Ruble’s win saves the night, Braves best the Eagles 41-39

Staff Writer

COLUMBIA CITY — While many in Decatur have raved about the young wrestlers in the Bellmont wrestling room, it was two seniors Tuesday night who handed Bellmont fans one of the most memorable dual meet victories in the last decade, coming from ten points behind with two matches remaining for a momentum-building and season-opening 41-39 opening win.
With Columbia City transitioning into a brand new high school, the match was wrestled in one of the corporation’s older buildings. The small gymnasium could barely hold the crowd and as the lights began to turn off after a solid JV win for Bellmont, the atmosphere was set for a lightning-fast, yet epic showdown for two teams that had been opening their seasons against each other for 35 years.
In a dual that took just 31 minutes, it was an inconspicuous third-period escape by freshman Alec Mowery that ended up making all the difference. Wrestling returning State qualifier Jackson Pettigrew, Mowery scored a crucial third-period one-point escape in the final minute to hold the junior to a frustrating three team points. The significance of the win wasn’t all that evident until the victory was secured a half hour later.
The Eagles quickly countered to re-take the lead with a quick pin from Carter Wireman at 170, but coach Paul Gunsett made all the right moves in the next two weights to gain his team the perfect advantage. With the flip of the coin on his side, Gunsett sent out Dakota Roudebush against a Columbia City wrestler who was unable to actually compete. Hoping to pair up his injured wrestler with Bellmont’s stud junior, Caden Friedt, CC head coach Blane Culp instead gave up twelve points when Roudebush’s hand was raised without breaking a sweat and Friedt made quick work of a pretty decent Spencer Emenhiser all the way up at 195.
With the team score so tight, Gunsett did elect to wrestle his only two heavyweight, albeit inexperienced, options. Both Dalton Robinson and Leo Reese were first period fall victims, but both picked themselves up, shook hands, and went back to cheer on their teammates.
That turned the stage over to three more freshman at the lightweights. Ike Ruble was all over Allan Maggard from the start, working up a big lead before scoring the fall and Dominic Litchfield followed with a 15-0 drubbing of Austin Dunnuck.
Columbia City fought back with a solid win from Isaiah Litherland over a seemingly even-matched Carter Thomas but Litherland put Thomas to his back in a split-second just thirty seconds in and there was no escape for the freshman who was ready to clinch the victory by following his classmates and friends with a win in a third consecutive bout.
Every fan in attendance was clutching the 8.5” by 11” program, counting just how many bouts were left before the match was over. The math was fairly simple: with five bouts remaining and trailing by four points, the Braves were going to need pins from Kyle Lawson and Jon Ruble and a victory in one of the other three bouts.
Lawson did his job, running everything he could with his never-ending motor until he found a third-period fall against a fairly talented Ryan Sheets. It was Sheets who was taken down by Patrick Gunsett a year prior, only to come back and get the fall against the then Bellmont freshman.
Gunsett had his chance at revenge but was quickly flattened by Jarrett Forrester in seventeen seconds to give the Eagles a four-point lead with three bouts remaining.
Freshman Calvin Faurote suffered the same feat as Gunsett, succumbing to junior Hunter Maggard in the first period of his Bellmont debut and handing all the responsibility to two senior teammates.
With Jon Ruble’s matchup against Alton Mullinax, 4-17 a year ago in varsity action, a probable pin, the dual meet fell squarely on the shoulders of senior Mason Burkholder. Cutting hard to find his spot in the lineup under Ruble, the star Braves baseball player came into the dual meet having lost almost 20 pounds already this season. Few in the crowd knew just how hard Burkholder had worked to even get on the mat.
Even fewer would have blamed Burkholder for conceding after giving up the first two points to Kory Lude. After all, the Braves had started seven freshmen and a sophomore and other teammates had lost matches they wanted to win. Instead, Burkholder persevered. An escape turned into a point, which set up a takedown, which led to Lude on his back.
In the dark shadows on the edge of the mat of a dingy, old Whitley County gym, Burkholder wrote his name into the Bellmont book, holding his opponent in just the right light for official Greg Moe to slap the mat and call the fall. Just one second remained on the first-period clock and everyone in the cramped gym knew what was to happen next.
Jon Ruble needed just 68 seconds to pin down an outmatched Mullinax and to send the Bellmont crowd into a frenzy, both in-person and across the radio dials of all the listeners back home.
The win left every coach, wrestler, and fan smiling as they hugged and high-fived in the gym. Burkholder couldn’t stop smiling.
“I knew I wanted to just go out there and do the best I could for my team, but I knew that had to be a pin. I kept trying to fight that monkey roll and I finally felt him relax and I hit that corkscrew and it was just right there and that’s all I needed. It was incredible.”
Asked what went through his mind when he was taken down to open the match, Burkholder turned serious.
“All I though was ‘Oh, crap’ and then he threw the legs in and I knew that wasn’t good, but I fought it off.”
“Coach Gunsett told me one thing, ‘We need this, now go out and do it.”
The victory will play a huge part in the demeanor of this team going forward as they prepare for a brutal Cathedral Super Dual in ten days.
“We needed it,” said Burkholder. “To come out here against a team that we knew we beat, year after year, we knew we had to get some momentum going this season with as many young guys as we have on the team now.”
While many were quick to congratulate Burkholder and Ruble for their falls or to console the freshmen who had begun their careers with quick defeats, many started to realize just how big Alec Mowery was in this win, a freshman against a State qualifier.
“I feel disappointed that I lost,” said a humble Mowery, “but it will get better from here. It felt great to represent Bellmont as a varsity wrestler and to be a part of tonight.”
The Braves will not wrestle over the Thanksgiving break or next week, seeing action again at Cathedral on December 1st.