January 30, 2014
Purple Tigers handle rival Homer
CHS rides momentum to 51-18 victory
Dakoatah Miller had things right where he wanted them Wednesday night.
Wrestling at 195 pounds for the Cortland High wrestling team, freshman Miller had been taken down in the first 15 seconds of his match with sophomore Dylan Hotchkiss of visiting Homer Central and spent most of the opening two minutes on his back.
Avoiding the pin but down 5-0, Miller still trailed 6-2 when he got a takedown with 18 seconds left in the second and pinned Hotchkiss with three seconds remaining. That gave the Purple Tigers a 26-6 lead in the team scoring, and they went on to a 51-18 win at Shafer Gymnasium in Trojan coach Jeff Lewis’s last dual match with CHS and coach Dave Darrow.
“I was mainly fortunate, because most of my matches end up like that and have to fight so I’m used to it,” said Miller, now 17-10 with 13 pins after wrestling up from his usual 160 and 170 weight classes. “I’m not a big guy, but I can fight when I need to. I knew he’d be tired heading into the second and that it was time to do something.
“In my mind I should have pinned him in the first period, but I made a mistake. The entire team was psyched, and we knew we could win.”
“Dakoatah never gave up, and that’s the attitude of this team,” said Darrow, his team having finished its OHSL Freedom Division season at 4-2, good for third, and now 23-5 overall. “It’s always close when we go against Homer. We just got the momentum and wrestled well. Momentum is big in wrestling, like in football. When things are going well it’s hard for the other team to turn it back around.”
“I thought we wrestled flat,” Lewis said, his team winding up 2-4 and fifth in the Freedom Division and now 11-11 overall.
“I don’t know what we could have done. You rise to the occasion or you don’t, and we didn’t,” he added. “It was unfortunate for us that it ended that way, but sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces. Cortland’s kids wrestled tough and did a good job. They were better than we were tonight.”
THE MATCH STARTED at 138 pounds, and the hosts got two major decisions in the first two weight classes to grab a lead they never relinquished. Junior Drew Towers improved to 26-11 by beating Homer junior Zach Egan 8-0 at 145, while at 145 senior Alec Edwards outscored Connor Mitchell 12-4 and is now 18-16 on the season.
Homer got its first points at 152 as senior Matt Norris upped his perfect record to 34-0 with an 8-3 decision over CHS junior Grant Tinker, icing the verdict with a takedown 25 seconds before the third-period buzzer. Cortland senior Mike Southwick ran his own gaudy record to 34-2 with his 22nd pin, in 3:23 over senior Eric Petrie ( now 31-5) at 160.
“It’s just something that happened,” Southwick said of Cortland’s fourth straight win over Homer. “Every year we’ve been better and wanted it more. We have a very smart coach, and a win like this, over our biggest rival, gets everyone’s spirits and confidence up.”
Trojans senior Dakota O’Gorman (15-9) got an escape and takedown late in his match with junior Chace Bentley and held on for a 6-5 decision. CHS freshman Reilly Brown then pinned sophomore Mark Currie in 3:43 at 182, improving to 8-4 with five pins and making it 20-6 for CHS.
Then came Miller’s pin and a 5-1 decision by Purple Tigers junior Nic Edmond (22-14) over sophomore Jeremiah Bush, followed by a pin in 5:47 by CHS senior Greg Brown (17-10 with nine pins) in 5:47 over freshman Reno Gaffney to make it 35-6 and clinch the match for the hosts.
AFTER CHS SOPHOMORE Mike Bay (29-7) and Homer sophomore Isaac Cline were awarded forfeits at 99 and 106, respectively, sophomore Cameron Cronk recorded the Trojans’ only pin — in 5:00 over freshman Dane George — to improve to 26-7 with 15 pins.
CHS sophomore Ian George ran his record to 17-13 with six pins with a 3:28 pinfall win over junior Collin Baker at 120 and sophomore Andrew Boyce (4-4) scored an 8-0 major decision over sophomore Jacob Cline at 126 to account for the final margin. Cortland declined a forfeit at 132, where there was no match.
“I was kind of surprised that Tinker did that well against Matt,” Lewis said. “That was a battle. Cortland’s guys have been watching us all year long — we hadn’t seen them at all — and knew what was going on.”
“We focus on every opponent as they come, and Homer is no different,” Darrow said. “This is a good win for us; we’re wrestling well and getting better every day.”
As for having faced a Lewis-led team for the last time, Darrow, who won 12 of their 16 head-to-head matches, said that “I wish Jeff all the luck in the world. He’s a good coach and a good guy. He’s good with his kids, and you can tell he cares about them. That’s what counts the most. He’s a good role model and coach.”
“I have a lot of good memories,” Lewis said with a smile in talking about going up against Darrow and Cortland. “Everything was done in good faith, with some humor sometimes. It’s been a good rivalry, back and forth. They’ve had the upper hand, but we battled. They’re a little bit bigger school, with a little deeper talent pool.”
Cortland hosts Oneida Tuesday in a 5:30 p.m. start on Hall of Fame night, with John Kaminski, the state runner-up at 177 pounds in 1975, this year’s inductee. The Purple Tigers and Trojans will then both compete at the Section 3 Class B Tournament at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill on Feb. 8 starting at 10 a.m.
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