourth place match in the Region 7-AAA Wrestling Tournament. Franklin’s Chase Reimer one of the WillCo grapplers who battled back to earn a spot at state. Here’s a taste of his match: pic.twitter.com/NsQmN1fLhp— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) February 16, 2020
Franklin senior Chase Reimer was the other state qualifier who battled back to take fourth. The 220-pounder was pinned by eventual third-place finished Max VanLandingham of Page in the consolation semifinals, but bounced back to defeat Brentwood’s Noah Dixon and Hillsboro’s Josiah Peek to capture a state berth.
The Rebels qualified four for state: Owen Gobel (2nd at 106), Gabriel Green (3rd at 132), Cooper Grills (3rd at 160) and Reimer.
Centennial was second in the team standings with 202 points and the Cougars dominated the lower weights with champions at 120, 126, 132 and 145.
“We only brought 11 kids and we sent seven to the finals which is fantastic in this region,” Centennial coach Philip Pelkey said. “It’s a great feeling to see that success with these guys.”
Eight Cougars qualified for state, including first time region champs Presley Dittmer (126), Leo Gearheart (132) and Jacob Knight (170).
Junior Alex Ables repeated as region champ by topping Brentwood’s Cooper Finch at 145 for the Cougars, while older brother Dylan snagged his first championship with a thrilling triple overtime win against Timothy Ford of Independence at 120.
Dylan Ables wins the 120-pound Region 7-AAA wrestling championship for Centennial with a wild overtime win against Austin Ford of Independence. pic.twitter.com/IZcPpXq0DB— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) February 15, 2020
“I think this is my first tournament win in like eight years so it’s been a long time to be honest,” the senior Ables said. “But from placing third last year to winning my first region championship, I’m really, really hungry to place at state. That’s my focus.”
Ford tipped Ables in overtime in their last meeting this season. He is one of five Eagles to qualify for state despite the setback. Sophomore Russell Ford (106) and junior Tanner Willett (138) both captured region titles for Indy.
Summit had five reach the state tournament as well led by Jackson Masters’ second-place finish at 113.
Ravenwood’s Bryan Rice also closed runner-up at 220 to lead the Raptors.