KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany --- One thing this four-team wrestling meet Saturday proved is something most DODDS-Europe wrestling fans already know: It’s going to be a heck of a European championships in February.
The host Red Raiders welcomed perennial powerhouses Patch and Ramstein, along with Division-II opponent Black Forest Academy and several defending European champions showcased their skills.
One of those champions is last year’s 120 pound champ, Patch’s Isaac McIlvene, wrestling this year at 126.
McIlvene knew his matchup against Ramstein’s Mitchell Shafer wouldn’t be easy. McIlvene topped Shafer twice previously this season, but by the narrowest of margins. Shafer forced McIlvene to overtime in their first matchup and the Patch grappler won by a single point during their last meeting.
Their latest didn’t break away from the pattern. After falling behind 4-0, Shafer was able to cut McIlvene’s lead in half heading into the final period. Just as it looked like the score would remain that way until the end, Shafer was able to tie the score with 18 seconds left.
“I’m dead tired, but so is he,” McIlvene said. He recalled thinking: “I gotta do something here.”
And do something he did, as he caught Shafer off balance and leaned back scoring two points on what he dubbed “a sloppy reversal.” He quickly added three more for a near fall, taking the match in a 9-4 decision.
Shafer, who admitted he wasn’t upset because he lost to a great wrestler, thinks the two will meet again in the European championships gold medal match. McIlvene agreed.
“I predict it will be me and him in the finals and it will be a hell of a match,” McIlvene said.
Shafer knows stamina will be the key to bringing home first place.
“It just comes down to who’s sucking wind more,” Shafer said.
At 132 pounds, Ramstein senior TJ Moore gave the Royals one of their five first places as he outlasted Kaiserslautern’s Brodie Cutshall in a 14-5 decision.
Moore, who wrestled for the first time last season, qualified for Europeans last year, but finished far from his goal of standing atop the podium.
“I want to be a European champion,” Moore said matter-of-factly.
Moore hopes his final high school memories will also involve seeing Patch’s four-year wrestling championship streak broken by his Royals.
Another defending European champion who continued his winning ways on Saturday was Kaiserslautern’s Matt Fischer. Fischer, who was tops in the 106 weight category last year, hopes to win the 113 pound class this campaign.
Fischer has been working hard this season on better hand control in order to make it easier to get to his opponent’s legs and take them down.
“My main goal is to pin them as fast as possible,” said Fischer, who topped Patch’s McKenna Fields for the top spot on the 113 podium Saturday.
Not every wrestler’s goal is to win a gold medal, though. Black Forest’s Joshua Wenger, wrestling at 145 pounds, just wants to make it to European championships and place. The Black Forest sophomore only won one of his matches Saturday, but given the competition on hand, he was looking at the bright side.
“It enables us to view our competition for Europeans,” Wenger said about the meet.
Saturday’s result found the Panthers, riding a meet-high six first place finishers, finishing on top with 224 points, followed by Ramstein’s 206.5.
Despite all the talk about whether Patch can successfully defend its team title for a fifth consecutive year, not everyone’s buying into the hype.
One of Kaiserslautern’s team captains, Paul Michitsch, who topped Ramstein’s Matt Sharpy during Saturday’s 160 pound match, said he urges his teammates to show no fear on the mat, no matter the opponent.
“When it comes to spirit, motivation, hard workers, we’re No. 1,” Michitsch said.
The host squad, which finished with three victories on Saturday, finished third with 135 points and Black Forest rounded out the group with 20.5.