It was a typical Rapid City Central versus Rapid City Stevens wrestling match Friday night at Carold Heier Gymnasium.
Pins, closes decisions, a team point taken away from both sides for a little too much celebrating big wins, and of course, it basically went down to the final match.
The Raiders had enough to edge the Cobblers 35-26 as both teams head into next week’s regional tournament and then state tourney in two weeks in Rapid City with a boat-load of moment.
“When you match up these two teams any given year, records go out the books and the kids compete for their school. You see a lot of great efforts out there,” Stevens coach Travis King said. “What you witnessed tonight was two good wrestling teams with two good efforts.”
In back-to back matches, the two rivals had a team point taken away for unsportsmanlike conduct (over celebration), after Ryan Brink of Stevens pinned Anthony Knodell at 182 pounds and Keenan McKnight of Central pinned Ben Sobczak at 195.
“That’s hard,” Central coach Lance Pearson said. “Cross-town rivalry and the emotions run high. I didn’t think either kid did anything other than celebrate a big win. At that time of the dual it was going either way. Both teams knew it, both teams felt it. I don’t mind taking a team point when it is taunting, but those two kids were just pretty darn excited for two big wins.”
The Raiders jumped out to a 15-3 lead by winning three of the first four bouts — Jack Schoenhard pinned Central’s Noah Popken in 55 seconds at 106, Logen Fischer just help off Central’s Zach Soderlin 8-7 at 120 and Cody Stockman stuck JayQue Vrooman in 1:10 at 136.
Cael Larson of Central earned the Cobblers win at 113 with a tough 2-0 win over Landen Fischer.
Then it got interesting.
Central won three straight matches — Ethan Thibeault edged Declan Malone 8-6 in overtime at 132, Kadyn Kraye defeated Darien Malone 6-4 at 138 and TJ Morrison got a 17-4 major decision over Bryan Roselles at 145.
Suddenly it was 15-13.
Thibeault’s win was big not only for the team, but for the senior Cobbler, who trailed 6-1 early in the match. He nearly pinned Declan Malone before going into overtime.
“I was just wrestling and just kept on thinking that I have worked so hard to get to this point, there was no point of just laying on my back now,” Thibeault said. “Honestly I was so in the moment, I don’t recall what I was doing. I think I reversed him and head locked him and hung on for life.”
The win means everything to Thibeault, he added.
“I have worked so hard for this, and I possibly got first seed for regions, so this is just a very big win,” he said.
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The Raiders bounced back with two straight wins as Cooper Voorhees got a technical fall over Brayden Burrus (18-3) at 152 and Nate Allen got a major decision over Landin Winter (16-4) at 160.
Wyatt Jungclaus of Central, however, kept the Cobblers in the match with a 11-1 win over Caleb Brink at 170.
But Ryan Brink of Stevens got some big points for the Raiders when he pinned Knodell, a former Raider, in just 1:16 at 182.
And it just so happened that Knodell had beaten Ryan Brink all of last season to keep Brink on the junior varsity team.
“It was a big deal for me to win that match because I wrestled jayvee under him,” Brink said. “To be able to go out there and stick him like that, it made my whole day.
“I knew that if I pushed as hard as I could and kept my pressure on the match and something would open up. I just hit my fireman’s carry and had him."
The Cobblers clawed back again and cut the team score to 29-26 after McKnight’s pin over Sobczak (4:17) and Nolan Smith’s 18-5 major decision over the Raiders’ Eli Huot at 220.
But Hunter McMath left no doubt and the Raiders clinched the team win when he pinned Jackson Witte in 1:20.
“That match was a coin flip. We’re supposed to win seven matches and they are supposed to win seven matches. The team that scored the extra points was going to come out victorious tonight. We sure did that,” King said. “It is a great way to end the season.”
King said that this dual was the final test for his wrestlers as they go into regionals next weekend in Belle Fourche.
“They are putting a whole body of work in to get in where they are today,” King said. “Their kids too; they wrestled great. Their young kids stepped up. Hats off to Coach Pearson and his kids. The environment is loud and intense. We try to tell our kids to understand that and just remember to stay in the match. But it is hard; you’re trying to put more points on the board for your teams and you make mistakes, it can cost points.”
Pearson thought his squad put up a good fight.
“We had a little 7th grader at 120 battling a senior, and he battled the heck out of that thing and almost won that match. Thibeault got behind early but battled back and got some big points for the team,” he said. “These guys know our bread and butter and we know their bread and butter. You have to get them to the point where they are too tired to forget or overpower them. We weren’t able to do that in a couple of weight classes. I tip my hat to them, they do a great job. We have to get back to work Monday.
“Now you just fine tune everything. You take some of these matches tonight and you have to use that. We’ll get back and look at film and make some adjustments. I told the guys that these are a bunch of guys we will see either to get into the finals at regions or we’ll have them in the finals; the same thing at state. The fans got treated to some good wrestling, so we’ll see where we end up at the end.”