It was baffling to Heights wrestling coach Mike Church. Why did his team — the defending City League champion — received so little respect before this season?
Despite returning eight of 12 state qualifiers, two of whom finished second, the Falcons were ranked seventh in the preseason 6A rankings. Among the area teams ranked ahead of them was Thursday night's foe, Northwest.
After rolling over the Grizzlies 41-23, Heights not only proved it's wasn't a one-year wonder, but took another step toward being a perennial power in the City League.
"Everybody was saying we weren't as good, but those kids that were .500 wrestlers last year are going to be contenders this year," Church said. "I'm proud of these kids tonight, because that's a tough Northwest team, despite what the score says."
Never miss a local story.
Even though it's only two weeks into the season, Thursday night's tussle had the feel of a late February dual. Tempers flaredon the mat, words were exchanged between coaches and officials, and each team was constantly maneuvering its lineup to find an edge.
"We haven't lost at home since 2007 and I couldn't see our kids losing a high intensity dual in this gym," Church said. "All those kids are battle-tested and knew what to expect from this kind of dual."
At times, Heights' performance seemed effortless. From the first match at 103 pounds, where the Falcons' Cameron Neal defeated Cody Dollman 12-1, Heights essentially dominated.
Daniel DeShazer — one of the two return state runners-up along with cousin Ulysses — took 43 seconds to pin Reggie Cooper.
After a Northwest pin from Antonio Terrell at 130, Heights won the next two matches and led 20-9 going into 145.
"For the guys who have been here before and are consistent, we were the ones that had to keep them on their back when we got them there," DeShazer said. "We had to get the six points for the team."
At 145, Trey Schrimscher stepped onto the mat against Robert Stevenson and didn't necessarily need a fall, but if he did pin Stevenson, it would put the Grizzlies in a hole they would have a difficult time getting out of.
It took a little over a minute, but Schrimscher took down Stevenson and the Falcons had a near insurmountable 26-9 lead.
"He tried to go low on me," Schrimscher said. "But I came out with my head high and I did what I had to do."
Heights led by as many as 29 after 189 before a pin by Kyle Caylor and a technical fall by Trey Page cut into the Falcons' lead at the end of the dual.
"We got beat by a better team tonight," Northwest coach Eric Prichard said. "But we still have a good team and we'll be right there by the end of February."
103—Neal, H, dec. Dollman, NW, 12-1; 112— Lindlar, NW, dec. Waller, H, 8-3; 119— Newton, H, dec. Stone, NW, 10-3; 125— D. DeShazer, H, pinned Cooper, NW, 1st :43; 130— Terrell, NW, pinned Nelson, H, 2nd 1:14; 135— Ashpole, H, dec. Lindlar, NW, 8-2; 140— U. DeShazer, H, dec. Witcher, NW, 12-5; 145— Schrimscher, H, pinned Stevenson, NW, 1st 1:09; 152— Gaither, NW, dec. Henderson, H, 4-1; 160— Jameson, H, pinned Washington, NW, 2nd 1:45; 171— Reed, H, dec. Kendall, NW, 11-6; 189— Duckens, H, pinned Terrell, NW 1st DQ; 215— Caylor, NW, pinned Reynolds, H, 1st :57; 285— Page dec. Balbuena, H, technical Fall.