SHERRARD -- A lineup without five starters left some wondering how the Mercer County wrestling team would look in its season debut.|
Based on the reviews, it was promising.
Without their full arsenal, the Golden Eagles used a makeshift lineup featuring veterans and youth to earn a 49-30 win over Sherrard on Thursday night. Despite a less-than-ideal finish in the lower weights, Mercer County exited the dual with some good vibes considering this was its fourth day together as a full team.
"We can be so much better," Mercer County coach Jeremy Finch said. "We're just now starting. We'll get this all cleaned up."
Because of the football team's run to the Class 2A state title, the Golden Eagles did not have their first practice as a team until Monday. More than a third of their regular starters were absent as they continue to get their weight certified, leading to a forfeit at 152 pounds and four freshmen filling other spots.
Two freshmen -- Ashton Klingaman (126 pounds) and Tomas Malone (132) -- earned victories at the start, putting Mercer County up 16-0. From there, regulars Tristen Finch (138) and Logan Snyder (145) snagged victories by fall to extend the lead to 28-0 through five bouts.
"It wasn't a shock," Sherrard coach Jeff Garrett said of Mercer County's quick start. "I knew there would be some weight classes where we would struggle. That's how it is."
Kody Lambert's 152-pound forfeit win ended the Golden Eagles' five-bout streak, but Hank Connnor (160), Jon Ricke (170) and Matt Weeks (182) won by decision, fall and fall, respectively, to put the dual away.
Combine the last two victories with Bobby Lincoln's first-period fall at 220 pounds, the Golden Eagles earned five pins and a major decision.
"We're not down to weight," Ricke said. "When we are, we'll be something pretty special. We have a lot of talent on the team. We've just got to get the lineup where it needs to be."
The scary thing is Mercer County, ranked second in the Illinois Best Weekly Class 1A poll, knows its best performances are still ahead.
"The potential is there," Jeremy Finch said. "Once we get everyone down in their weight classes and we start getting in wrestling shape, we'll be tough."
Sherrard did close the match with pins from Ben Corlett (285), Hunter Spengler (106) and Chance Teel (113), but the outcome already was decided before those wins. Prior to those matches, Mercer County held a 49-12 advantage.
"We wrestled OK," Garrett said. "They wrestled a good dual. We've just got to keep working."
As they walked off the mat, the Golden Eagles said the same thing. However, they could not have asked for a better start.
"It's exciting," Ricke said. "It's great to start the season with a win."
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