We all knew this was going to be a different season.
For starters, football season had been delayed which pushed our practice starting date until mid-December. Even then, we began with a staggered schedule, with freshmen and sophomores practicing on one day, and juniors and seniors on the other.
After two weeks of staggered practices, we traveled to Landmark for our first tournament. Surprisingly, even though we had not practiced much, we left with the first place trophy.
Christmas break began, and we were informed of positive contact at the Landmark tournament. Due to that, we took the entire break off, returning after the new year.
After a couple of practices, we encountered another round of quarantine which wiped two competitions from the schedule, including the area qualifier for duals (team). The following week, St. Francis was supposed to travel to MV for our senior night; they were under quarantine, so that match was canceled.
At that point, we were a week from area traditionals (individual), and I was cautiously optimistic about our chances of qualifying several Mustangs due to the focused practices we were having. The seniors Blake Kytle and Erik Dodder really stepped up and led the underclassmen well, showing them how to work hard in practice.
Area traditional was hosted by Holy Innocents, and MV entered six wrestlers: 138 lbs Gill Christian '21, 152 lbs Blake Kytle '21, 160 lbs Liam O'Toole '23, 170 lbs Tyler Long '22, 182 lbs Erik Dodder '21, and 285 lbs Michael Lotz '22. Ultimately, Liam, Erik and Michael all advanced, each placing within the top 3 in the Area.
Three days later, the state-qualifying Mustangs found themselves in Macon for an altered, mid-week state tournament.
O'Toole would win his first two matches before falling to the eventual state runner-up from ELCA. Dropping down into the conso round, O'Toole fell to the eventual fifth place medalist from George Walton Academy. One impressive detail about O'Toole's performance was that in his two losses to eventual medalists, he only lost each match by a two-point decision. He also wrestled up a weight class, being outweighed by ten pounds. The future is bright for the sophomore! Liam will see Macon again.
Lotz would advance with a first-round win before coming face to face with the eventual state champion. His loss dropped him into the conso rounds, where he would win two matches before facing the eventual fourth-place medalist from Social Circle. Similar to O'Toole, Lotz only lost his elimination match by two points. Lotz will also see Macon again as he has one more shot a medal. The amount of growth Lotz has experienced since his freshman year is impressive!
Dodder would breeze his way to the finals, pinning his way to the finals. With four pins under his belt, two first period pins and two second period pins, his finals match was against his only loss this season from Wesleyan. It was a rematch. In a match finale almost out of a movie, Dodder would score in the final five seconds to win gold with a 3-4 decision.
I was watching the match, knowing fully that we were under ten seconds, and Erik needed some points from a big-time move. Never giving up, he managed to take his opponent down and even began scoring back points before time expired. If I were to guess when he scored (because I was not looking at the clock) I would guess that he scored his takedown in the last three seconds. It truly was a scene out of a movie! Erik's hard work paid off, and the state championship could not have gone to anyone more deserving.
On the backs of the three Mustangs' victories and medal, Mount Vernon would finish 18th of 61 GHSA 1A schools with a total team score of 46 points.
The Mount Vernon Athletic Department strives to build the student-athlete by providing a five-star experience built on community, courage, development, hospitality and professionalism. As a school of inquiry, innovation and impact grounded in Christian values, we prepare all students to be college-ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders. For more information on Mount Vernon athletics, visit www.mountvernonathletics.com and follow @MV_Athletics on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news on the Mustangs.