Ramstein breaks Stuttgart’s title hold on the mat
Stars and Stripes February 11, 2023
WIESBADEN, Germany – The Ramstein Royals weren’t nervous. They swear.
The team awards were the last to be handed out Saturday as the scores for the DODEA European Wrestling Championships were tallied following the final bout. To make matters worse, the Division III title winners (AFNORTH) and the Division II champions (Naples) were announced first.
So the Royals had to wait until the last minute to know whether they dethroned longtime defending champion Stuttgart. When the Panthers were announced in second place, any nerves were put to bed, as Ramstein had earned its first straight-up team crown since 2013 with a total of 301 points. Ramstein and Stuttgart tied for the team championship in 2020.
“We knew we would either get first or second, but in our hearts, we knew we worked hard enough for it,” senior 106-pound wrestler September Snyder said. “If we didn’t get it, fine, but we worked hard enough for it. We knew we had it.”
The Royals produced three individual champions in Cole Santos at 106 pounds, Jesus Olivares at 113 and Joshua Conway at 126; three runners-up in Snyder at 106, Colton Lucas at 190 and Evan Brooks at 215; three third-place finishers in Liam Horne at 120, Jayden Andrews at 132 and Isaac Martinez at 144; and three fourth-place finishers in Hayden Basham at 150, Lucas Hollenbeck at 157 and Alexander Belote at 285.
It led to defeating the Panthers by 39.5 points.
“I felt like everything had to click,” Ramstein coach Thomas Wright said. “We battled throughout the season with all sorts of different injuries with a lot of our wrestlers, and they were able to pull through in the end.
“We have a little mantra that we talk about before going into Europeans, where it takes 14 wrestlers to place in the top six or as close to that as possible. We had 14 wrestlers that wrestled really tough throughout the two-day tournament.”
Snyder pointed to team chemistry as the main reason the Royals were victorious.
“Everyone is the best friend of somebody else,” Snyder said. “We’re all like a family here, which is corny because everybody says that, but we actually are. We joke, we have fun, we have inside jokes with each other that I don’t think any other team has. We’re the most cohesive, tight-knit group of friends.”
Any championship final opponent is a difficult one. But it becomes more of a challenge when that opponent is your teammate.
Santos and Snyder faced that challenge on Saturday and Santos pulled away late in the one of the more exciting matches, 16-10.
“It was really hard,” Santos said. “It was really close.”
Santos led the match 10-4 in the third period when Snyder got out of the down position, produced a takedown and gained another three points to tie the match 10-10 with half a minute remaining.
Santos managed to escape for a point with 22 seconds remaining, produced a takedown of his own and then added another three points to clinch the win.
“I found an opening, and the moment I looked at that clock, my adrenaline just started pumping,” Santos said. “I was like the only way I can win this is if I get a pin. So, I just went for it.”
Olivares followed Santos’ victory with one of his own against Stuttgart’s Brayden Aperauch, winning with a pin at 3 minutes, 25 seconds.
The Ramstein wrestler jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Aperauch and never looked back. Olivares held his opponent in pin position for some time, but he said he wasn’t worried if he didn’t finish it then. He trusted his strategy.
“Shoot for his legs,” Olivares said. “(Aperauach) has long arms, so I tried to counter him with rolls and stuff when I was on top.”
It took Munro Davis some time to get the first point of the match, but once he did, the Wiesbaden wrestler took control and never looked back en route to a 9-0 victory over Vilseck’s Jude Cruz.
Davis pointed out the home-crowd advantage as giving him a boost in the bout.
“I feel like I was in control,” Davis said. “I did a good job of keeping him down, and he couldn’t build his base back up.”
Ramstein’s Conway looked to be on his way to a close but controlled victory over Stuttgart’s Aidan Morgan in the title match, leading by three with about a minute left.
Morgan, though, pulled off a takedown with 1:02 left and did everything to try and gain at least one point to force the extra period or two points to win the title.
In the end, Conway held on for a 3-2 win, giving the Royals their third individual championship on the day.
“I don’t know how I held on,” Conway said. “The hard work, my coaches, the conditioning, God … I guess it was just the right course of events for me.”
Wiesbaden’s Linx Lawless went up two points early in his match with Stuttgart’s Nicholas Ellinger before, with 52 seconds remaining in the first, he received a penalty and an unsportsmanlike call that tied the match up.
Lawless didn’t let that get to him, however, using a takedown in the second period to take the lead for good before winning the match 7-2.
“I was a little confused about the technicalities of those points, but I didn’t really notice them,” Lawless said. “I was like, ‘Whatever, I’ve been dominating this kid the whole match. What’s two points going to do?’
“After the match, I said to the coaches, ‘Sorry if it seemed like I was unsportsmanlike in any way. I sincerely wasn’t trying to be.’”
AFNORTH’s Deacon Smith had Wiesbaden’s Antonio Gutierrez on the ropes early in the championship bout, leading 5-0 after the first frame.
Gutierrez flipped the match in the second, putting Smith into a pin position before finishing the match at the 2:44 mark to clinch the individual crown.
