A big ‘Swang’ in momentum: Led by 5 individual champs, Rochester wins first regional title
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
BUNKER HILL — To be the best, you have to beat the best.
Or at least you have to win 50 percent of the time.
The Rochester wrestling team faced this situation at the Maconaquah regional Saturday.
Western had beaten them in a dual meet on Dec. 22. Western had won both the super duals and individual tournaments at the North Montgomery Invitational on Dec. 28-29, a tournament in which Rochester also competed.
But as the final round of the regional began, Rochester had a chance to beat the Panthers, who had also won the regional three of the last four years.
Rochester had a slight lead going into the final round. In four of the 14 weight classes, a Rochester wrestler would be wrestling a Western wrestler for the title. Rochester coach Clint Gard felt that the Zebras needed to win at least two of those four matches.
Wyatt Davis lost to Western’s undefeated Tanner Tishner at 113 pounds, but Ethan Holloway beat Western’s Tye Linser at 120.
Then came Aaron Swango’s turn against Western’s Aidan Raab in the final at 126. Raab had pinned Swango at the North Montgomery Invitational on Dec. 29.
And Raab jumped out to a 4-0 lead this time. Swango got a reversal to get within 4-2 at the end of the first period. Then he got a takedown. And then Swango locked in a cradle not unlike the cradle Raab got on him in the previous period.
Raab struggled, but Swango pinned his shoulders to the ground. The referee slapped the mat. Swango leaped up and raised his arms and pointed to his mother in the crowd.
Later, Swango said that he had never pinned an opponent on a cradle previously in his wrestling career. He said it’s not his “go-to move.” But he said you only get this chance once to wrestle in a regional final. So he went for it.
Swango, a junior, said that his goals at the beginning of the year included winning Three Rivers Conference and sectional titles and qualifying for semistate, but he added that he thought winning a regional might have to wait for his senior year. As it turned out, it didn’t.
“Just keeping my mind right,” Swango said. “During that match, he got me taken down right off the bat and put me in a cradle and got a near-fall. After that, I just knew I had to stay positive and start working my stuff, and it will work out in the end. So I just kept pushing the pace.”
Gard jumped out of his seat and pumped his fists as Swango’s teammates and assistant coaches celebrated behind him.
Now Rochester had their second win over Western.
Alex Deming (195), Brady Beck (220) and Marshall Fishback (HWT) did the rest, sweeping the three biggest weight classes to complete perhaps the best day in Rochester wrestling history.
They won their first regional title in school history with 151.5 points. Western was second with 135.5.
“He just did a nice job, and it gave our team a ton of momentum,” Gard said of Swango. “And our guys were really, really excited. Coaches were excited. Aaron was excited. That’s one we really needed to win in the finals, we felt like. … For me personally, it’s just a big moment as a coach. He’s worked really, really hard and taken a back seat to some other guys that maybe put in a little bit more time than what he does because of football and other things. You know, he’s been a great kid for us this year. He’s always been a great kid, but just as far as his wins and losses and how he’s represented himself out on the mat, I can only think of one match where I feel like he was outclassed. … Aaron had far surpassed my expectations. That’s for sure.”
In addition to regional champs Holloway, Swango, Deming, Beck and Fishback, the other semistate qualifiers were Davis, who placed second; Greyson Gard, who was second behind Western’s Mitchell Betz at 152; and Kaleb Shaffer, who placed third at 182 and qualified for his first semistate in his senior year.
Rochester’s eight semistate qualifiers and five regional champions were both school records. It was unclear whether Rochester had finished in second place at a regional before, much less won one.
“I think if it comes down to one thing, it’s I think they all genuinely like each other, and they get along well,” coach Gard said. “We don’t have a whole lot of drama on our team at all. And when it does happen, it gets squelched pretty quick. We’ve got a lot of characters. They like to keep it light and keep things fun, so they don’t get caught up in all that other stuff. … If you watch our kids, when they win, our kids are fired up for them, and they’re there to congratulate them. And when we lose, there’s kids there to help them through it. … They like being a comedy show and having fun.”
The other dramatic ending involving a Rochester wrestler involved Deming, who defeated Kokomo’s 21st-ranked Chad Washburn 7-5 in overtime in the final. Washburn was the defending regional champ at 195 and had beaten Deming in their two previous matches when they were middle schoolers. Deming had pinned Eastern’s Reid Keisling in 1:49 in his ticket match before edging Western’s pesky M.J. Norman 3-2 in the semifinals.
“That’s got to be a huge confidence boost for Alex,” coach Gard said. “That kid was one of the top kids in our semistate, and I think he was ranked in the state as well. … A big win for him. Alex wrestled tough all day long. I’m very proud of his effort. Again, that was a big moment. Everybody kind of knew the history, and to win in overtime was pretty cool.”
Beck pinned Western’s Wade Ryan in 1:34, dominated Eastern (Greentown)’s 15-2 and then pinned Oak Hill’s Silas Jones in 5:31 in the final.
“Again, it’s just confidence,” coach Gard said of Beck. “Confidence and believing in what you’re doing and believing in yourself. He and Marshall and all of our guys are wrestling with a lot of confidence right now.”
Fishback needed only 3:26 to win 18-3 by technical fall over Marion’s undersized Kalique Malone, then utilized a double underhook with a snap to pin Oak Hill’s Wyatt Strange in 1:27 in the semifinals before pinning Peru’s Trevi Hillman-Conley.
