WIESBADEN, Germany — While most athletes competing Saturday in the opening matches of the DODDS-Europe wrestling season were focused on minimizing mistakes, a pair of grapplers in Wiesbaden put on a show worthy of February championship glory.
Ramstein’s Mitchell Shafer and Brendan Sturman from Wiesbaden provided the crowd with the highlight of the four-team meet – also featuring Heidelberg and Bamberg – in the 126-pound championship match.
Neither was able to garner any points before heading into the third period.
Although the Royals senior came out with the first blow in the third period, Sturman notched a point on a crafty escape. With just 18 seconds left in the match and trailing 3-1, the Warriors junior tied the score with a takedown to send the match into a sudden-death overtime period.
“I need to try and do something,” Sturman recalled thinking before the tying move.
Sturman wasn’t able to hold onto his momentum in the extra minutes, though, as Shafer locked his arms around Sturman’s torso and spun him around for the winning two-point maneuver.
“We both made mistakes and we both made good moves, it’s just somebody’s got to win,” said Shafer, who made it to last year’s semifinals to finish third in the 120-pound DODDS-Europe championships. “I can’t wait to wrestle him again, that was good,” a fatigued Shafer said immediately after the match.
Sturman, who lost 3½ pounds on Friday to make weight, echoed the desire to wrestle Shafer again, but added he hopes it’s for the honor of the top podium spot at February’s European championships. Sturman has finished fifth the past two years in the 126-pound weight class at champs.
Wiesbaden sophomore Dante Thomas was also looking ahead to February as he notched a decision over Ramstein’s TJ Moore to claim the 132-pound championship in front of the Warriors home crowd.
“All I see is gold,” Thomas, a runner-up in last year’s championships, said about the new season.
Other wrestlers were just hoping to get the season off on a positive note.
“The first (meet) kind of sets the tone, shows who’s here to win it and who’s here to stand by,” said Ramstein senior Charles Martinez, who won the 195-pound weight class on Saturday, wrestling up from his usual 182, where he expects to compete for most of the year.
Heidelberg sophomore Alfred Freed, competing at 152, was wrestling in his first high school match on Saturday, but that didn’t stop him from understanding the significance of being a part of the Lions last wrestling team. Heidelberg High School is slated to close at the end of the school year.
“We’re just trying to make it the best year possible,” Freed said. “We want to end with a bang to show respect to everybody else that came before us.”
For Division-III Bamberg, wrestling against three of the top five team finishers in last year’s D-I championships provided a good mark of where the team stands, despite being heavily outnumbered by the larger schools.
“It’s a real test of how dedicated we are to the sport,” said Bamberg sophomore Braden Stillion, competing in the 170-pound class.
Ramstein and Wiesbaden topped the team scoreboard, with the Royals scoring 253 and the Warriors tallying 153.5. Heidelberg and Bamberg finished with 85 and 18 points, respectively.
Ramstein will host Bamberg and Wiesbaden next Saturday where they’ll face each other again along with Patch, Lakenheath and Alconbury. Heidelberg is slated to host Vilseck, Hohenfels, Ansbach and Black Forest Academy.