Daily Union Sports Editor
---- — The Shelbyville Wrestling Rams had one of the best seasons in history going through the holidays. The challenge is to maintain the momentum.
The Rams were undefeated in duals (6-0) and had one both the PORTA and the Cumberland tournaments. Then they went to the 40-team St. Thomas More New Year Challenge (”Super Duals”) with 17 schools from 1A and 2A that were state-ranked. Five Rams went undefeated at St. Thomas. Jared Finley, Wyatt Fox, Adam Hudson, and Lucas Duckett were named all-tourney.
That was the proving ground mid-season to evaluate where the Rams are in their goal of making it to team state for the 1st time in school history and for individual evaluations against other top wrestlers around the state for those Rams who will make it to individual state.
The Rams went 7-0 in duals, then took a 1-point loss. They won the next five duals and were 12-1, when they lost a quarterfinal match to PORTA, in part, due to a devastating injury to 1st-year wrestler Lyle Jefson. They lost momentum and two matches.
Facing the final half of the season the Rams, 12-4 in duals, are ranked 8th in the state, with seven of their 14 wrestlers ranked in the state, plus an honorable mention.
The key for the rest of the season comes down maintaining momentum, technical improvements and, of course, limiting injuries.
“We’ve been great and our feet, but needed more work to ride better,” said Ram coach Greg Harkins. “Each kid is being coached with techniques based on the films and we’ve already gotten better in practice. Our conditioning is great. We’re drilling for 45 minutes and wrestling for an hour.”
The biggest challenge ahead for the Rams is preparing for their own regional and winning it to advance as a team to state. They host the Mary Helton Cancer Duals on Monday at 6 p.m. against Hillsboro and Robinson, then face 2A-ranked Mt. Zion at Mattoon. The prestigious LeRoy Tournament looms large on January 25, then the Rams finish at home against Charleston East Richland and St. Anthony.
As the Rams enter the Okaw Conference Duals they should be 22-4 or 21-5 in duals, unless they make-up the Carlyle Rochester dual matches, which should make them 24-4 or 23-5. Last year, they finished 25-4. They are on track.
The stretch run includes the Okaw Duals which features the rivalries with Argenta and a regional championship preview againt Monticello. February 8th is the Ram-hosted regional and a date with destiny to advance as a team.
At 106, Zack Stirrett (16-4) is ranked 9th in the state. At 113, Lyle Jefson is out for the season with an injury and leaves a hole that can’t be filled. At 120, Trevor Brown (11-6) and Matt Tinsman (2-6), back from injury, are sharing the spot. At 126, Garrett Brachbill (18-3) is ranked 4th in the state.
At 132, Jarred Hicks (10-10) is a state honorable mention. At 138, Jared Finley (20-1) is ranked 4th in the state. At 145, Wyatt Fox (15-3) is ranked 9th in the state. At 152, Adam Hudson (21-0) is ranked 5th in the state. At 160, 2nd-year wrestler Ben Houska (7-10) is battling for team points.
At 170, Lucas Duckett (19-1) is ranked 4th in the state. At Noah Applegate (7-9) and Caleb Cloe (12-7) are sharing duties. At 220, Elliott Smithson is ranked 9th in the state. At 285, Andrew Mudgette (13-5) is scoring points and alternates with Smithson.
Waiting in the wings for their shot are JV wrestlers Jeremy Starwalt (7-5) and Chloe Arebalo.