Champions are made in many different ways
Stars and Stripes February 11, 2024
WIESBADEN, Germany – Something was a bit different Saturday during the championship round of the DODEA European Wrestling Championships.
Maybe it was the fact that there were as many forfeits as defending champions able to reach their goal for a second time. Or it could have been that only one wrestler managed to put his opponent to the mat and end a match before time expired. Some might think it was the real lack of tension for the team battle as all three divisions pretty much were decided before the final matches.
Regardless, different is by no means is worse. And those who came away victorious didn’t seem to care about any of those things.
“I’m champion of an entire continent,” joked Ramstein’s Kydan Echard, who transferred in from Virginia for his senior campaign. He was one of five Royals to win titles, helping the team tally a tournament-high 317.5 points - 67 points more than rival Stuttgart.
A look at the finals of each weight class:
Frank Lozano shared several things with other champions Saturday. As a Royal, he shared that honor with four teammates. He was successful in his return to the sport after some time off. And he was making his first appearance at the event in his first year in Europe.
“I decided to give the sport one more go,” the senior transfer from El Paso, Texas, said. He ran cross country in the States and this fall at Ramstein.
What Lozano didn’t share with many peers Saturday was his match wasn’t that close. He defeated Kaiserslautern’s Jaden Calixto 9-0. It was oddly the first time the two had faced each other this season.
Vilseck freshman Jonathan Wissemann won’t be back to defend his title next year either as the family is moving to Pennsylvania. But Wissemann almost didn’t even reach his first finals. He suffered a defeat to Ramstein’s Liberty Snyder in pool action Friday.
“I was in a back room and I was crying and I realized that if I didn’t win my next match, I might not be in the finals,” he said. He used that for motivation and defeated Alconbury’s Edison Vega, tying the two atop the pool with 3-1 records. They met again in the finals and Vega gave Wissemann all he could handle. He cut into a 7-1 deficit with a reversal and near-fall at the beginning of the final period. Wissemann eventually earned a reversal to give himself some breathing room and he needed it as Vega’s reversal with 8 seconds left made the score 9-8.
Vicenza’s Mitchell Horrigan had seen Naples’ Joaquin Villescas before. And all three times he lost this season. But Horrigan used his cross country training to wear his opponent down en route to a 8-6 triumph.
“It feels awesome,” the junior said. “’Three times this year, he’s beaten me, whether by a little or a lot and it feels great to finally beat him, especially at the finals.”
Horrigan got off to a strong start, leading 6-0 after the first period. Villescas fought back to 6-4, took Horrigan down and let him escape twice, but couldn’t get the final takedown to tie it before time expired.
Fellow Cougar Diego Cerda also earned a narrow victory, topping Kaiserslautern’s Joshua Kim, 7-5.
Cerda finished second at the tournament his sophomore year but then wasn’t sure he’d return to the mat. He decided to give another try this season.
“I fell in love with the sport again,” he said.
He led 7-1 after a near fall early in the second period then weathered a furious rally by Kim at the end to triumph.
Wiesbaden’s Munro Davis was the first wrestler with a chance to defend his title from a year ago. And he ended up being the only one to succeed. In a rematch of a stirring pool-play contest that went into overtime, Davis defeated Stuttgart’s Aidan Morgan 9-3.
“My coach said that winning one state title is hard and winning another one would be even harder,” said Davis, the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. “I guess I agree.”
Ramstein’s Jayden Andrews stopped the Warriors’ goal of three straight champions by topping Elam Dunton 8-3.
Andrews broke a 2-2 tie in the second period with a takedown and extended his lead to 6-2 by opening the final period with a reversal.
“So many people have devoted so much of their time for this moment,” said the senior, who came in second and third at previous championships. “I love this sport. I wanted it to end with a win like this.”
Wiesbaden’s Jacob Lane faced a huge hurdle in defending champion Zachary Call of Stuttgart.
But Lane said Call – “a great dude” – was somewhat responsible for his own defeat. He beat Lane to get that title last year.
