SENECA — It's not exactly David vs. Goliath when the Class 2A Ottawa High School wrestling team takes on a smaller but solid 1A program like Seneca's, but you can be sure that Irish coach Todd Yegge, while proud of his boys, wishes he had a few more rocks in his bag with which to fight.
The Pirates, with several returnees from last year's team dual sectional finalists, were dominant here in the Irish gym on Wednesday night, taking 10 of the 14 matches — including a clash between returning state qualifiers, Ottawa's Luke Fleming and Seneca's Ben Virgo, at 113 pounds — to register a 58-16 victory.
"Seneca is such a good small-school program ... and we know them fairly well. We didn't underestimate them, and they gave us some very nice matches," said OHS coach Pete Marx. "I thought a lot of the kids wrestled very well today. For example, Day'Quan Hughes wrestled very well against Jackson (Beene at 145), who is a very good wrestler we saw all summer long and who I wouldn't be surprised to see him place at Class A state this year. Day'Quan was frustrated and it didn't go how he wanted it, but he battled and put out a pretty good effort.
"That's what we preach to the kids all the time, about pride, about heart and win or lose, to put out that kind of effort and that's what wee saw all around tonight."
The match between the two now-sophomores Fleming and Virgo went Ottawa's way from the start, with Fleming taking a commanding lead before registering a pin 36 seconds into the second period.
Ottawa's biggest name, two-time state medalist Ethan Harsted, didn't wrestle, taking a forfeit win at 132 pounds. However, the other returning Pirate medalist, Rafael Munoz, was in action and raced to a quick 4-1 lead over the Irish's Cody Carvell before pinning him at 1:21 in the 126 clash.
Also at the lower weights, Ottawa's Austin Howard was a winner by pin at 1:04 over Luke Sangston in the 106 class, while the Pirates' Bradley Ruger posted a pin of Zane Comrie at :50 at 138.
Also for OHS, Nick Stehl claimed a 13-1 decision at 152 over Seneca's Colt Aldrich, 170-pounder Patrick Walsh was a winner by pin at 1:52 over the Irish's Levi Clark, and Matt Snyder won by pin at 1:21 over the hosts' Gavin Robertson.
In the big-man classes, Ottawa's Bence Smith won by pin at 1:45 over Seneca's Nathan Elliott and at 285, Cameron Vernoy won by forfeit.
For the Irish, the highlights were fewer, but just as shiny. Mason Dooley, ordinarily the Irish's 170-pounder, went up two weight classes to wrestle at 195 against Ottawa's Tre Fritz and came away with a win via pin at 1:19 of their match.
At 160, Seneca's Michael Morse fell behind Ottawa's Thor Rick 4-1 in the first period, but battled back to tie the score at 5-5 with a reversal in the second period. While leading 6-5 in the third, he pinned Rick at just 49 seconds to go.
The other Irish points, aside from Brett Yegge's forfeit win at 120, came at 145 from Beene against OHS' Hughes. A takedown gave Beene a 2-0 lead heading to the second period and a near-fall with 3 seconds left making 8-0 heading to the third, but try as he might, he couldn't pin the battling Hughes.
"Jackson is one of our best wrestlers, a leader and he scores a lot of points for us," said coach Yegge, "but he had trouble getting a pin. The Ottawa kid (Hughes) wrestled hard.
"We wrestled hard ... but we have youth and obviously have to get a lot better, get more confident in our moves and start hitting them harder. I didn't think we did a very good job of fighting off our backs and we ended up on our backs way too often. but the kids gave it their best and I know we're going to get better. This is a tough test at the start of the year. Ottawa's a very well-coached program and they're good, ranked in 2A for good reason. This was a good measure of where we're at and we now know we have a ways to go."