Calling it the Holiday Homecoming, the Truckers invited past Trucker greats to witness the team compete in a tri-meet with huron and St. Paul. Before the final match of the evening, a large group of alumni were announced and honored one by one.
“It was great to see all of them again,” Norwalk coach Jim Linder said. “It was a true honor to have all of them back. We are lucky to have 17 of them show up and we are going to plan to keep this going and hopefully make this a nice tradition and keep building that number.”
During the meet, both St. Paul and Norwalk received a bit of a warmup taking on Huron as St. Paul beat the Tigers 52-18 to kick off the meet and Norwalk dominated Huron 56-23.
For St. Paul, Lars Livengood kicked things off with a quick pin in 17 seconds in the 113 division with Owen Starcher following that up with a pin in the 138 class. John Dowdell added a pin against Huron in 3-38 and Davis Hedrick collected a pin in the 220 division.
The Truckers kicked things off against Huron with a Caleb Edney pin with 1:07 showing in the first period of the 113 class and Ethan Rhineberger collected a pin with 45 seconds showing on the clock in the first period of the 160 class. Gabe Phillips also added a pin with 24 seconds showing in the first period of the 170 division and Rashod Raymore added a pin in the 220 division.
With both teams warmed up, it was time for the inner-city showdown.
Williamson and Eric Crabbs kicked things off in the 120 weight class as Crabbs came away with the pin late in the third. It was the first of three pins for the Flyers in the final match. Sam Meyer pinned Aiden Smith in 145 and Dowdell pinned Rhineberger in the 160 division late in the third. That match was the turning point in a thrilling match between the Flyers and Truckers.
Trailing 15-1, Dowdell seemed to be counted out.
You could see on the bench that people were looking towards the next match already,” St. Paul coach Casey Harrington said. “But the coaches still were all over John because he has that ability. He told me at the beginning of the year, “Coach, I may not win that many, but I will never ever give up,” and that is for sure. He has proven that over and over.”
Dowdell chipped away at the Rhineberger lead making it a respectable 15-10 late in the third. Dowdell then found an opening and took advantage pinning Rhineberger making the St. Paul bench go crazy.
“One, I am super excited,” Harrington said. “John Dowdell never gives up and he did something very similar to that earlier this season, but that was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Last week, at Waterloo, he was down 10 and did the same thing. If he gave up, we lose this match. John Dowdell saves the day.”
With a Derek Gross 8-6 win over Ethan Hernandez in the 152 class, the Flyers seemed in control of the match. But the Truckers refused to go quietly. Gabe Phillips started the comeback with a pin over Cam Caizzo in the 170 division and Alec Maloney pinned Max Honigford with 41 seconds remaining in the first period of the 182 match. Raymore then collected his second pin of the night over Hedrick in the 220 division providing the Truckers with a solid night in his first season back after taking a year off.
“We missed him last year when he took a year off for football,” Linder said. “He is still playing a little catch-up. He was an award-winner as a freshman and then he concentrated on football, but we are thrilled to have him back. Every time out, he just keeps getting better and better. The sky really is the limit for that kid.”
Corbin Ott came out with a pin over Dawson Howerton in the 106 match giving the Truckers a 3-point lead and leaving it up to Livengood and Edney to decide who which team would come out on top. Livengood collected the pin with 20 seconds left in the second period of the 113 match to give St. Paul the 39-36 win over Norwalk.
“It had unfortunately been a reoccurring thing for us to lose those close ones,” Linder said. “We lost to Sandusky by three points because we gave up six pins and we lose by three tonight because we have up I don’t even want to know how many pins. It is just part of wrestling. You have to be able to get off of your back and have the heart to fight off of your back. We gave up a 15-1 lead and got pinned. That was the entire turning point of the match. That was a 12-point swing off of one match. It is back to the drawing board and focusing on the fundamentals.”
Harrington admitted it was a team effort.
“We gave up some pins that maybe we shouldn’t have, but Norwalk is an extremely tough team who never gives up and Linder is a very good coach,” Harrington said. “We handled ourselves well tonight. It is early still and no body is peaking.
“Every body played their part. It was nuts and great for our program and I am very happy. We have some work to do still with foot, hand and head placement, but that is all coachable. I cannot coach giving up and my guys didn’t give up tonight.”