215 is a tough weight class north of the Alps
Stars and Stripes January 14, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE – It’s hard to imagine why Ramstein’s Evan Brooks ever would be afraid heading into a wrestling tournament, especially after starting the season 7-0.
Yet such was the strength of the 215-pound weight class at the Royal Rumble tournament at Ramstein High School on Saturday that the senior grappler wasn’t his usual confident self at the start of the day.
“I was actually terrified because I had never wrestled many of these people before and they all had really good winning streaks,” Brooks said. “I was like, ‘Oh God, I’ve never had to wrestle as many 215s before.’ ”
Well, Brooks managed another first-place finish in that weight class on Saturday, winning all three matches by fall.
Still, he had plenty of reasons for concern. Seven schools – Ramstein, Stuttgart, SHAPE, Wiesbaden, Vilseck, Kaiserslautern and Hohenfels – traveled to Ramstein for the meet, and the four best in the weight class – Brooks, Vilseck’s Isaac Lane, Stuttgart’s Hayden Kniss and SHAPE’s Panagiotis Kostoulas – had a combined pre-meet record of 23-3.
Those four advanced to the semifinal round and finished in the top four places, with Lane taking second, Kniss third and Kostoulas in fourth.
“It’s a tough weight class,” Kniss said. “Being able to compete in a weight class like this with all these big, strong guys, it’s something special.”
The competition could prove to be a precursor for the postseason, whether that’s the sectional tournaments on Feb. 4 at either Ramstein or SHAPE or the European championships on Feb. 10-11 in Wiesbaden.
Lane, who pushed Brooks the furthest on Saturday and managed to score a pair of early points against the senior before things turned, said it was a good learning experience. He pointed out needing to get more creative on the mats and working on his cardio as two key things he picked up from squaring off against the tougher competition.
“Our coach, he’s doing his best to teach us a lot of stuff, but he can’t teach us everything,” said Lane, who’s season record now sits at 7-2. “So, being exposed to a bunch of wrestling styles and how to counter them, it gives us the opportunity to learn some more.”
Kniss, who entered the meet with a 4-1 record, was pinned by Brooks in the semifinals. The junior bounced back to win his two consolation matches, including the third-place match victory over Kostoulas.
The Panther grappler has made the switch from the heavyweight division to 215 this year, and he admitted he believed it would be easier to wrestle against those his own weight. As Saturday showed him, that has not been the case.
“What I’ve noticed is dudes are a lot stronger in 215,” Kniss said. “I get more competition down here, and I’m glad I’m starting to get the competition I need than just trying to win matches.”
One thing Kniss emphasized was bouncing back after losses, a lesson SHAPE coach Brenan Cole said he hopes Kostoulas learns.
Kostoulas entered Saturday with a 7-1 record and finished at 9-3. While being a quick learner, Cole said the junior Spartan must learn to slow down and take losses in strides, especially at this point in the season.
“At the beginning of the year, he was just winning, winning, winning, and thought that you can just constantly do that,” Cole said. “So, when it comes to these tournaments and some losses, he needs to remember that those losses are also learning opportunities.”
As for Brooks, doubts won’t creep in again when he sees such stiff competition.
He said he must add new layers to his repertoire, as his opponents now know his moves, but the wins also boosted his confidence in big matches.
“I know what I’m facing now,” Brooks said. “I’m not worried anymore.”