Stuttgart's mat dynasty might not be over just yet
The Stuttgart Panthers don’t have any current DODEA-Europe wrestling champions on their roster. But they almost certainly have some future champions.
The six-time reigning Division I dynasty demonstrated its continued viability as a title-caliber outfit Saturday, outpacing persistent top rival Ramstein along with fellow divisional opponents Vilseck and Kaiserslautern in a six-team season-opening home meet.
Panther wrestlers took first place in seven of the event’s 13 weight classes, and six more of the program’s entries took second.
“Our coaching staff was very happy with how our team performed,” Stuttgart coach Norm Matzke said. “We have been working hard in the practice room since the start of the season and it paid off with a win on Saturday.”
The Panthers got first-place finishes from the team’s established leaders. McKinley Fielding, the two-time European runner-up looking to become DODEA-Europe’s first female solo wrestling champion, won at 106 pounds. And two fellow returning top finishers, 132-pounder David Segalla and 160-pounder Christian Just, seized control of their respective brackets.
But Matzke was encouraged by the early returns on the team’s newcomers, who will be counted on to produce their pair of points at February’s European tournament if the Panthers are to extend their reign.
Freshman Brogan Fielding, the latest member of the family’s Panther grappling dynasty, claimed first at 120 pounds. And first-year wrestlers Adrian Lurvey and Jimelvin Rodriguez made strong second-place debuts at 126 and 182 pounds, respectively.
Connor Swaim, Jack Engelke and Noah Carges also claimed weight-class wins for Stuttgart.
As encouraging as Saturday’s performance was, Matzke and the Panthers know better than to read too much into December results. That was particularly true on Saturday as a number of wrestlers across the teams’ rosters were unavailable due to SAT testing and other academic priorities. But a victory, particularly for this year’s relatively unproven group of Panthers, has its rewards.
“Winning a tournament always serves to keep the kids motivated and help them believe... what we are doing in the practice room will actually pay off when it comes to competition,” Matzke said.
The Panthers tangle with the Royals again on Saturday, this time on Ramstein turf, in a seven-team meet that is the last regular-season action of the calendar year. The schedule resumes Jan. 11.