Last season, a group of five seniors led the way for Northwest Whitfield’s wrestling program — but the downside to being senior-heavy one season is exposed quickly the following year.
North Murray isn’t worried if it’s a senior or freshman on the mat this season, so long as someone is out there for the Mountaineers.
The Bruins are young in years while a constant injury bug is getting a bit old for the Mountaineers. That was apparent Thursday as two more North Murray wrestlers suffered injuries during a 51-21 victory for the host Bruins.
Last season for Northwest, Dustin Pendergrass led the way in the 145-pound class with an Area 7-4A title while Brian Whitmire (182) and Adam Selby (285) matched that effort. Brandon Davenport (160) and Jared Haws (170) also finished in the top four at area, making it a 5-for-5 effort in advancing to sectionals for the Bruins 2012 senior class.
This season the situation is a little different. Four unproven seniors — Issac Coley (132), Sean Coley (145), A.J. Orozco (195) and Victor Lopez (285) — joined six underclassmen and three juniors in Northwest’s 13-wrestler lineup against North Murray (6-4) on Thursday.
“We’re asking younger kids to step up and be the leader,” said Northwest coach Allen Tucker, whose Bruins are now 7-12. “We’ve got Coley, who is a senior. We’ve got Victor, a senior. All the kids love him. We’ve got A.J Orozco who is doing a fantastic job with it being his first year wrestling.”
None of them have any experience beyond the area tournament. Sean Coley and junior Alex Reynolds (152) were one win from reaching sectionals last season but finished fifth and sixth, respectively. On Thursday, Reynolds won by pin against Tyler McKee.
“We’ve been wrestling tons of kids and trying to find the leaders,” Tucker said. “That’s the hardest thing, is trying to find the leaders every year.”
Sean Coley would normally be at 138 and Reynolds at 145, but when 152-pounder Dalton Ayers suffered a concussion last week, the Bruins were forced to adapt by bumping Sean Coley and Reynolds up. For Sean Coley, Thursday’s match was his first competition in two weeks after a mat burn turned into an infection. He lost 5-4 to Leonardo Lechuga.
“I got confused with the score,” Coley said. “I thought I was up one and stalled the whole third period. I got caught up with stupidity and now I feel I’ve got something to prove and I’m trying to plead with coach to wrestle 145 again.
“I’ve been cutting down to 138 and next week will be my actual first time wrestling there. It’s where I can compete to the best of my abilities.”
Lechuga, a freshman, joined sophomore Alex Gambino (106) and freshman C.J. Delgadillo (138) on a depleted Mountaineers squad after initially getting ready to compete for the junior varsity squad Thursday at Heritage-Catoosa.
“I actually pulled them off the JV bus to come here to wrestle,” North Murray coach Steve Colley said.
North Murray lost Brandon Brock (138) for the season and Kayla Webb (106) may join him. Luis Velez (113) was ill, Matt Pellum (126) dislocated an elbow, Elias Lechuga (132) is out with an injury and Brandon Adame (285) twisted his knee and may be out of action for a while. Hagen Steelman wrestled in place of Pellum and Blaine Anderson competed in place of Adame, while North Murray forfeited at 113 and 132 to Northwest’s Henson Gibbs and Issac Coley.
North Murray’s injury situation grew worse during the dual. Ethan Center (160) — who is North Murray’s lone state qualifier from 2012 and had been wrestling despite an injured foot — may have suffered “cracked ribs,” Colley said. He lost to Northwest’s Garret Gray via injury default. Then Gage Pendergrass came up limping after his 195-pound match, which he lost via pin to Orozco.
Colley said it’s the toughest run of injuries he’s seen in 13 years of coaching, with each new match leaving him anticipating the worst.
“I’m waiting for (an injury) to happen all the way through,” Colley said.
But the replacements did not serve as band-aids on Thursday. Aside from Leonardo Lechuga, Delgadillo and Gambino each won their respective matches for three of North Murray’s five wins, but they weren’t supposed to be there at all.
“We just suck it up and go,” Colley said. “It’s what we do. We have to. They knew we lost tonight and they kept fighting.”
It was only Delgadillo’s second varsity match, and he defeated Braden Howard 10-9.
“There’s no plan for it,” he said of suddenly being thrusted into varsity competition. “You just have to practice hard and be ready to wrestle varsity.”
Northwest is dealing with its own aches and pains. Aside from Ayers, sophomore Joey Roth has a broken ankle and is expected to fill in at the heavyweight class once he returns. Lopez then will drop down to 220, and Northwest’s lineup will return to its projected situation.
“For us, we’ve been wrestling a lot of kids, so we don’t have them beat up,” Tucker said. “In those (12 losses), I’ve thrown every kid I had on the bench out there.”
In Northwest’s other individual match victories, Justin Palmer (120) won via pin against Brent Bishop, Dylan Renard defeated Steelman 8-3, Jordan Pittman (170) won via pin against Joseph Wilson and Rodrigo Martinez (182) won via pin against Josh Jones.
North Murray’s additional individual winners were Gambino, 8-5 over Blake Hayes, Alejandro Fraire (220) via forfeit and Anderson via pin against Lopez.
• Coahulla Creek did not report results from a scheduled quad at Ringgold by The Daily Citizen’s deadline.
• Northwest’s swim teams competed in a tri-meet at host Darlington with River Ridge, and the Bruins won easily while the Lady Bruins lost by two points.
The Bruins won with 456 points, followed by River Ridge (427) and Darlington (333). On the girls side, River Ridge won with 451, Northwest finished second with 449 and Darlington (411) finished third.
For the boys, Ellison Beard, Cody Hufstetler, Matthew Pipkin and Chandler Rickett won the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1 minute, 54.89 seconds. Additional winners were Jake Rogers (200 freestyle, 2:17.23); Pipkin (50 freestyle, 24.00; 100 freestyle, 54.20); Rickett, Will Faulk, Beard and Pipkin (200 freestyle relay, 1:41.26); and Triston Smith, Rogers, Blane Bramblett and Bears (400 freestyle relay, 4:07.50).
For the girls, Daniela Hannah won the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:40.14. Additional winners were Marlee Bimgham (50 freestyle, 28.71); and Natalie Williams, Morgan Ewton, Lynsey Bridges and Ana Hannah (400 freestyle relay, 4:54.48).
• Dalton freshman boys 47, Coahulla Creek 27: Darien Hill led all scorers with 14 points and Wyatt Erwin grabbed eight rebounds to help lead the Catamounts to their second straight win to start the season.
Jordon McKinney added eight points for Dalton and Angel Rodriguez finished with seven points. For Coahulla Creek, Noah Morrison led with eight points and Ryan Green chipped in seven points.
• Northwest freshman boys 52, Ridgeland 23: The Bruins moved to 3-0 on season thanks to Jacob Asbury’s 16 points and Austin Morrison’s 12 points.
Northwest beat the same Ridgeland team Saturday 65-21. Seth Hutchinson, Elijah Blackwell and Morrison each scored 10 points.