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  • Val T.

Saying hello is the Gard part: Family reunion part of RHS’ 2-1 day at quad dual


Sports Editor, RTC

Family reunions and high school wrestling duals don’t often intersect. but what happened at the Rochester High School gym Wednesday was unique.

Drew Sailors was back.

As for the wrestling part, Rochester went 2-1 during their four-way home dual. RHS lost to Plymouth 34-27, defeated South Adams 51-28 and defeated North White 75-6.

Ethan Holloway (113/120), Brady Beck (220) and Marshall Fishback (HWT) all went 3-0 on the day.

Aaron Swango (126/132), Mitchell Shafer (132), Greyson Gard (145), Wade Shafer (152), Noah Swango (160), Kaleb Shaffer (170), Alex Deming (182) and Eli Swango (195) all went 2-1.

Sailors is a 2019 RHS grad and a wrestling state qualifier at 160 during his senior season. He enlisted in the air force after graduating. Currently stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, he was supposed to come home on Christmas Eve.

His sister Maddy, a 2018 RHS grad and former Lady Z swimmer who now swims at the NCAA Division I level for San Jose State, and Haydn Prater, a 2020 RHS grad and another former RHS wrestler, had a secret to keep: Drew was going to fly home one day early. Maddy and Haydn were going to pick him up early from the Indianapolis airport.

Drew walked through the gym doors after the South Adams meet. He hadn’t seen RHS coach Clint Gard, his stepfather, his stepbrother Greyson or any of his family members in a year.

There was an emotional family reunion in the stands.

“His mom (Kelly), she’s been counting down the days,” coach Gard said. “We haven’t seen Drew since this time last year. That was the last time we saw him. It’s good to see him. We’ll have a lot of fun. … We’ve got a week with him. It’s a good surprise. … When I’m doing this stuff, I’m kinda stuck in my own little wrestling world. So it was a good surprise.”

Plymouth 34, Rochester 27

Holloway, Deming and Beck won decisions against Plymouth. Wade Shafer and Fishback had falls. But RHS could not overcome an early 28-9 deficit.

Coach Gard shuffled the lineup, moving Holloway, Joey Spencer, Aaron Swango and Mitchell Shafer up a weight class.

“I would describe it the same way with Peru last night,” coach Gard said. “We’ve got to stop giving up pins. I told our guys last night if we don’t give up falls, we win by 18 points, I think, last night. And then today, we win the dual if we don’t give up falls. It’s not that we have to win every match. It’s just we have to stop giving up falls. They just killed us.”

Rochester 51, South Adams 28

In the South Adams dual, RHS won forfeits at 132, 170 and 195. Holloway, Aaron Swango (126), Greyson Gard, Noah Swango and Brady Beck all won by fall. Fishback was awarded two penalty points after his opponent was called for stalling and won a 3-0 decision.

“In better than shape than those kids,” coach Gard said of Holloway, who beat his Plymouth and South Adams opponents despite giving up first takedown in both matches. “He got caught in the same move. Some people call it a dump or a belly roll or whatever, so he got caught in the same move, which is a little frustrating, so we’ll work on that. But it’s going to take a pretty good kid to beat him. Ethan’s wrestling really well. He showed some good, solid wrestling coming back. Showed good mental focus, especially in the first match because he got the momentum back and then he lost the momentum again.”

Wade Shafer’s only loss was to South Adams’ A.J. Dull in perhaps the most anticipated match of the day. Dull, a state qualifier last year as a sophomore at 145, won by fall in 2:23. Wade Shafer was a semistate qualifier last year at 145.

Dull got the first takedown and a near fall to go up 4-0 before Shafer sandwiched two escapes around a takedown to get within 5-4.

But Dull used a powerful throw – a lat drop in wrestling parlance – to toss Shafer on his back and record the fall.

Deming’s only loss of the day was to South Adams’ Christian Summersett. A semistate qualifier each of the last two years, Summersett got two near falls in the second period and pulled away to win 15-4.

Rochester 75, North White 6

RHS took advantage of forfeits at 126, 132, 138, 145 and 195 against North White. Joey Spencer (120), Wade Shafer (152), Noah Swango (160), Deming (182), Brady Beck (220) and Fishback (HWT) all won by fall. Holloway dismantled his opponent by technical fall, and Shaffer won a 16-5 major decision.

Noah Swango’s senior day

The four-way dual also marked senior day for Wade Shafer, Noah Swango and Joel Hensley.

Noah Swango said he tried wrestling as a first-grader but hated it and quit. Coach Gard asked him every year if he wanted to come back. As a seventh-grader, Noah bucked and said yes. He said he thought it would be a good way to stay in shape for football.

He later convinced younger brothers Aaron and Eli to come out for the sport.

He said he went to the Jeff Jordan State Champ Camp in Urbana, Ohio, over the summer, but he said offseason opportunities were otherwise limited due to the pandemic.

“Just going and working out and wrestling with my brothers at home and stuff like that,” Noah said. “Just not that many offseason opportunities this year, but once we got back up, I was able to come in and just get some work in.”

Noah often wrestles Wade Shafer in practice.

“He’s pretty good,” Noah said. “He shoots pretty fast. He’s quick on his feet. If you get him on bottom, he moves fast. He’s definitely quicker than me. You’ve just got to stay low and be aggressive back with him. You have to push each other.”

Five days off

Gard said he was going to give his wrestlers five days off before resuming practice. RHS won’t wrestle again until a Jan. 5 dual at Northwestern.

The Three Rivers Conference meet is at Maconaquah Jan. 23, and the sectional is at Peru Jan. 30. It would appear that Rochester and Peru, who beat the Zebras 40-39 in a dual meet that came down to a tiebreaker on Tuesday, will be among the top contenders.

“I like the fact that they came in here (Tuesday) and bullied us around in some matches and pinned us,” coach Gard said of the Peru dual. “I’ll say this: I wasn’t real impressed with how their kids and coaches acted on the sidelines. And that’s OK. We won’t forget it, and we’ll make sure we’re ready to go.”

Former Rochester wrestler Drew Sailors (in fatigues with his back to the camera) hugs stepfather and Rochester wrestling coach Clint Gard during Rochester’s four-way dual match against Plymouth, South Adams and North White Wednesday. Meanwhile, RHS sophomore wrestler and Drew’s half-brother Greyson Gard looks on to the right. Sailors, an air force officer, returned from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio to surprise his family a day earlier than expected.

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