“It shows where our guys are at,” Liberty coach Dustin Brewer said. “We were preaching to the guys, ‘Hey, we are missing a few guys. Everyone needs to step up.’ Everyone stepped up and I am really proud of them for that.”
The Blue Jays were missing Cooper Rider (113, ranked No. 4), Christopher Coates (120, No. 2) and Easton Hilton (126, No. 1) and still looked like an unstoppable force.
Hunter Taylor (106) started things off with a quick takedown of Conner Gatlin and he hooked a half nelson and rolled his opponent over for a pin in 45 seconds.
“I used a front headlock, circled, got a double leg then got the power half,” said Taylor, who’s ranked No. 2. “I felt good. I could’ve done better. I am not always clean.”
Jude Axom (132) had four takedowns and a 3-point near fall to earn a 13-2 decision of Eli Van Trump. Kage Lenger (138) then showed why he’s ranked No. 1 in his weight class after he pinned Kaden Stephanek in 30 seconds. No. 6-ranked Jacob Quest, who normally wrestles at 138, sat out this match for Ray-Pec.
“I really didn’t know who I was going to wrestle, but it didn’t matter,” Lenger said. “It was a big night. I was Senior Night. I got a win in my last home dual. That’s all you can ask for.”
No. 2-ranked Kyle Dutton (145) earned several takedowns and near falls to cruise to a 21-6 tech fall victory against Gavin Birkett. Logan Rathjen (152), ranked No. 3, then faced off against No. 5-ranked Kanen Huff, which was the marquee match of the night.
Huff and Rathjen wrestled to a stalemate in the first period, with both wrestlers coming close to getting a takedown. The Liberty junior then worked an escape and got a takedown to go up 3-0. He ended up getting two more takedowns while Huff didn’t get any in a 7-2 decision.
“I haven’t wrestled him since freshman year,” Rathjen said. “I really didn’t know what to come out with. In the first 30 seconds, I figured out what leg he liked to lead with and I took advantage of that. He was in a three-point stance, so I had to get him off balance. I just used my stamina to wear him down.”
Jeremiah Halter (160) controlled his match from start to finish, defeating Patrick Martin 13-5. Hunter Biesemeyer (170) won the most competitive match of the evening. After falling behind 3-0 against Jaylen Nevins, he got a pair of takedowns and allowed an escape to tie the match at 4-all. Biesemeyer then got an escape in the third period and a takedown and hung on for a 7-5 decision.
“We actually bumped him up to 170,” Brewer said of Biesemeyer. “He had been wrestling 160. He wrestled well and kept really good pressure (on his opponent).”
The 182-pound weight class was open on both sides because Wentric Williams III, ranked No. 1 at 182, bumped up to 195 to face Jacob Edmonsond. Even with the jump in weight class, he had little trouble winning. He jumped out to a 10-2 lead before hooking a cradle and getting the pin in 2:22.
“I knew I had to wrestle up because we didn’t want to have too many opens,” Williams said. “We didn’t want to let them get as many points as they could get. I went out there and worked my moves and got a pin.”
No. 5-ranked Jack Horn (220) made short work of his opponent. He got a front headlock on David Ayers and rolled him onto his back for a pin in 27 seconds. And No.1-ranked Jeremiah Cabuyaban (285), who wrestled junior varsity and varsity last season, is now a full-time varsity wrestler.
He showed how big of a leap he made from the 2019-20 season, pinning Brendon Meyerkorth in 1:33.
“After wrestling the last two years at junior varsity, I am trying to make a name for myself,” Cubuyaban said. “I am silently moving my way through the year and trying to make a state run.”
And so are the Blue Jays as a team. The obvious goal is to repeat as state champions after winning the Class 4 title last season.
“It’s been a crazy year. We are trying to stay as healthy as we can,” Brewer said. “We got a few guys out right now. We just have to stay diligent on working hard and staying as healthy as we can. But yes, the goal is to win a state title.”
Ray-Pec got three forfeit wins from Bryce Gatlin (113), Isaac Scott (120) and Remington Adams (126).