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Roaring reception for wrestling home debut

Roaring reception for wrestling home debut
Roaring reception for wrestling home debut
North Harrison's Kelby McGinnis gets some air in an attempt to score take-down points against West Washington's Taylor Stephenson. McGinnis went on to win the match by fall. Photos by Brian Smith

The Cougars logo took center stage on the custom blue wrestling mats inside the North Harrison High School gymnasium last Tuesday.
A little bit of hard rock music set the tunes for the inaugural home matches in the Cougars’ young wrestling history as the second-year program quickly snagged the love from the community.
When Jayden Skaggs earned the first North Harrison points for an escape, the crowd that filled behind the scorer’s table erupted in support. Although Skaggs didn’t win his match, the tone was set for Elijah Edlin, the next Cougar to enter the circle.
Edlin found himself down 8-2 after the initial two-minute period. With the home faithful behind him, Edlin turned over Madison’s Grason Lee to put his back to the mat. The referee’s hand smacked the surface to signify a pin, sending the Cougars’ faithful bananas.
‘Probably 90 percent of this crowd has not seen a wrestling match and probably doesn’t understand the scoring yet,’ North Harrison coach Dusty Rhodes said. ‘What they do understand … you can tell when somebody has the upper-hand. They were waiting for something to happen they could understand. That first reversal or escape gave them an opportunity to understand a little more.’
Edlin, a 120-pound freshman on the North Harrison roster, was all smiles as he retreated to the bench area. Senior Coleman Biddle, who won two matches on the night, took in the moment.
‘That was awesome,’ Biddle said. ‘It made history because it was the first home win in North Harrison Cougar wrestling history. He’s a first-year wrestler that has put in work. We are happy this many freshmen and sophomores are getting into it. Hopefully, we can keep building it on down to middle school and elementary one day.’
Wrestling was introduced at North Harrison last year and was aided by the success of now graduated Kohana Wilks. Along with some additional seniors in the 2018 class, there was some initial success, including a fifth-place team finish at the Jeffersonville Sectional. Wilks went on to reach the semi-state level as an individual.
‘Kohana’s success helped,’ Rhodes said. ‘We had a good athletic group of seniors last year that took us probably farther than we thought. What it did was establish the knowledge and interest. There were many students wanting to learn more about wrestling.’
The attention now extends to the spectators, cheering for the 25-person roster. Fans were offered a program, which featured information on scoring and the meaning of the referee’s hand gestures.
‘You could not ask for better support,’ Rhodes said. ‘We are getting all this support, and the community is still new to wrestling. We have a lot of youth, but we want to build our youth with families. If we get more people engaged, more will fall in place.’
One way was offering an informational session with families of new wrestlers.
‘We actually brought an official in and had an educational night with some parents and family members last week,’ Rhodes said. ‘I wish we could have that for the entire community. I think they figured it out pretty quickly. Tonight was full of energy.’
On the mat, it was narrow one-point losses (both needing tie-breakers to decide), 43-42, to Madison and West Washington. The double dual on Tuesday featured North Harrison taking on Madison followed by Madison versus West Washington and concluding with the host battling West Washington across 14 weight classes.
‘I thought we did well,’ said Rhodes. ‘There were some mistakes, but I thought we’d have some. The emotions got some of them. That’s why you wrestle. It’s mat time. A lot of them gained a wealth of knowledge tonight.’
Biddle was a double winner, scoring wins by pin over Madison’s Hunter Robbins and West Washington’s Asa Elder at 152.
‘I had some pretty good matches,’ Biddle said. ‘We always have room for improvement. As a team, the matches were pretty tight. We just about beat both (opponents). We will definitely continue to work on cardio and technique. We will get there.’
Fellow senior Austin Miller, wrestling at 160, was a ball of energy on the mat. In under one minute, Miller stuck Madison’s Drake Youngblood. To close out the night, Miller hopped off West Washington’s Dakotah Smith with a roar after earning another pin.
‘We’ve worked really hard to get here,’ Miller said. ‘To be able to show the entire community how much we’ve worked at wrestling and how good we’ve become shows we can really do something.’
Miller projects wrestling to stick as a big sport at North Harrison. He, along with the program’s third senior (Elijah Nash sat out due to injury), is taking pride in setting the Cougars’ foundation.
‘We’re trying to be the best leaders we can be,’ Miller said. ‘We want the younger wrestlers to have someone to look up to and to compete at a higher level next year and the years after when we are gone.’
‘Our seniors are full of energy and knowledge,’ Rhodes said. ‘They love being here. They’ve been great leaders.’
It was two-win days for Kelby McGinnis (170) and Landon King (195) for the Cougars as well. Each had one forfeit victory, while McGinnis scored a win by pin over West Washington’s Taylor Stephenson and King stuck the Senators’ Cannon Roop.
Picking up forfeit wins for the Cougars were Landon Jones (106), Pearce Hubbart (126), Ashton McGinnis (132) and Garrett Schroeder (182). Also seeing match time were Jayden Skaggs (113), Michael Lone (145) and Seth Kendall (220).
‘We saw some established programs tonight, and we embrace that challenge,’ Rhodes said. ‘We can’t rest on our performances tonight. We have to get better. Two one-point (team) losses at home should motivate the kids.’
Beyond the wins and losses, wrestling has a buzz around the northern part of Harrison County.
‘We are really thankful the community came to support us,’ Biddle said. ‘We’ve had a lot of people pitch in to get our program started. Coach, in his second year, has done a lot of work for us. His family has been involved too. This was a huge crowd. Usually you go to a wrestling match or tournament and it’s just the parents. There really isn’t a big community following. They got really into it, and it was awesome.’

Madison 43, North Harrison 42
106: Noah Burkhart (M) pinned Landon Jones, 0:17; 113: Bryce Turner (M) pinned Jayden Skaggs, 0:58; 120: Elijah Edlin (NH) pinned Grason Lee, 2:37; 126: Pearse Hubbart (NH) by forfeit; 132: Ashton McGinnis (NH) by forfeit; 138: Hayden Eblen (M) by forfeit; 145: Christian Lyons (M) pinned Michael Lone, 1:02; 152: Coleman Biddle (NH) pinned Hunter Robbins, 1:02; 160: Austin Miller (NH) pinned Drake Youngblood, 0:49; 170: Kelby McGinnis (NH) by forfeit; 182: Dalton Berry (M) pinned Garrett Schroeder, 2:15; 195: Landon King (NH) by forfeit; 220: Eric Leach (M) pinned Seth Kendall, 1:05; 285: Noah Foster (M) by forfeit.

West Washington 43, North Harrison 42
106: Landon Jones (NH) by forfeit; 113: Caleb Ponsford (WW) pinned Jayden Skaggs, 1:47; 120: Jude Livers (WW) pinned Elijah Edlin 2:17; 126: Lane Dicus (WW) pinned Pearce Hubbart, 1:04; 132: Nick Baker (WW) pinned Ashton McGinnis, 1:17; 138: Alex Neace (WW) by forfeit; 145: Jacob Edwards (WW) pinned Michael Lone, 0:59; 152: Coleman Biddle (NH) pinned Hunter Pavey, 1:18; 160: Austin Miller (NH) pinned Dakotah Smith, 1:06; 170: Kelby McGinnis (NH) pinned Taylor Stephenson, 1:22; 182: Garrett Schroeder (NH) by forfeit; 195: Landon King (NH) pinned Cannon Roop, 1:41; 220: Caleb Murphy (WW) pinned Seth Kendall, 1:23; 285: Landon Pearson (WW) by forfeit.