“I didn’t want to hate myself in the morning,” Gutierrez said of the turnaround in the second period. “It feels amazing. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Stuttgart’s Zachary Call remembers watching his brother Robert win three DODEA European wrestling titles when he was younger.
Now, the younger Call can say he has one of his own. The Panther grappler completed an unbeaten season with a pin of Wiesbaden’s Jacob Lane at the 2:33 mark.
It was even sweeter for Zachary, as the wrestler who gave him the most trouble during the season was Lane. Call hadn’t pinned his Warrior rival before Saturday’s match.
“I came out there with everything I have,” Call said. “I knew I could beat him. That pin meant a lot to me.”
Heading into the third period tied, Naples’ Sam Pounds started in the down position against Stuttgart’s Josiah Doughty.
The Wildcat got up at the 1:42 mark and added a takedown with 59 seconds left to take a three-point lead during his 5-3 victory.
But it wasn’t smooth sailing from there. Doughty got up with 28 seconds to go and threw everything at Pounds, who held his ground to clinch the title.
“He’s a strong kid,” Pounds said of Doughty. “Me and my coaches talked a lot about it. Earlier in the day, I used some of my usual moves, so I tried to stay away from them. When I tried to shoot them, he defended them. My game plan was to control the center. Controlling the tie really paid off.”
Lakenheath’s Lucius Bowman became the first Lancer to place a Roman gladiator helmet on his head Saturday with his 14-6 win over Ramstein’s Nathan Rutlege.
The coaching staff told the Lancers if they won a European title, they could wear it, so the junior knelt to one knee after the match to accept the prize.
Early in the match, though, Bowman found himself down 5-2 and needing to turn things around. He did so with a reversal late in the first frame, and he took the lead for good with a takedown at the 1:20 mark in the second period to make it 6-5.
From there, Bowman was in control.
“I really showed what I can do,” Bowman said. “There’s a couple moves that I really didn’t try to hit. I need to work on that a little bit more, but I hit the moves I was confident with.”
This wasn’t Gavin Idleman’s first time in a championship match. The Lancer fought and won at 157 in 2022.
The Lakenheath senior followed that up with a championship victory at 165, defeating SHAPE’s Luigi Patalano, 6-4.
Idleman started the match with a four-point lead, but the Spartan wrestler didn’t go away easy. He pulled to within two points with 42 seconds left, but Idleman managed to hold off in the end.
“Last year with COVID, we only got to come to Euros,” Idleman said. “This year, I’ve seen all those kids three or four times.
“I had to make sure I could contain him on bottom. He’s really good on bottom. Really long, really tall, got to make sure you contain those long legs and get him.”
Brussels’ William Pierce said he lost sight of who he is and the tournament’s purpose on the first day – a carnival of loving the sport of wrestling.
He returned to basics on Saturday, winning against Hohenfels’ Joel Workman with a pin at the 1:15 mark. The individual title added to Pierce’s trophy collection, having played a key role in the Brigands’ Division III football championship in the fall.
Pierce also avenged a loss from earlier in the competition. Workman pinned the Brussels senior during third-round pool action.
“I knew I had a strong competitor,” Pierce said. “He got me yesterday, so I came out and wanted to make sure I got that first takedown on him and then go from there.”
Witt Hennig completed a dream 3-for-3 final round for Lakenheath when he defeated Ramstein’s Lucas with a pin at the 4:51 mark.
The pin had been coming, as Lucas had to survive an attempt late in the first period. Hennig also pushed for a pin in the second period, only to come up just short.
“It’s a dream come true,” Hennig said. “I grew up watching my brother wrestle here. It’s amazing to do what others couldn’t and to fight, to not give up.”
Vicenza’s Daniel Bagoudou decided against wrestling Ramstein’s Brooks in the final pool-play match, taking the forfeit loss on purpose.
The Cougar had seen enough of the Royal, who hadn’t lost a match this year and created pins at an alarmingly fast pace. No stranger to pins himself, Bagoudou didn’t want to give Brooks a chance to experience a bout against him before a final meeting.
The plan worked to perfection, as Bagoudou took it to Brooks early and jumped out to a big lead before getting the pin at 1:27. It was Bagoudou’s fifth pin of the tournament with an average pin time of 1:24.
“It was strategy,” Bagoudou said. “I watched his gameplay, and all that time, he just rushes people and tries to throw. I knew that he didn’t know how to wrestle against someone like me. So, I knew if I didn’t wrestle that match, in the championship he wouldn’t know what to do. He wouldn’t have time to gather his thoughts.”
Wiesbaden’s John Ruland called the home-court advantage a double-edged sword.
Sure, he could feel the energy from the Warrior faithful, but he also pointed out the pressure it adds. In a tight match against Naples’ Declan Newsome in the heavyweight title bout, though, that energy helped to spur him on to a 6-4 victory.
Ruland had a five-point lead in the third period before Newsome managed to get out from underneath and score a takedown himself with 1:06 left. Ruland took care of business after that, keeping Newsome from anything more while on the ground.
“I figured he was as smoked as I was, and I knew he couldn’t break down a base,” Ruland said. “So, I figured, do a good base.”