Fishback is 37-1 on the season and 4-0 against Hillman-Conley, a freshman. All four wins have been by fall, including the Three Rivers Conference final, the sectional final and the regional final.
“You’re pretty limited when you’re wrestling Marshall because you’re not going to shoot on him,” coach Gard said. “And if you do, you’re probably going to pay for it.”
Holloway pinned Marion freshman Greg Sheron in 29 seconds in his ticket match before pinning Oak Hill’s Peytonn Bowland in 1:52 in the semifinals. He got the first takedown in the final against Linser before giving up an escape in the first period. But he got his own escape and another takedown in the second period and rode Linser out to beat him for the third time this season and improve his overall record to 38-0.
“He’s just like a position wrestler,” Holloway said of Linser. “He knows all his positions, and he stays in position. You’ve got to try to force him to get out of position while you stay in position.”
Swango smothered Mississinewa’s Ethen Wortinger in 50 seconds in his first-round match and then controlled Oak Hill’s Devon Adkins 7-0 in the semifinals before facing Raab.
In the first match of the day involving a Zebra wrestler, Davis got the first takedown before folding up Kokomo freshman Rylan Early in 17 seconds in his ticket match. He was holding on to a 4-2 lead in the first period when he pinned Peru’s Conner Shafer in 1:48 in the semifinals.
He is now 24-3 with all three losses to the fifth-ranked Tishner.
Greyson Gard got an early takedown against Oak Hill’s Will Warnock and won 2-0 in his ticket match before getting an overtime takedown and beating Eastern senior Bradie Porter 3-1 in the semifinals.
Betz, an undefeated wrestler, then beat Gard by fall in 3:59 in the final.
Shaffer earned his regional ticket with a 10-6 win over Western’s Brayden Shoaff, repeatedly attacking Shoaff with his signature double-leg takedown. He lost to eventual regional champion Jaquan East of Kokomo in the semifinals before avenging a loss at the TRC tournament to Maconaquah’s Austin Ringeisen 7-4 in the third-place match.
Joey Spencer (132), D.J. Basham (138), Gavin McKee (160) and Eli Swango (170) all had their seasons end in the ticket round. Spencer lost by fall to Eastbrook’s Ollie Turner, Basham lost to eventual champion Omarion Clark-Stitts of Kokomo by fall, McKee lost to Kokomo’s Kymani Howard by fall in 4:51, and Eli Swango lost by tech fall to Eastern’s No. 3-ranked Brodie Porter.
Spencer and Eli Swango were competing in their second regional, and Basham and McKee were competing in the regional for the first time.
Both Caston regional qualifiers were eliminated in the ticket round. Quin Kelly (126) got a first period reversal to tie his match with Oak Hill’s Adkins 2-2 but eventually lost 14-4.
Garrison Hickle (HWT) lost by fall in 3:07 to Oak Hill’s Strange.
MACONAQUAH WRESTLING REGIONAL RESULTS: Rochester 151.5, Western 135.5, Peru 83, Oak Hill 79, Kokomo 78, Maconaquah 70, Eastern (Greentown) 58.5, Manchester 50, Lewis Cass 26, North Miami 26, Northfield 17, Eastbrook 13, Wabash 13, Madison-Grant 8, Caston 0, Marion 0, Mississinewa 0, Northwestern 0, Tri-Central 0
Maconaquah regional individual champions
106 – Jalen May (Peru), 113 – Tanner Tishner (Western), 120 – Ethan Holloway (Rochester), 126 – Aaron Swango (Rochester), 132 – Dylan Stroud (Manchester), 138 – Omarion Clark-Stitts (Kokomo), 145 – Brody Arthur (Oak Hill), 152 – Mitchell Betz (Western), 160 – Logan Farnell (Maconaquah), 170 – Brodie Porter (Eastern (Greentown)), 182 – Jaquan East (Kokomo), 195 – Alex Deming (Rochester), 220 – Brady Beck (Rochester), HWT – Marshall Fishback (Rochester)
Rochester individual results
113 – Wyatt Davis – second, 120 – Ethan Holloway – champion, 126 – Aaron Swango – champion, 132 – Joey Spencer – DNP, 138 – D.J. Basham – DNP, 152 – Greyson Gard – second, 160 – Gavin McKee – DNP, 170 – Eli Swango – DNP, 182 – Kaleb Shaffer – third, 195 – Alex Deming – champion, 220 – Brady Beck – champion, HWT – Marshall Fishback – champion
Caston individual results
126 – Quin Kelly – DNP, Garrison Hickle – DNP
Rochester semistate qualifiers and first-round semistate matches
113 – Wyatt Davis vs. Jayden English (Columbia City)
120 – Ethan Holloway vs. Blake Byerley (East Noble)
126 – Aarom Swango vs. Isaiah McCue (Angola)
152 – Greyson Gard vs. Cam Freedline (Elkhart)
182 – Kaleb Shaffer vs. Jonathan Flores (Goshen)
195 – Alex Deming vs. Mickey Daring (Fort Wayne Luers)
220 – Brady Beck vs. Hunter Allen (Prairie Heights)
HWT – Marshall Fishback vs. Dalton Robinson (Bellmont)