PLYMOUTH — Plymouth’s wrestling team had been waiting a year for another shot at Elkhart Memorial following last year’s shutout at the hands of the Chargers.
The Rockies made the most of their opportunity Thursday, topping Memorial 39-31 in a back-and-forth thriller between Northern Lakes Conference unbeatens at home at The Rock.
“We took the kids on a campout last spring. Sitting around the campfire, that junior class talked a lot about what they wanted this season, and that was one of their goals. Memorial’s program is that tough, to just have a goal to beat them,” said Plymouth wrestling coach Bob Read. “You know I think they’ve run the table in the conference 10 or 12 years in a row. It’s a big win for us.”
In such a nip-tuck battle every point in every match was crucial, but there were several key bouts for the Rockies.
Drew Dodson and Cody Allmon opened the evening with back-to-back pinfall victories at heavyweight and 106, respectively, to give Plymouth an early 12-0 advantage.
Kam Markovich earned a pinfall win with just 27 seconds left in his 126-pound match with Greg Siberry to keep the Rockies ahead 18-10 after a pinfall and major decision by Memorial wrestlers at 113 and 120.
The meet momentum swung in the Chargers’ favor when Stephen Abair lost a competitive 8-4 battle with Jermel Moody-Neukom at 132 pounds, an emotional bout that featured unsportsmanlike penalties on both grapplers and fired both crowds up. Memorial took the lead on a quick pinfall win at 138 and stretched its advantage to 22-18 with a 7-4 decision at 145.
But John Stillson began to turn the tide for Plymouth as he outlasted John Osoria 6-5 at 152, surviving an escape and two shots by the Memorial grappler in the match’s final half minute to cut the deficit to 22-21.
A second period fall at 160 stretched the Chargers’ lead back out to 28-21, but Jacob Pearson managed a stunning reversal — actually an escape and takedown — against Tommy Kendall in the closing seconds of the 170-pound match, finishing a pin while trailing in points with just five seconds left on the clock to give the Rockies new life down 28-27 with three bouts to go.
Aaron Houin lost a tough 3-0 decision to Al Smith Tournament runner-up Kain Jenkins at 182 and the Chargers went up 31-27, keeping things nip-tuck headed down to the wire, but the lead wouldn’t last long.
Vicente Vasquez opened his 195 match with a bang, hoisting Memorial fill-in Tyler Stewart high on his shoulders and slamming him down hard right out of the gate. After an injury time, Vazquez finished off Stewart with a pin at the 1:52 mark to give the Rockies their final lead of the night, 33-31. Plymouth senior DeAndre Pickford hammered the final nail in the Chargers’ coffin with a dominant pinfall win in 1:13 of the 220-pound match to seal the win, 39-31.
“I think they didn’t see us coming. We knew we had that on our side,” said Read. “We’ve done a lot of scouting, so we knew where we matched up and where we didn’t. Aaron Houin, that kid is as good as any kid, he takes second in that Al Smith Tournament, what a huge battle. John Stillson at 52 gets a win for us, so little things like that; that’s six points for us. You start taking a look at those things up and down the lineup. The Markovich kid, that was a tight match and he ends up getting a fall instead of a decision, so that’s three extra points.”
“Their 95-pounder, they’ve got another kid that’s banged up and didn’t wrestle. Now that would have been a whale of a match. I still think we could’ve been in that match, and Vince is the type of kid that can throw and pin anybody,” Read added. “And of course DeAndre, you know he’s going to go out there and go at it. And Drew got us started at heavyweight. We asked him to go out there and be physical, so he’s getting better.”
Plymouth entered Thursday’s NLC dual following a runner-up showing at the Rochester John McKee Memorial Invitational Dec. 22, and they moved to 16-3 on the season with the win over the Chargers. But more importantly, the Rockies remained unbeaten in the conference at 6-0 with one NLC dual remaining at Concord next Thursday. The team will travel to the NIC Super Dual Saturday, Jan. 12 before competing for the conference crown at the NLC meet the following Saturday, Jan. 19.
“Memorial’s got a great program, there’s no question about it, and they shut us out last year. So to come back around and actually beat these guys was really fun for the kids,” said Read.
“It was one of those scenarios, but we needed to come in and wrestle the way we knew we could wrestle, and the kids did. That was as good a team effort as we’ve had all year long.”
• PLYMOUTH 39,
ELKHART MEMORIAL 31
Hvywt: Drew Dodson (P) pin Caleb Neel 2:30; 106: Cody Allmon (P) pin Eugene Moody Neukom 5:22; 113: Tony Vaughn (EM) pin Osman Solis 1:05; 120: Codey Flickinger (EM) maj. dec. Triston Rodriguez 15-4; 126: Kam Markovich (P) pin Greg Siberry 5:33; 132: Jermel Moody-Neukom (EM) dec. Stephen Abair 8-4; 138: Phillip Mathiak (CM) pin Bodie Neidig :35; 145: Chris Morris (EM) dec. Nolan Wright 7-4; 152: John Stillson (P) dec. John Osoria 6-5; 160: Nick Vaughn (EM) pin Logan Wiegand 2:28; 170: Jacob Pearson (P) pin Tommy Kendall 3:55; 182: Kain Jenkins (EM) dec. Aaron Houin 3-0; 195: Vicente Vasquez (P) pin Tyler Stewart 1:52; 220: DeAndre Pickford (P) pin Kody Gerger 1:13.
Record: Plymouth 16-3, 6-0 NLC.