It’s been awhile, but the Pacific Indians are back on the top of the Four Rivers Conference wrestling world.
The Indians won their showdown at Union Thursday night, 34-29, to claim the league title.
Pacific Head Coach Rob Schimsa believes it’s the first time since 2008 that the Indians have been the league champions.
“It was a good meet,” Schimsa said. “There was a lot of drama and close matches. There was a lot of good, hard wrestling. Union is a well-coached team and we had a lot of close matches. It was a good night.”
Schimsa said St. Clair had won three league titles in a row before Union’s 2012 championship.
“I give credit to all their kids,” Union Head Coach Justin Cranmer said. “They wanted it more and would not give in.”
Cranmer gave credit to Pacific.
“Pacific is a very well-coached team,” Cranmer said. “I have a lot of respect for their kids and coaching staff. They wrestled hard and when we had them on their back we could not finish. We had a chance to pin at 138,145, 152, and 160 and couldn’t get it done.”
Pacific’s title march concluded with a win over the defending league winners on Union’s senior night. And the showdown turned into the type of match the fans wanted to determine the championship.
“It was a great dual in that there were a lot of exciting matches and a big crowd for both teams so it was loud,” Cranmer said.
Pacific won eight matches while Union took six. Of those matches, eight of them went the distance, four were decided by pins and two were walkovers.
“Overall, I was happy with how everyone wrestled,” Schimsa said. “It was a team effort. Everyone had to do their part. Winning the conference championship is good.”
Two matches featured matchups between wrestlers ranked in the MissouriWrestling.com Class 3 lists. And both were won by Pacific.
“They made some lineup changes that I expected from them and they got better matchups at a few weights,” Cranmer said.
The first was at 138 pounds, where Pacific’s Jeff Miller (fourth at 132 pounds) successfully charged back from a large deficit against Union’s Devon Fennessey (sixth at 145) to win a 17-15 decision.
“It was a good match,” Schimsa said. “We bumped Jeff up to wrestle Fennessey. We figured it would be a good match. We want to get good matches at this time of year going into the state tournament series. Those are the type of matches that down the line will see if you place at state or if you fold.”
Fennessey controlled the first two periods, but became ill between the second and third periods. When he returned to the mat, he wasn’t the same and it was everything just to avoid being pinned.
“We knew Miller would bump up to wrestle 138 so Fennessey made the cut to wrestle at that weight,” Cranmer said. “He had Miller on his back several times but just could not get the pin. Miller is a good wrestler who showed a lot of heart and came back to win that match.”
The other match of ranked wrestlers came at 170 pounds, where Pacific’s Austin Repp (first at 170) moved within one win of the school single-season record.
Repp’s 47th win of the season came over Union’s Dalton Kuenzel (eighth at 160) was an 8-2 decision. While Repp dominated the match, Kuenzel was able to skillfully avoid taking a major decision loss or worse, thus saving team points for later in the match.
Pacific was able to score what it needed to secure the meet in the second-to-last match though.
Opening the Meet
The teams started at 132 pounds while wrestling only under the spotlights at the bottom of the scoreboard over the mat. There were no other lights on, giving it something of a theatrical feeling.
In the opener, Pacific’s Lane Smith earned a 10-4 decision over Union’s Dalton Fennessey. It was another match where Cranmer exhorted his wrestler to try to keep from losing by a major decision so that it would only be three team points rather than four.
With that decision, and the Miller win, Pacific took the lead, 6-0.
Union Rallies to Lead
Alex Gaebe (145) gave Union its first win over Joon Kim, 9-1. As Union’s wrestlers had done, Kim avoided losing by a larger margin or being pinned to allow Pacific to keep the lead, 6-4.
Union’s Cody Pace then earned a 5-3 decision over Dalton Voyles at 152 pounds, one of the night’s most exciting matches. That gave Union the 7-6 edge.
“Cody Pace stepped up big and beat Voyles, who he lost to at MICDS,” Cranmer said.
At 160 pounds, Union’s Jake Siddens posted a 13-1 major decision over Curtis Paglusch, and not a moment too soon. Siddens became ill immediately after the conclusion of the match, which gave Union the lead, 11-6.
That Union lead lasted for two matches. With the Repp win over Kuenzel, the team score was 11-9 in favor of Union.
But, at 182 pounds, Pacific’s Andrew Cooper caught Jordan Weaks in a move early in the match and posted a 45-second pin to give the Indians a 15-11 lead.
Pacific gave the lead back in the next match. Joseph Parrott walked to the center and had his hand raised as he was unopposed. That put Union ahead, 17-15.
The next three matches lasted a total of 2:11.
Pacific’s Jarrett Harrison (220) topped Union’s Jimmy Lewis by a pin in 1:51, putting Pacific on top, 21-17.
Union’s Joe Lasky (285) recorded the quickest pin of the night, 20 seconds, over Tim Toney. That gave Union its final lead of the night, 23-21.
Pacific’s Preston Parks then walked out to receive a forfeit at 106 pounds, giving Pacific the lead for good, 27-23.
Pacific changed things around in its lineup. Josh Franek, ranked seventh in Class 3 at 106 pounds by MissouriWrestling.com, moved into the spot normally occupied by Zain Mathena (eighth in Class 3 by MissouriWrestling.com, to take on Union’s Colton Faber.
Franek controlled the match, winning an 11-0 major decision to give Pacific a 31-23 lead. Union needed to win the final two matches with at least one being better than a decision to have a chance.
Pacific’s Joseph Rind finished Union’s title hopes with an 8-1 win over Tyler Pace, giving Pacific a 34-23 win.
Union did close the meet with a victory. Jordan Nowak pinned Matthew Schimsa in 1:11 to make the final score 34-29 in favor of the Indians.
Both teams go to Farmington for the Class 3 District 1 meet next Friday and Saturday.
“Obviously giving up pins at 182 and 220 really hurt,” Cranmer said. “Those were both matches we could have won and sealed the dual. Pacific had to have a lot of things go right to win and everything did. They out-wrestled us when it really mattered and that is why they are conference champions. We have to learn from this and put it behind us to get ready for districts and the state tournament. It has still been a good year and we need to end on a high note. After all, when it really comes down to it, it is not how you start, it is how you finish. Everyone remembers how you finish at districts and the state tournament.”