Performing to expectations, many Hillsboro High School wrestlers made key fundamental errors in their first matches Thursday against Minneapolis, coach Scott O’Hare said.
“They let elbows float away from their bodies,” O’Hare said. “They let people pull around (for reverses).”
The glaring exception was senior Tanner Jones. Jones wrestled a nearly mistake-free match against Garrett Lott of Minneapolis in the 170-pound class. He scored the first points of the match spinning his opponent to the mat, his grip fixed on Lott’s right leg. With Lott trying to escape later in the first round, Jones scored again with a step through takedown.
In the third round, Jones scored a reverse from the bottom position. He said he was being cross-faced, but he was able to duck under Lott’s grip and spin behind the Minneapolis grappler for the cleanly executed switch move. Jones said switches have been a point of emphasis in practice. Jones held on to win the match, 6-1.
Jones only mistake was allowing Lott to escape from down position in the second round. He conceded that his opponent was strong enough to fight to his feet and break Jones wrists across his abdomen. He was also disappointed he did not do more; he did not attack as much as he wanted.
O’Hare countered that Jones did not beat himself against a quality opponent. Jones and Lott wrestled the previous two seasons; both contests, although wins for Jones, were much closer than the outcome on Thursday.
The three-year improvement against Lott mirrors Jones’ progress as a wrestler. Jones struggled his sophomore season, only showing signs of his considerable skill at the regional tournament that year in Beloit. He qualified for state in his junior season. Now his goal is to place at state, either at 170 or 160 pounds.
The two wrestlers for Hillsboro in closest weight proximity to Jones are Junior Preston Nelson at 152 pounds and sophomore Jesse Meier at 160 pounds. Each could improve as markedly as Jones.
“If they stick with it, work hard, they’re going to get better,” O’Hare said.
Nelson scored an escape at the end of the second round of his match against Jacob Griffith of Minneapolis, 5-3. In attempt to try to set up a shot at Griffith’s leg, Nelson left a shoulder exposed and allowed Griffith to counter his attack into a takedown. The Minneapolis junior went on to win the match, 7-3.
Jones looks for Nelson to improve his confidence in his wrestling repertoire. He said Nelson was a little hesitant in his match. Both Jones and Nelson know the only way this will improve is through repetition in practice. Nelson’s response after the match was to ask Jones to push him harder in practice, a request Jones will be happy to grant.
Jones had similar advice in Jesse Meier — not to back down from any opponent. Meier was the only Trojan to wrestle twice on Thursday. He drew matches against two battle-hardened seniors. Justin Klein of Minneapolis is state ranked at 160 pounds and Alex Thibault of Halstead was state runner-up last season.
Meier engaged in an early stalemate with Klein, each wrestler gripped to the opposite leg. However, Meier was nearly pinned and was saved by the first round bell. Klein scored a reverse takedown from the down position to go up 8-0 after two rounds. After nearly escaping one pin attempt, Meier was pinned in the third round.
Against Thibault, Meier again was aggressive, shooting to start the match, only to be muscled to the mat by the more experienced wrestler. Meier was nearly pinned in the first round when Thibault drove Meier’s left arm parallel to the mat, trying to guide Meier’s back against the plastic. Meier scored an escape in the second round, granted by Thibault who preferred to battle standing. Meier tried two shots in the third that were both countered with massive strength by the Halstead wrestler. The first attempt was a near pin; the second ended the match with a fall.
The fact that Meier went to three rounds with both opponents and that his response after the Thibault match was “I knew I could hang with him” were positive signs for O’Hare. O’Hare said Meier has the foundation of hard work and he now needs to decide what kind of wrestler he wants to become. He praised Meier’s intelligence and quickness, both of which could be advantages with a counterattacking style.
“I want to get him to a place where it becomes more natural,” O’Hare said.
The only other Hillsboro wrestler to get a match victory — several Trojans were awarded open victories because Halstead only has 10 wrestlers — was Tyrell Thiessen at 285 pounds. Thiessen defeated Tanner Gremmel of Minneapolis by pin in the first round.
“Tyrell took care of business,” O’Hare said.
Freshman Zach Ghahremanzadeh was pinned by Colby Berry of Minneapolis in the 182-pound class.
Freshman Levi Mendoza was pinned by Quintin Clark of Minneapolis in the 195-pound class.
Senior Cody Delk lost a three-round contest to fellow senior Nic Johnson of Halstead in the 145-pound class.
“We only matched up with two guys and we matched up with their best two wrestlers,” O’Hare said of the dual against Halstead.
Even with a flurry of open points, the Trojans lost to Halstead, 39-30. Hillsboro lost to Minneapolis, 57-15.
“I was disappointed we didn’t get more matches,” O’Hare said.
The Trojans will compete in the Hesston Invitational Tournament on Saturday.