WIESBADEN, Germany – The chokehold has finally been broken.
Patch’s four-year run of DODDS-Europe mat supremacy came to an abrupt end Saturday as Ramstein, deep, talented and motivated to finally overtake the team they’ve chased for years, beat the Panthers for the 2013 European wrestling team championship.
Ramstein totaled 289 points to Patch’s 224. Vicenza won Division II honors, and Rota claimed Division III.
“This year we had a balanced team of kids who really wanted to work hard,” Ramstein coach Tom Wright said. “It’s an excellent feeling. We’re really excited to have reached that goal.”
Patch coach Norm Matzke took the defeat in stride.
“We’re going to learn from these lessons learned here,” Matzke said. “We will use it to motivate the kids next year not to take it for granted.”
Here’s the rundown of individual champs:
106: There’s a new individual powerhouse in DODDS-Europe wrestling, but it’s unlikely you’d cross a street to avoid him.
Joey Fortunato, a slender Ramstein freshman with wiry strength and mat skills well beyond his 15 years, won the title with a narrow 4-3 victory over Vicenza’s Peter McCollaum.
The win by its newest breakout star started the Royal momentum that would carry the team to its long-awaited team title a few hours later.
113: The match that has been brewing throughout the regular season finally happened Saturday.
In one corner was Kaiserslautern’s Matthew Fischer, 2012 European champion at 106 pounds. In the other, Aviano newcomer Brandon Mowery, a stateside transfer with a rising profile. The two set up one of the day’s most anticipated championship bouts with nearly-identical semifinal victories; Fischer pinned Bitburg’s Brandon Beaumont in 1 minute, 56 seconds, while Mowery pinned SHAPE’s Carlos Ulep in 1:49.
But Mowery was a clear victor in Saturday’s decisive bout, using his unusual height for the low weight class to take a 12-2 major decision over the Raider sparkplug.
The victory was, quite literally, something to write home about for Mowery.
“The reason why I did it was for my team back home,” Mowery said of his former Virginia teammates. “I love them so much.”
120: The competitors were the same, the venue was the same, even the day was the same. But the two matches couldn’t have been more different.
Early Saturday, in the fifth and final round of pool competition, Ramstein’s Ryan Goins took a 6-1 decision from Rota’s Kris Rios.
Hours later, after the rest of the class had bowed out and Goins and Rios had survived tough semifinal matches, came the rematch. It was here where Rios earned his redemption, and European gold to boot.
Rios held a 4-3 lead in the waning seconds when the official determined Rios was stalling and awarded the tying point to Goins. Rios finished the job in overtime, scoring a 6-4 decision.
126: The Patch-Ramstein rivalry heated up with an evenly-matched bout between Royal Mitchell Shafer and Panther Isaac McIlvene.
“It was just going back and forth, reversal, reversal, two points, two points,” said Shafer, who earned a 14-7 decision. “I think he just got tired.
“It’s whoever is sucking wind more.”
132: Dante Thomas scored one for the homestanding Warriors with a 6-3 decision over Ramstein’s T.J. Moore.
Thomas finished second at 120 pounds a year ago, and bulked up successfully for a run at the higher weight class. He cruised through seven straight victories in front of his friendly fans.
138: He didn’t score the pin over Vicenza’s uncooperative Ramsey Schroeder, but Jaden Fields was dominant nonetheless in capturing his first European gold.
A third-place finisher at 132 pounds a year ago, an improved Fields manhandled his opponent for the duration en route to a 15-1 major decision.
Fields called the championship “indescribable.” And after cutting weight for the majority of the season, he said he planned to celebrate the end of a triumphant season with a steak dinner.
145: Team championship implications were on the line in a pair of concurrent semifinal matches pitting Patch versus Ramstein wrestlers. The Panthers won narrow decision on both counts, as Jonathan Charpenter edged Justin Zapata 8-7 and Nathan Cass beat Andi Abel 12-9 to set up an all-Patch final.
Cass scored a mild upset to claim the title, besting his slightly favored teammate by decision. Charpenter came into the postseason as Patch’s designated point-earning wrestler for the class; the Cass victory actually cost the Panthers on the final team tally.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling. You know it’s the end of the season,” Cass said. “All the work I did, all the sweat… paid off.”
152: Another spirited Royal-Panther bout saw Patch’s DeSean Horton-Paul earn a workmanlike 4-0 win over Ramstein’s Eric Carter.
Neither grappler was able to produce much offense in the bout, slipping and ducking away from holds. Horton gained the advantage with a late near-fall, and Carter couldn’t respond.
Horton said his goal was to remain undefeated. That mission was accomplished.
160: When they met at Alconbury’s Northern sectional on Feb. 8, both Wiesbaden’s Andrew Hempstead and Lakenheath’s Justin Menges sported the look of a European champion. Menges took a 3-2 decision in that classic duel, and both deservedly advanced to wrestle at the European championships.
The Menges-Hempstead rivalry endured through two days of action at Wiesbaden, culminating in a Saturday sequel that was every bit the originial’s equal.
A poised Menges was able to pace himself against the aggressive Hempstead, methodically executing his preferred moves in a solid 4-1 decision.
“I think I take my time when I wrestle,” said the junior, a recent transplant from Florida. ”That helps me out.”
170: Ramstein’s Galen McCarver started his senior season with a clear mission.
“I hadn’t won a championship yet, either individually or as a team,” McCarver said Saturday with his gold medal draped around his neck. “It meant a lot to come out, take it to Patch and win my weight class.”
McCarver did just that with an emphatic 17-3 decision over SHAPE’s Bryce Mann, earning the individual gold he sought and a few more points in the Royals team column.
182: Robert Mannier spent the weekend as he spent the regular season; searching for an opponent to take him the distance. He never found one.
What he did find was European gold.
Mannier won his second consecutive European title at this weight class Saturday, handling Ramstein foe Joseph Ankrom for his sixth pin in as many postseason matches. He notched the only pin of the championship round and dispatched his opponents in a combined time of 6:58.
195: A pair of singular talents broke through the Patch-Ramstein gridlock to create a compelling final at this wide-open weight class.
Bitburg senior Bryce Randall endured a grueling match with Kraig Sumpter of Vilseck, a junior Randall described as “strong as an ox.”
But on this day, in his last chance for enduring high school wrestling glory, Randall was not to be denied in a 3-0 decision.
“I was ready to be a champion,” Randall said. “Senior year, I was going to do everything I can. I’ve prepared too much to settle for anything less than the best.”
220: A third-place finish in 2012 was “devastating” for AFNORTH’s Luke Narug. It was also a necessary step on his path to a European title.
“This means everything,” Narug said after taking an 8-4 decision over Ramstein’s Anthony Zaferis in Saturday’s championship bout. “I’ve been ready for this moment for a long time.”
The bout was a rematch of last year’s third-place match at the same weight class, which also saw Narug beat Zaferis.
285: Armando Saldana and his heavyweight rivals traded damaging blows throughout the season, and this weekend was no different.
The Vilseck entry opened the European championships with a Friday morning loss to Kaiserslautern’s Lotoni Afuhaamago. He recovered with two wins to round out pool play and took a major decision over Ansbach’s Rahim Beatty, a rival he’d traded wins and losses with this season, to reach the finals.
Saldana collected gold as Ramstein’s Christian Elliott suffered an injury default.