The lower weight classes proved to be the biggest difference between the teams, as Etowah jumped out to a 27-0 after victories from Josh Thomas (106 pounds), Dylan Wagner (113), Joey Payton (120), Alex Rusk (126) and Bryce Veronez (132), with four of those wins coming by way of pinfall.
Highlighting Etowah’s first five individual victories was Payton beating Tristan Watson in a matchup of past state-qualifiers. Payton displayed his strength, scoring five takedowns before pinning Watson with less than a minute remaining in the second period.
When asked if he felt his wrestlers in the lower weight classes were the strength of his team, Etowah coach Charles Higdon responded with an emphatic yes.
“Absolutely,” the first-year coach said. “Our lighter classes have been tough all year. We’re just thankful to have those kids. We’re going to be relying on them.”
Woodstock managed to pull out its first win of the night at 138 pounds, when an aggressive Zach Shareef scored a quick pin of Etowah’s Jake Wagner with 44 seconds remaining in the opening period.
Including Shareef’s win, the Wolverines outscored the Eagles 27-22 over the last eight matches, but they found the earlier gap too much to overcome.
In what was perhaps the most exciting match of the night, Woodstock’s Duncan Morris earned a hard-fought 6-4 victory over Clint Bowling at 182 pounds.
After an even first period, in which both wrestlers scored two points for takedowns, Morris seemed the have the match in hand as he flipped Bowling onto his back with almost 30 seconds remaining in the second period.
Despite the position, Bowling turned in an excellent defensive display to keep both of his shoulders off of the mat and send it to the third period.
Though Bowling managed to score a takedown, Morris seized control of the match with three points on a near-fall before scoring one more on an escape to seal the victory.
Woodstock’s Chris Nani came from behind to beat Bronson Rechsteiner at 152, but Bronson’s older brother Maveric, scored a quick pinfall over Austin Biggers.
Bronson Rechsteiner, a freshman, is the third brother in his family to compete for the Etowah wrestling program, joining Maveric and oldest brother Hudson, a 2010 graduate. The brothers’ father is Robert Rechsteiner, who achieved fame with his brother, Scott, as professional wrestling’s Steiner Brothers.
Woodstock’s Wes Pella, last year’s Region 5AAAAA champion at 285 pounds and a two-time state-qualifier, found himself as the only wrestler without an opponent and won by forfeit.
Though pleased with the victory, Higdon was still looking for his team to improve.
“We got lucky and had a couple of nice matches,” Higdon said. “The ball rolled our way this time.”
Despite the Wolverines’ struggles at the beginning of the night, Woodstock coach Michael Powell was satisfied with his team’s performance.
“Overall, I’m proud of my guys. We fought hard,” Powell said. “(Etowah is) a tough team, potentially a top-10 team in the state. Probably over 75 percent of our team is either freshman or sophomores, but we put up a good fight, so I can’t complain.”