UTICA — It doesn’t get much closer, unless it’s a tie.
The Utica Redskins, with one first-place finisher and a quartet of runner-ups, came within an eyelash of winning their own wrestling tournament Saturday. In the end, River View beat the Redskins by half a point for the top spot in the team standings of the 2019 Utica Invitational, 213.5-213.0.
The Redskins were led by 152-pound senior Mason Williams, who won his weight-class final in an 8-4 decision over Clay Prouty of Licking Valley.
Williams struggled with the flu and a fever, but was expected to win in his class.
“I have three that are sick right now,” said Utica coach Mark Rakoczy. “They just kept getting worse. They had trouble finishing.”
Utica’s Parker Frazee, a junior, dropped an 8-4 decision in the 170-pound class to Luke Stalnaker of Jonathan Alder.
Also for Jonathan Alder, 106-pound sophomore Reece Chapman defeated Utica’s Wesley Wydick in the final, 4-3. Both had gone into the final undefeated.
Utica’s Pierce Jordan, a junior, dropped a 4-1 decision in the 126 pound class, to Marion-Franklin senior Jalin Goodman in their final. Both were undefeated in round-robin action.
“I’d like to improve, though,” Jordan said. “I’d like to win more tournaments and matches. I think we need to look at our mentality going into the big matches — sort of a mix of confidence and being ready for that big match.”
Sophomore Clayton Cummons (4-1) of Utica was second to Newark senior Jade Batross (5-0) in the 160 pound class. Batross won their head-to-head match during the round robin.
Also for the Redskins, sophomore Valyn Dague placed third in the 195-pound class, gaining a forfeit in the final.
In the 120-pound class, River View sophomore Austin Philabaum pinned Utica sophomore Austin Smith at 2:23 of their third-place final. That was after Smith had built an 11-0 lead early in the match, but got caught in a cradle.
“We are still pretty young and we have so much potential,” Rakoczy said. “We’re just looking to beat that one good kid. They can compete with district placers and state qualifiers and they lose by one or two. There’s just a mental block that I’ve got to work on. We’ve just got to win those last matches. If any kid on our team could have pulled off one win during the day, we could have won in team points.”
Other placers for Utica included: Roger Moran (fifth place, 138 pounds), Brett Homman (fifth, 145), Brock Wygle (sixth, 113) and Matt Talty (sixth, 132),
Also locally, the Danville Blue Devils brought their team and got a chance to put them up against some of the best wrestling in the area.
“They got to see a couple of DI programs today,” Danville coach Randy Brady said. “Being such a small program, we can’t cover all the weight classes.”
Currently, Brady has seven wrestlers, including four freshman, a sophomore, a junior and a senior Dylan Wilson, a four-year lettering senior who is currently waiting for a doctor to OK his return to the mat.
“He’s been out with an injury for a couple of weeks,” Brady said. “He’s my heavyweight. We want him back for tournament time — that’s our goal.”
Utica returns to its home mat Wednesday to host Hilliard Darby at 6 p.m., while Danville hits the road Thursday to compete in Fredericktown at 5:30 p.m.