Blazers 6th at sectionals, TCN 9th

By Eddie Mowen Jr.

February 18, 2014

National Trail’s wrestling team had one of its best showings ever, if not the best, at the Division III sectional meet this past weekend at Sidney Lehman High School.

The Blazers finished 6th overall with 103 points and have four wrestlers advancing to this weekend’s district tournament at Hobart Arena in Troy.

Tri-County North was 9th with 70 points. The Panthers will be sending two to the districts.

Covington won the team title with 247 points, with Mechanicsburg (201.50) and Versailles (157) placing second and third.

“Truthfully, this has been the most rewarding athletic experiences in my lifetime. Helping these athletes to grow and develop their skills on the mat has been very exciting, and it’s been amazing to see just how far Trail Wrestling has come in the past five years,” Trail coach Michael Eyler said.

Junior 170-pounder Zach Sullivan won his third sectional in a row defeating Ben Miller of Covington in the finals 9-4.

“Zach wrestled strong throughout the tournament, pinning his first two opponents by pin, his third by a major decision, and his final match by decision,” Eyler said. “Zach continued to look strong on the mat. He’s a great tactician and knows how to set up his strategies in any situation. His strength and speed are the highest they’ve ever been going into districts. He’s looking toward another state run, and I have no doubt that he’ll go far if he continues wrestling the way he does. He also surpassed 125 wins this weekend, and should only add to that in the next two weeks.

Junior Cody Hapner took fourth place at 195.

“After just missing out on districts last year, Cody set his goals high and made it his job to make it in 2014. He definitely earned his spot this year, pushing himself very hard and finished the weekend with three wins, one major decision and two pins. He came out of the gate strong and showed a lot of improvement from the beginning of the season,” Eyler said. “Cody is a great athlete, and I think this tournament was a big confidence booster from him. He’s gotten much smarter on the mat, which is important at this level, and should serve him well at districts.

Sophomore 145-pounder Austin Moore was the runner up in his weight class.

“Austin, of all of our qualifiers this year, has come the farthest. As a freshman he showed great talent and lots of promise, and this year he’s proven himself on the mat time and time again. He’s fast and aggressive, which is very important at 145 pounds. His practice habits are top-notch and I can see him going far this season,” Eyler said. “I’m excited to see what he does at districts.”

Freshman Ben Sullivan, 220 pounds, rounded out our district qualifiers, winning his first ever sectional.

“As a freshman, this is quite an accomplishment, and pinning Ian Fries of Covington in the finals is a great way to show his opponents just how strong he is,” Eyler said. “He’s a very calm wrestler, and shows a ton of mat-awareness, just like his brother. I think he’s going to perform very well in the district tournament, and I know his goals are set for the state level. I have no doubt that he can accomplish this, as his style is very strong and surgical. He takes his time to set up his offense and then just goes to work.

Freshman Josh Cook also placed in the tournament, earning sixth at 138 pounds.

“Josh has shown a lot of promise as a freshman wrestler, and even though he just missed out on qualifying, he’s now got a taste of what varsity wrestling entails. I think we’ll see big things out of him next year, especially because we know what he needs to work on and can start building that skill set in the off season,” Eyler said.

Eyler is excited about the future of wrestling program.

“None of the current wrestlers will be graduating, so the team will return next year more matured and experienced and we’ll be able to jump in right where we left off. Not only that, but we have a few junior high wrestlers who show a lot of potential that will bump up to varsity next year. The team earned a lot of respect this season, and now that we fill most of the weight classes we’re more confident and able to take on teams that would have beaten us in past years due to forfeits,” Eyler said. “Our goal is to build on what we did this year and come back next year stronger and more focused, so that we can continue to raise the level of competition in both the practice room and with our opponents.

“I think we’ll be seeing a lot of success in the coming years, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

For Tri-County North, junior Colton Booth finished second at 182 pounds. He lost a 3-2 decision to Rickey Bruce of Triad in the title match.

Junior Blake Lawson advanced at 170 pounds with a fourth place finish. He reached the semifinal round before falling to Trail’s Zach Sullivan, 12-3. He qualified with a pin over Kyle Gigandet of Versailles.

Sophomore Anthony Jacobs placed sixth at 113 pounds.

The Division III District Wrestling tournament will begin on Friday, Feb. 21 at 3 p.m.