Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vikings Show Up Tougher Than Rock Bridge Favorites

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vikings Show Up Tougher Than Rock Bridge Favorites

Article excerpt

The wrestling program at Francis Howell High is steeped in tradition. So when the Vikings won the Columbia Rock Bridge Tournament of Champions Saturday, it was big deal.

The last time Howell won at Rock Bridge was in 1985.

"It's always one of the better tournaments in the state," Howell coach Jud Hoffman said. "This year, all the talk before the tournament was about a city championship, a showdown between Jefferson City and Jefferson City Helias. But I guess they forgot about us.

"We feel like we have a pretty solid team here and I think all the talk about Jeff City and Helias gave our guys a little added incentive. It was like, `Hey, what about us?' "

The Vikings certainly made their point, scoring 235 1/2 points to edge out Jeff City (233) and Helias (224 1/2). Wentzville was fourth with 175 points.

For its winning effort, Howell is the St. Charles Post Team of the Week.

"We definitely earned everything we got this weekend," said Hoffman, whose team lost duals to both Jeff City and Helias in the Helias Tournament earlier this season. "The competition was very good and it was back and forth between us and Jeff City all weekend. But in the end, we managed to pull it out."

The Vikings were led at Rock Bridge by four champions and a pair of runners-up.

Ben Garner paced Howell, winning at 103 to capture his third consecutive championship at Rock Bridge. He's just the seventh three-time champion in the event and will have a chance to be the tournament's first four-time winner next year as a senior. Garner, a Howell tri-captain, was third at state as a freshman and fifth a year ago.

Other Howell champions Saturday were senior David Black at 112, junior tri-captain Alex Kyle at 119 and junior tri-captain Mike Bloss at 152. Kyle was sixth at state as a freshman and fourth last year; Bloss brought home a fourth-place state medal last spring.

"We have our three juniors as captains, but a number of other guys are stepping up and making major contributions," Hoffman said. "David Black, for example, is 13-0 and he's doing a super job. And it's not just a few guys, it's everybody.

"We're solid up and down the lineup and we're getting some great performances from a number of different guys this season."

The Howell runners-up were senior Nathan Hawes at 160 and senior Jeremiah Troutman at heavyweight. Other top finishers were senior Rob Sherman (third at 145), sophomore Zack Stephens (fourth at 140) and senior Jake Bradsher (fourth at 171).

"It definitely was a team effort," Hoffman said. "At 189, we moved up Mike Sander, a JV kid, from 160 and he ended up going 2-2. He finished 11th, which doesn't sound like much, but when you win the team title by 2 1/2 points, the points Mike earned for us become extremely important."

Hoffman credited his assistant coaches - Mark Malawey, Paul Ziegler, Dwight Downs and Chris Lantz - with helping to prepare the Vikings this season. …

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