BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A string of three falls in a row and a dramatic pin by Chance Hocker at 170 lbs were enough to give the Bloodhound wrestlers a big come-from-behind conference win over Washington Thursday night.
Fort Madison was wrestling in their first home meet of the year, outside of the Invitational Tournament last month, sweeping Washington and Mid-Prairie Wellman 39-36 and 51-24 at the HoundDome. The win over Washington put the Hounds in the driver’s seat for the Southeast Conference title after the Hounds took down Mt. Pleasant back on Dec. 13 39-31.
Fort Madison held a 33-16 lead going into the final five matches. Junior Danen Settles started the rally for the Hounds in the heavyweight match against Washington’s Tristan Allender. With the Hounds down 12-6, Settles held a 2-0 advantage in the first period, but got an escape and a takedown in the second period and then scored a near fall to take a 13-0 lead. Settles, who was ranked as high as 7th in the state earlier in the season, was able to roll Allender on his back again at the edge of the circle for the pin at the 4:57 mark.
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Owen and Elton Kruse, wrestling at 106 lbs and 113 lbs scored back-to-back pins with Owen Kruse’s coming just 46 seconds into the match with the Demon’s Caden Evans. Elton Kruse needed a bit more time, but scored a fall after leading 4-0 with 23 second left in the second period, over Matt Collett. The two pins gave Fort Madison a 24-12 lead.
Senior Dayne Cordray couldn’t get anything going against Walker Ikerd at 120 lbs losing a 14-0 major decision to allow Washington to close the gap to 24-16, but freshman Gavin Wiseman fought off the Demons’ Brandon Dickel at 126 lbs after trailing 3-4 at the end of the first period. Wiseman was able to get Dickel in the air in the second period and spun him to the ground where he worked a fall with 53 seconds left in the second period to give Fort Madison a 30-16 lead.
Will Larson would snap Washington’s Justin Simmering to the mat early in the first period at 132 lbs. and almost get a fall off the takedown, but Simmering would wiggle out of the hold. Neither wrestler would score another point the rest of the way through the three periods and Larson would hold on for the decision 5-0 for a 33-16 Hound lead.
Washington would then score four straight wins over the Hounds to take the lead at 33-36. Garrett Walker would score a technical fall over the Hounds’ Nathan Steffensmeier 16-1 at 138 lbs and Dalton Woolever, couldn’t catch Dillan Sanders in the third period losing just 3-1 at 145 lbs. Sanders would score an escape with 1:03 left in the second period for the 3-1 lead and Woolever couldn’t get control of the match in the third period.
Both Jakob McGowan and Keaton Poe lost by pins to set up the final match between Hocker and Washington’s Keaton Murphy.
Despite needing only three points, Hocker rushed Murphy off the whistle and scored a quick take down just :11 seconds into the match. Hocker worked Murphy in the corner of the mat in front of Head Coach Ryan Smith and scored a near fall with :57 left in the first period and then got the pin just six seconds later and was mobbed by teammates after the handshake.
Hocker said he sensed he could get the win at the outset
“Probably from when we shook hands,” Hocker said. “But I was going for the pin.”
Smith said it was nice to have an underclassman experience a big win at home.
“That’s a great example of a kid that has a lot of highlight moments in his career. He’s only a sophomore and he’s better than he gives himself credit for, but it’s nice when he gets the opportunity to be the hero and get the job done,” Smith said.
Smith also pointed to the wins by Elton and Owen Kruse, and freshman Gavin Wiseman as turning points in the match.
“Elton against Washington that was a big win, That was solid opponent and for him to not just get a win, but a pin, is huge. That was probably one of the key wins. Him and Gavin Wiseman both had big pins tonight.”
The win gives the Hounds victories over Mt. Pleasant and Washington, with Fairfield coming up on Thursday on the road and Keokuk the following Thursday at home to wrap up conference action.
“Washington’s held the conference title for a few years now, so it’s been on our checklist to get it back where it belongs,” Smith said.
The Demons’ Tristan Westphal-Edwards scored a pin over Fort Madison’s Diego Lozano to start the match. The pin was Westphal-Edwards 150th career win.
In the night cap, the Hounds won five matches by forfeit over Mid-Prairie. Danen Settles and Wiseman each had pins for Fort Madison. Woolever, McGowan and Lozano each scored decisions for the Bloodhounds.