CADIZ — Stepping into the season, the Calloway County Laker wrestling team had a lack of leadership, a lack of seniors, and a lack of technique. But something that the Lakers did not lack was heart, and the technique and skill have been acquired through hard work. That showed last weekend when Calloway competed in the Region 1 tournament.
Five Laker athletes were entered into the varsity tournament and out of those five, three will be attending the state tournament this weekend.
“I was pleased with the way that we wrestled. We showed a lot of heart,” head coach Chris McWherter said. “We exceeded expectations.”
Entering the Trigg County gym, Calloway had four of their five wrestlers seeded. All four either matched our surpassed their seeding.
Junior Keaton Elliott was seeded second and placed second in the 132-pound weight class. Junior Ethan Futrell was seeded third and he took third at 145. Junior Nick Watters and sophomore Timarion (T) Bledsoe were each seeded sixth in the 160 and 170 classes, respectively. Bledsoe exceeded his ranking by placing fifth to qualify as an alternate while Watters was robbed of his alternate position and placed sixth.
Watters, a returning state qualifier, has been struggling with a back injury for the past four weeks. He has been limited in his practice time and was not feeling up to his full potential last Saturday.
But that did not change his will power. Watters laid everything he had out on those Wildcat mats and showcased the best performance of his wrestling career yet.
“I didn’t know what we were going to get, but he wrestled a really gutsy performance,” McWherter said. “I was really proud of the heart and the character that he showed.”
Watters proved just how much he has improved this season when he defeated his Henderson County opponent by five points. That was the same opponent that pinned Watters early on in the season.
Then, Watters took on an opponent from Paducah Tilghman. Once again, the competitor had been familiar to Watters. It was the same wrestler that Watters had beaten 1-0 at the Laker Invitational. This time, Watters dominated with a pinfall.
Later in the day, Watters dropped down into the consolation side of the bracket. There he was up against Ohio County for the alternate position.
“Nick did everything he needed to do to win that match,” McWherter said. “He turned the kid to his back thirty seconds into the first period. He had the kid on his back for a minute and a half and the official did not call a pin.”
Subsequently, Watters was turned to his back in the next period, and this time, the official did call the pin. Watters ended the day with a loss and in sixth place.
“It was one of the grittiest, guttiest performances that I have seen coaching here at Calloway,” McWherter said. “I’m kind of happy for Nick that he had that kind of performance, but then at the end of the day, I’m sad for him that he didn’t get what he earned. But, in the long run, he’ll be better because of it.”
Similar to Watters, Bledsoe also defeated opponents that had previously beaten him. The match that best proved the wrestling intelligence that Bledsoe has acquired was against Caldwell County. Early on in the season, Bledsoe lost against his Caldwell opponent because of penalty calls. This time, Bledsoe was the competitor who had the glory of having his arm raised for the stands to see. He won by nine points.
“He was never really in the match with us,” McWherter said. “T cleaned up all the penalties from earlier in the season.”
Then Bledsoe was up against Paducah Tilghman. In that match, the tables turned. He actually earned a penalty point in his favor when the Blue Tornado took a shot at his face.
“T showed a lot of composure and didn’t go back at the kid,” McWherter said. “He let his wrestling speak for the match and beat the kid by nine points. T placed fifth, and he’ll travel to state as an alternate.”
Patrick Powers attended the tournament with Calloway as a freshman. Powers went 2-1 on the day and acquired experience that he will be able to apply to his remaining three seasons.
The two other Calloway athletes, Elliott and Futrell, will be competing at the state tournament this weekend. Although the athletes aren’t satisfied with their performances, their seasons did not end.
Both Elliott and Futrell were aiming for first, but the competitiveness of Region 1 made a regional title difficult to achieve.
Elliott came in second to Gabe Adams, the returning state finalist and current first-ranked wrestler from Union County. Futrell came in third to the first- and second-ranked 145s in the state.
But Elliott and Futrell are ready to move on and take what they learned with them to the state tournament.
“I underestimated myself last Saturday and got nervous,” Futrell said. “Now that I know where I’m at and how I line up against my other opponents, I know that if I go out there and give a hundred percent and not back off, I can do well.”
Elliott and Futrell both have strong relationships with God and plan on taking Him with them to the tournament as well.
“We’re going to take God with us into the state tournament,” Futrell said. “We’re going to keep our bodies in shape and our minds strong. I’m going to go in there confident and just go all out and finish the season out strong.”
“There’s not much we need to talk about,” Elliott concluded. “We know what we need to do. We’ve done everything we can coming up to this point and now it’s just time to get our heads right and use this week to focus and go out this weekend, leave it all on the mat, and put it all in God’s hands.”