February 11, 2024 at 8:46 p.m.
JCHS wrestling

Understated champion

Wood repeats as he and Rowles earn state berths
Tony Wood of Jay County High School wraps up Angola's Dallas Davidson during their opening-round match in the 138-pound bracket Saturday during the semi-state meet at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne. Wood ran his record to 44-0 on the way to repeating as the semi-state champion. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
Tony Wood of Jay County High School wraps up Angola's Dallas Davidson during their opening-round match in the 138-pound bracket Saturday during the semi-state meet at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne. Wood ran his record to 44-0 on the way to repeating as the semi-state champion. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)

FORT WAYNE — Tony Wood didn’t yell.

He didn’t flex. 

He didn’t point.

With his tongue hanging out, he simply held two fingers in the air.

It was an understated celebration for another dominant day.

Wood, a Jay County High School senior, repeated as the 138-pound semi-state wrestling champion Saturday at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum as he and classmate Cody Rowles qualified for the state finals.

Moments after he received his semi-state championship medal, Wood was already thinking about his state opportunity.

"I'm just ready to compete,” said Wood, now a four-time state qualifier who finished seventh in Indianapolis last season. “It’s really good to win semi-state. It’s fun. It’s nice to be recognized.

“But I’m really looking forward to next week. Ready to compete, that’s for sure.”

Rowles became a three-time state qualifier as he took second place at 126 pounds. He and Wood will compete in the opening round of the state finals at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Ford Center in Evansville. First-round winners guarantee themselves state medals and return to wrestle out for the top eight places beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Together the pair of senior state qualifiers scored 44 of the Patriots’ 50 points as the team finished sixth among the 62 competing at the semi-state.

Fifth-ranked Delta won the semi-state title with 115 points while No. 14 Bellmont (82.5) was second. New Haven (76), 19th-ranked Western (71.5) and Cowan (52) rounded out the top five. Snider and Garrett followed Jay County with 40 points apiece.

“We’re happy with our (sophomores and juniors) having the opportunity to get here and feel it out,” said JCHS coach Eric Myers, whose team had seven semi-state competitors. “And we’re ready for them to take the next step.

“I feel like our two seniors that were able to qualify set themselves up pretty well for next week.”

After pinning his way through the regional in less than four minutes a week earlier, the fourth-ranked Wood continued to run over opponents. He gave up just one point in four semi-state matches, and that came on a stalling call with 22 seconds left in his semifinal win over Cameron Dews (38-5) of Elkhart.

Dews gave Wood, now 44-0, his toughest match of the day, putting him in an awkward position in the second period. But the Patriot senior worked from being upside down with his face on the mat to taking down Dews for a 5-0 lead en route to his 5-1 victory.

After a scoreless opening period in the championship match against No. 12 Linkin Carter (45-3) of Eastside, Wood walked a half nelson into a two-point near fall late in the second. He got an escape to start the third and then used a single-leg takedown to seal his 5-0 victory and semi-state repeat.

“I knew I just had to keep going forward on my feet. I knew I wasn’t going to give up any scores,” said Wood, who notched first-period pins of Dallas Davidson (37-7) of Angola in the opening round and Andrew Mirelez (25-5) of Heritage in the ticket round. “I didn’t even let him get to my leg, which is a nice goal. … I got some near-fall points at the end of the second, and after that point I knew I was in control.”

The 126-pound bracket came down to the same match-up it had each of the previous two weeks — No. 18 Rowles (31-10) against Union City’s Bradin Daniels (38-2). (Daniels won the sectional championship match between the former East Jay Middle School teammates while Rowles took the regional title.)

Rowles tried to finish off Daniels early Saturday, but the Union City junior was able to slip out of a headlock attempt. Daniels claimed the lead with a takedown at the 43-second mark of the first period and pushed the advantage to 6-1 with a reversal in the third. Rowles escaped quickly and scored a takedown of his own to pull within two points, only to have Daniels deliver a reversal again for an 8-4 final.

“Cody had a pretty darn good day,” said Myers. “We kinda regressed in our game plan in the finals, but he’s got to be pretty proud of his day. He kinda smoked through those first two rounds and then beat a returning state qualifier in the semis pretty handily. The Daniels kid was wrestling really well today and we just, just couldn’t quite get to where we needed to be.”

Rowles was strong on the way to the championship match, earning his third state berth when he pinned Tripp Haisley (24-5) of Madison-Grant in 2:58 after finishing off Boston Bass (21-16) of Prairie Heights in 49 seconds in the opening round. He beat 16th-ranked Drew Waldon (31-5) by a 12-5 decision in the semifinal.

Two other Patriots advanced to the ticket round, but both came up short of the state finals.

No. 20 Griffin Byrum (33-6), a junior, pinned Brayden Baas (28-10) of Prairie Heights in the opening round. He was tied with No. 7 Julianna O’Campo (36-2) at the end of the second period of their ticket-round match, but O’Campo worked from the bottom to get an escape 15 seconds into the third period and then hit a spin for a takedown late to beat Byrum 5-2.

Alan Ortiz (24-9), a sophomore, edged Caleb Evans (37-6) of Homestead 5-3 in the opening round to earn a ticket-round match against No. 18 Travis Henke (40-1) of Northridge. Ortiz scored first with an escape to start the second period but fell behind on a takedown late in the second. He was trailing 5-1 when Henke, who went on to win the semi-state, got a pin with one second left in the match.

“I felt like Griffin wrestled her really well,” said Myers. “You saw the next round she beat a returning state qualifier 7-1. Griff … that was a 3-2 match all the way until the end. … I think he’s got to be early proud of the season he’s had this year.”

“(Ortiz) just started really wrestling well at the end of the season,” the coach added. “I really attribute it a lot to (assistant coach) Gaven Hare. They work together quite a bit … They’re really starting to wrestle alike. … He’s wrestling the best that he has in his career at the end of the year and got to the ticket round. I felt like he was right there with a guy who (won the semi-state).”

Two Patriot seniors saw their careers come to an end with opening-round losses. Bryce Wenk dropped a 4-3 decision at 190 pounds to NorthWood’s Keith Miller (25-9) to finish his season with a 36-4 record. Juaquin Flores (27-12) lost by pin in 2 minutes, 37 seconds, to Maconaquah’s 17th-ranked Ethan Farnell (38-3) at 175.

Junior Jacob Robinson (29-11) also dropped out of the semi-state in the opening round of the 150-pound bracket, falling 7-4 to Huntington North’s Luke Teusch (38-2).

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