Knights roar back to victory over backyard rival Bears

Knights roar back to victory over backyard rival Bears
Dave Mast

Waynedale’s Collin Kearney gets on top of Knights’ Mason Taylor. Kearney jumped out to a huge lead, only to see Taylor rally and eventually claim a fall win to help West Holmes earn a 42-30 win.


Over the past number of years, the backyard rivalry on the wrestling mats between West Holmes and Waynedale has grown close to something bordering on lore. Both teams have taken their fair share of victories home and both have dropped some heartbreaking losses, but one thing for certain is this contest always brings plenty of passion and drama.

On Wednesday, Dec. 23 the Knights hosted the Golden Bears in what turned into yet another thrilling match-up, and it wouldn’t be until Conner Varnes put the finishing touches on his fall victory in the penultimate match that West Holmes would take home a 42-30 comeback win.

“What a great dual,” West Holmes head wrestling coach Scott Vaughn said following his Knights’ victory.

Things couldn’t have started out worse for the Knights, who forfeited at the opening weights of 152, 160 and 170, three of Waynedale’s best weight classes. However, as Vaughn said, it was actually a blessing.

“We couldn’t have started the dual at a better spot,” Vaughn said, despite giving up 18 team points. “Getting the forfeits out of the way was huge. We have been stressing not giving up pins, and the team was quick to let me know that varsity (A or B) did not give up any pins today. Everyone showed up and did their jobs. They needed to in order to beat a team as loaded as Waynedale.”

For Waynedale head coach Louis Stanley, the forfeits were points, but it took away the excitement and momentum he felt it could have given his team.

“They forfeited to three of my best kids, three state-ranked kids, and that is a big momentum swing when fans and the kids don’t get to see a Peyton Lemon, a projected state champion, get to wrestle,” Stanley said. “But this is always a fun dual, win or lose, because it’s good for the fans and good for the programs.”

Trailing 18-0 following the forfeits, the Golden Bears built the lead to 26-0 behind Brendan Pfeifer’s 17-2 technical fall win over Grant Miller and Kane Murray’s 7-2 decision over Colt Cox. The Knights got on the board in the two heavy classes, kicking off a run that saw them win eight of the last nine bouts.

At 220 Elisha Baldridge won by fall over Brayden Kidd, and Collin Gardner followed suit with a pin win in 2:22 over Zach Gumber. Moving back to the top of the weight class at 106 pounds, Knights’ Brady Smith got a 12-2 major decision win over Caiden Heller, and Grady Toye took home a fall win at 4:46 over Domanic DeVault.

“I always seem to come back to Grady Toye, a freshman that has forced his way into the lineup,” Vaughn said. “In a conversation he told me that he could earn a pin. Saying it and doing it are two very different things, especially for a frosh. Add on to that at the time we were losing 16-26 and needing bonus points.”

When Mason Taylor defeated Collin Kearney by fall at 5:08, the Knights had crawled back on top 28-26. What made this one so important was Kearney pulled ahead 6-0 before a torrid comeback from Taylor resulted in a key fall win.

“Knowing I needed a takedown, I knew I had time left in the match, and once I got the takedown, I knew I could keep going,” Taylor said, adding after Kearney threw him to the mat to go up big, it made him angry and got him going.

That lead lasted exactly one match when Golden Bear Jake Sundberg defeated Noah Tish in a major decision 11-0. However, Tish was nearly pinned several times and fought valiantly to stave off the extra two points.

Now down 30-28 with three matches to go, Dylan Strouse gave West Holmes the lead at 32-30 with an 11-1 major decision win over Waynedale’s Caleb Zimmerman. Then came a spirited match between Varnes and Snyder, which went back and forth until Varnes turned Snyder on his back and earned the fall victory in 4:34 to give West Holmes a 38-30 lead that clinched the match.

“Walking into that match, I knew I really had a good guy behind me in Tucker, who if I didn’t get the job done, he could, so nerves weren’t really there,” said Varnes, who let out a warrior-like cry after the fall win clinched the match. “It was one of those great feelings to look over to the sideline and see my teammates all excited, and I was so pumped up. I tried to just stay cool, calm and collected until the very end.”

In the final battle Tucker Kaufman defeated two-time state qualifier Storm Stanley 14-4 to finish the evening.

“It’s always a battle,” Stanley said. “For the most part, it’s a dogfight. There’s always a couple of transition matches that can go either way and change winners and losers. They showed up and wrestled way better than us today. It’s an eye-opener for us, but take nothing away from them. They wrestled great and definitely outfought us today.”

For two teams that fought their way into the state finals last year, it was a great early-season match to help each program get better and drive them to where they want to be at the end of the season.

“Overall, I am very proud of how our teams (middle school and high school) wrestled today,” Vaughn said. “They wrestled the West Holmes way, with grit and discipline.”

Additional information provided by Bret Curren.

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