“After he beat me, I really gave myself over to the sport,” Lane said. “He pushed me to be a better wrestler.”
Lane went up 5-0 on an early takedown and near fall and Call never fully recovered. Still, the match was in doubt until Lane answered Call’s reversal in the final period with one of his own and held on for the 11-6 victory.
Echard hadn’t faced Naples’ Sam Pounds before. But he believed he had an advantage on the defending champion.
“I know he hasn’t worked as hard as me this year,” he said. “I just wanted it more.”
That might have shown in Pounds’ inability to get a tying reversal over the final 20 seconds as Echard refused to give up a leg and let him take control. That came after the two exchanged reversals earlier in the period as the match went back and forth.
Ramstein’s Isaac Martinez was awarded the title when Naples’ Kyson Fromm couldn’t take the mat following an injury he sustained in the semifinals.
That left the Royal with mixed feelings.
“I really wanted to wrestle,” he said. “But I guess I’ll take a win.”
Third at 144 last year, Martinez said he wants a shot to defend his title next year as a senior.
“First again,” he said of his next goal.
Lucas Hollenbeck may be the only one in the Wiesbaden Fitness Center who didn’t hear the large Royal contingent start chanting “Lucas, Lucas, Lucas” in a tight match with Lakenheath defending champion Lucius Bowman.
“Really?” he said when asked about what his coach Thomas Wright termed “crowd support.”
“That’s cool,” Hollenbeck said. “I never hear the crowd. I only hear the comments coming from my coach’s corner.”
Bowman led 6-4 at the end of the first period. Hollenbeck gained a point for a violation to start the third then scored a reversal with 19 seconds to take the lead and followed with a near fall, then held on, 10-8.
SHAPE senior Luigi Patalano was born in that hotbed for the sport, Venice, Italy.
“It’s not a very popular sport there,” Patalano said with a smile after a solid run through the championships, including a 11-0 victory over Lakenheath’s Elijah Hutton - avenging one of two losses he suffered during the year.
Patalano moved with his family when his father took a job at SHAPE. Faced with the COVID pandemic, he was turned away from local gyms while trying to take up a combat sport. After deciding to wrestle, he lost his sophomore season to the pandemic and finished second last year in his first full season on the mat.
Now he’d love to have a scholarship in the sport to attend a college in the States.
Stuttgart’s Jack Gruver was third a year ago thanks to a disqualification in the semifinals that he still doesn’t agree with.
“I hate losing,” said the senior, a key member of the school’s title-winning football team and an aspiring champion in the throwing events in track.
Gruver was more than familiar with his finals foe, Ramstein’s Matthew Rutlege. He’s beaten him four times this season. But the Royal, perhaps inspired by the vocal Ramstein support in the stands, found himself in a 9-9 tie at the end of two periods.
It was almost all Gruver after that, though, with a series of takedowns and escapes that ended up in a 17-11 decision.
SHAPE’s William Bush may decide to attend school in the States on a baseball scholarship if he isn’t accepted into the Air Force Academy. So he doesn’t think he’ll be wrestling beyond high school next year.
But he earned the only pin in the finals by taking down Stuttgart’s Connor Hutchinson in 50 seconds. Bush said he had talked to other wrestlers to find out Hutchinson’s tendencies and guessed correctly on what he would try and then responded with his own shot.
“I went too quick” in his only loss earlier in the season, Bush said. “So I had to be patient.”
Eli Hulet’s goal is to play football somewhere next year. At 6 feet, 2 inches and hovering around 300 pounds before he loses weight to wrestle weekly in Europe, the fact that Spangdahlem plays six-man football in the fall didn’t help him out. That version of the sport generally relies on smaller, quicker players.
But Hulet said he first encountered AFNORTH’s Nathan Frederickson – his opponent in the finals Saturday – opposite him in the few plays the schools did run involving bigger players.
“That’s where I got to know him a bit,” he said.
As for wrestling, “I beat him twice before, but just on points,” he said after a 6-1 victory in Saturday’s final. “We’ve had some good matches.”