Rochester wrestling’s season ends at semistate
Gard: Graduating Shafer, N. Swango leave ‘big shoes to fill’
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Rochester wrestling team’s season ended at the Fort Wayne semistate at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum Saturday.
That means they said goodbye to seniors Wade Shafer and Noah Swango. But those left remaining will form the basis of a Zebra squad that might be expected to do even more than this year’s team.
As for this year’s team, they won the Three Rivers Conference and the Maconaquah sectional. They had 11 regional qualifiers and six semistate qualifiers.
But the door that lets one into the state finals opens only so wide.
Of the six that wrestled in Fort Wayne, five won their first-round match but lost in the ticket round.
Ethan Holloway (113) started his day with a 4-2 win over Gabe Miller of Lakeland in the first round, but he lost 2-0 to Garrett sophomore Hayden Brady. All four of his losses – the other three were to Wabash’s Jared Brooks – were to kids that made state.
“The Brady kid was about six feet tall – it was crazy – really tall kid and pretty solid on top,” Rochester coach Clint Gard said. “We wrestled a 2-0 match. A takedown was the difference. We were able to ride him pretty solid and almost turn him a couple times, and he rode us. At that level, they’re just all pretty good. You just can’t make mistakes.”
As for Greyson Gard (145), he beat the second period buzzer and pinned Bellmont junior Garrett Manley in 4:00 in the first round. But in his ticket match, he lost by technical fall in 3:24 to undefeated New Haven senior Elijah Chacon, who is ranked No. 5.
Coach Gard said Chacon is “collegiate level” from the top position. In fact, Chacon chose top position at the start of the second period.
“He wrestled really well first match,” coach Gard said. “He beat a kid from Bellmont, which is always tough to do. Got a fall out of it. His bottom and top wrestling really, really improved the last few weeks. … We’re going to work hard this summer on getting him less timid on his feet and get him more aggressive.”
Shafer’s career ended with a 9-5 loss to Garrett’s Chase Leech in the ticket round. That came after he began his day with a 12-6 over Monroe Central’s Jonah Jones.
Coach Gard said Leech was short and stocky but held great position against Shafer and utilized a front headlock as a scoring move on three different occasions.
Gard reflected on Shafer’s unique career. He wasn’t introduced to the sport until he was a sophomore in high school.
“I’ve never had a kid have that kind of success,” coach Gard said. “Obviously, we’ve had some kids do well with limited mat time. … To be a sectional champ (in 2019), and to be a two-time semistate qualifier, make it to the ticket round his third year. … And it doesn’t happen very often anymore because so many kids specialize. It’s a testament to him and his athletic ability but also his competitiveness.”
Swango’s season ended with a 15-4 loss in the first round to Fort Wayne Dwenger senior Eli Hilger.
“Once the kid got a hold of Noah’s wrists, he was able to move Noah to wherever he wanted to, and once he got to the leg, it was tough for Noah to defend,” coach Gard said. “(He) held position really, really well and just a big, strong kid, and those kids are ones that Noah has trouble with. Just a bad matchup. Noah wrestled his butt off and wrestled his heart out and showed a lot of pride and a lot of effort there, but the kid from Dwenger was just a better wrestler.”
At 220, freshman Brady Beck won an 8-2 decision over Carroll (Fort Wayne) senior Kyler Bills in the first round but lost by fall in 5:41 to Angola’s Coy Brames in the ticket round.
“I think even he would say he didn’t wrestle his best in that second match,” coach Gard said. “I think nerves got to him a little bit. He got thrown to his back, which is not normal for him. … He threw the kid and put him to his back and just didn’t settle, very similar to what Ethan did the week before (in the regional final) against (Wabash’s Jared) Brooks. The kid rolled through and ended up five points up on him. Then we battled back, and you start getting a little tired, and the moment starts getting a little heavy there in the late second and early third period.
Right at the end of the second period, he made a mistake and let the kid go and gave up an escape. So then, we cut the kid (chose neutral at the start of the period, which is a one-point penalty). We knew we weren’t going to turn him, so we cut the kid and brought him up and we were down two points, and you’re just really battling from there. He made some freshman mistakes, mental and physical. You hate to say it because he’s very capable of being probably a state place winner as a freshman, but you can learn a lot from that experience obviously, which the next three years can really springboard him into doing some special stuff with our program and for himself.”
Marshall Fishback (HWT) began his day with a 2-1 win over NorthWood’s Blake Herr in the first round before losing by fall in 1:15 to Carroll (Fort Wayne)’s Reeve Muncie.
Fishback finished the season with two losses – to top-ranked Brayden Erb of Western and to No. 2 Muncie, who wound up winning the semistate title over Erb.
