A full calendar year had passed since the O’Fallon High wrestling team last found themselves on the losing end of a dual match. History, unfortunately, repeated itself Wednesday, Jan. 4 when the Edwardsville Tigers eked out a narrow 39-31 victory over Glenn Exton’s Panthers. In a highly competitive match that saw multiple lead changes, the outcome came down to the final 14 seconds in the second to last bout of the evening.
Edwardsville built an early 12-0 lead with a 113-pound forfeit and a victory by pin at 120 pounds. Alek Ziegler put the Panthers on the scoreboard in the next match at 126 pounds by pinning Edwardsville’s Josh Poole at 2:47. The Tigers regained their original point lead in the next bout when O’Fallon’s Alex Fulton dropped a narrow 3-2 decision to Ben Schlueter.
O’Fallon’s Jalen Jones won 6-1 at 138 pounds, but Edwardsville regained momentum by sweeping the next two weight classes, expanding their lead to 23-9. The Panthers undefeated 160-pounder, Jack Bond, stopped the bleeding with a dominating effort against Eric Epenesa, tying his Tiger adversary into knots en route to an 11-2 decision.
After Bond’s impressive win, O’Fallon ramrodded their way to victory in three of the next four matches. Mason Hewitt, Kobey Bosworth and Brian Ahle led the surge — all three defeating their Edwardsville opponents by pin. Hewitt corralled Conner Mikulait at 1:23, Bosworth dispatched Sam Martin at 1:50 and Ahle put Bo Meikamp on his back at 1:44. The three consecutive victories by pin catapulted the Panthers past Edwardsville, 31-27 when OTHS freshman 285-pounder Mason Baker stepped onto the mat.
“We knew that there was a huge mismatch in the final bout of the evening at 106, so we had to win at 285 in order to defeat them,” said OTHS coach Glenn Exton. “Baker led the whole match but was taken down to his back with 14 seconds to go in the bout. We couldn’t have gotten any closer to beating Edwardsville. But I will give our kids credit. We went toe to toe with them, and I couldn’t be prouder of their effort. It was a great match.”
The OTHS matmen did not waste any time licking their wounds after the Edwardsville squeaker. Two days after the donnybrook versus Edwardsville, the Panthers blasted their way to victories over Roxana and Triad.
Roxana proved a cakewalk for the local grapplers as they won 11 of the 14 matches. Ziegler opened the scoring with a pin over Jacob Carpenter. Teammate Alex Fulton doubled up with a rapid fire pin at 132 pounds, dispatching Miles Bridges in just 44 seconds. The “pinning parade” continued with Michael Faulkner, Caleb Carriel and Bosworth putting the finishing touches on the Shells, wrapping up a 63-18 victory.
Triad provided a bit more competition; however, the Panthers prevailed 46-18. The Knights earned the bulk of their points in the lightweight divisions, but Ziegler’s 9-2 decision began a string of Panther victories that put the match in the OTHS win column. Jalen Jones (138 pounds), Caleb Carriel (152 pounds), Jack Bond (160 pounds), Mason Hewitt (182 pounds), Kobey Bosworth (195 pounds) and Brian Ahle (285 pounds) collected wins to sweep past the Knights.
Tonight (Thursday), the OTHS squad is scheduled for an away match against the East St. Louis Flyers. This weekend, the local grapplers will face their third major tournament competition of the season when the travel north, weather permitting, to battle a talented field in the Geneseo Invitational.