“Just a monster,” coach Gard said of Muncie. “Kinda made Marshall look tiny. And so just a big, big kid … but had some great technique to go with it. I was impressed with him when he wrestled Marshall. I know Marshall was pretty upset with himself. He wanted to try to make it more of a match. And he didn’t wrestle poorly. The kid was just a huge kid, and he gets on the mat and kinda gets Marshall stuck on his side, and he’s every bit of 285. So that’s pretty tough when you get a 285-pounder on top of you and he knows what he’s doing.”
RHS tied for 31st in the team standings with 12 points.
“I think we ended the season with 25 (wrestlers), so we’ve got 22 coming back,” coach Gard said. “And we’ll probably add somewhere between six and eight freshmen next year. One of those freshmen will be Wyatt Davis at 106 or 113. And he’s been in our club program for awhile now. He’ll be great for us down low some place. He has all the ability really to be at semistate or be at state next year as a (106)-pounder. So we’ve got him coming in, and we’ve got some guys in the middle. We’ve got three or four guys in that 152, 160, and 170 area that can really help us and take over for Wade and Noah. Big shoes to fill, but athletically, we have the kids. We’ve got to get them more experience, but we feel good about that.”
Coach Gard also said that the seventh grade class has “four or five studs” in it.
Oak Hill won the semistate with 76.5. Western was second with 67.5. Both teams are regional rivals of RHS.
FORT WAYNE SEMISTATE RESULTS: 1. Oak Hill 76.5, 2. Western 67.5, 3. Northridge 64.5, 4. Carroll (Fort Wayne) 63, 5. New Haven 55.5, 6. East Noble 54, 7. Belmont 51.5, 8. Jay County 43, 9. Adams Central 39, 10. Goshen 38, t-31. Rochester 12
113 – Ethan Holloway – DNP
def. Miller (Lakeland), 4-2
lost to Brady (Garrett), 2-0
145 – Greyson Gard – DNP
def. Manley (Bellmont), fall, 4:00
lost to Chacon (New Haven), tech fall (16-0), 3:24
152 – Wade Shafer – DNP
def. Jones (Monroe Central), 12-6
lost to Leech (Garrett), 9-5
160 – Noah Swango – DNP
lost to Hilger (FW Dwenger), 15-4
220 – Brady Beck – DNP
def. Bills (Carroll (Fort Wayne)), 8-2
lost to Brames (Angola), fall, 5:41
HWT – Marshall Fishback – DNP
def. Herr (NorthWood), 2-1
lost to Muncie (Carroll (Fort Wayne)), fall, 1:15
STATE QUALIFIERS FROM THE FORT WAYNE SEMISTATE
1. Tisher (Western), 2. Eckman (Goshen), 3. Rowles (Jay County), 4. Malott (East Noble)
1. Ruble (Bellmont), 2. Brooks (Wabash), 3. Brady (Garrett), 4. Brabender (Northridge)
1. Sprague (East Noble), 2. Wood (Jay County), 3. Lewis (Bluffton), 4. Puckett (Northridge)
1. Bertsch (Bluffton), 2. Olson (Goshen), 3. Uhlman (Adams Central), 4. Dedman (Oak Hill)
1. Heath (Leo), 2. Stroud (Manchester), 3. Litchfield (Bellmont), 4. Clark (Jay County)
1. Arthur (Oak Hill), 2. Gerencser (Daleville), 3. Hooley (Northridge), 4. Forrester (Columbia City)
1. Chacon (New Haven), 2. Shepherd (Western), 3. Abbott (Cowan), 4. Levitz (Prairie Heights)
1. Hardcastle (Oak Hill), 2. Ulrick (Carroll (Fort Wayne)), 3. Currie (Adams Central), 4. Leech (Garrett)
1. Buchanan (Jimtown), 2. Farnell (Maconaquah), 3. Johnson (Norwell), 4. Hilger (Fort Wayne Dwenger)
1. Kreager (FW Snider), 2. Graden (East Noble), 3. Porter (Eastern (Greentown)), 4. Myers (Bellmont)
1. Saylor (New Haven), 2. Thompson (Oak Hill), 3. Page (Monroe Central), 4. Williams (Marion)
1. Khaoucha (Northridge), 2. Lepper (Carroll (Fort Wayne)), 3. Heyerly (Adams Central), 4. Washburn (Kokomo)
1. Clifford (Columbia City), 2. Dilbone (Fremont), 3. Hinton (FW Northrop), 4. Brames (Angola)
1. Muncie (Carroll (Fort Wayne), 2. Erb (Western), 3. Villafuerte (Angola), 4. Sommer (Elkhart)
Wade Shafer Ethan Holloway