Young Owls soar: Seymour grapplers earn tri-county crown

Seymour’s middle school wrestling has reclaimed the title.

For the first time in 13 years, the Owls are Tri-County Tournament Champions.

The Owls recently defeated Columbus Central, Columbus Northside and Jennings County in team competition for the crown.

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Over the past decade, Jennings County has given the Owls the most trouble.

Owls assistant coach Matthew Ruddick estimated the Owls hadn’t beaten Jennings county since 2003.

In the 2016-17 season, the Owls wouldn’t be denied against the Panthers.

The Owls bested the Panthers, 70-33, in their matchup.

“We’ve been back and forth with the other teams,” Owls coach Joe Penegar said. “Jennings has been the one we’ve needed to overcome through the past few years. I think beating Jennings County is what determined Tri-County.”

Against Northside, the Owls won 72-43. They also downed Central 66-54 in the closest contest of the three.

Seymour has 28 kids total in the wrestling program, with nine sixth-graders and 12 in the eighth grade. The seventh grade is down this year, with seven on the team.

Twenty two weight classes are filled during matches, and Seymour is forfeiting just four spots right now (one due to injury).

Penegar said that they’re hoping the middle school successes will translate to the high school Owls.

“It gives us a lot of hope,” Penegar said. “It’s a little proof that our program is growing. We always worry about if we’re doing enough. When things like this happen, it shows we’re still in the game. We’re wrestling well and at the high school kids are getting to higher levels. It comes from our feeder programs doing so well.”

Penegar attributed the kids’ work ethic to improvement and success.

“We do as much as we can to make it fun for them,” he said. “They’re a part of something that’s winning right now. Kids like winning stuff. We have some games, but really it’s about getting in the room everyday and practicing hard. They see their improvement over the last three months from where they came from.”

Ruddick, a 2014 Seymour High School graduate, joined the team this season an an assistant coach.

“It means a lot because it has been so many years since we’ve won it,” Ruddick said. “We want to be winning sectional and regional titles as a team, not just as individuals. We take a lot about that. We’re worried about getting the kids ready for the high school level. If we can win in middle schools, it translates to we will in the high school.”

Ruddick said that the middle school has seen an increase in participation thanks to programs like the Seymour Wrestling Club, who boasts elementary school grapplers.

“We’re seeing an increase of kids who have wrestled before coming into the middle school,” Ruddick said. “We’re retaining kids. That’s one of our goals, once you come out we want to keep you. If you can retain 90 percent we think we’re doing pretty well.”

Defeating local teams leads to better competition in the future, Ruddick said.

“We have a solid program from top to bottom, but in the past we were still losing to more local teams,” he said. “It makes it harder to find tougher competition outside of our local schools if we’re not beating them. Now that we’re really working towards beating everyone in our local area, we can now say we can go to these bigger tournament and wrestle with some of the best in the state. It makes our whole program excel when we wrestle outside of this area.”

This weekend, the Owls will compete in the Tri-County Individual Tournament.

Penegar said that some kids remain undefeated on the season, as they look to cap it off with more accolades.

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The 2016-17 Seymour Middle School Wrestling team that won the Tri-County title:

Sixth grade:Mikia Combs, Sammy Chandler, Hector Ruiz, Alex Schlatterer, Roland Henderson, Cameron Bevers, Brady Garner, Dylan Danson, Vincent Pittman.

Seventh grade: Ben Kriete, Blake Leatherman, Daniel Pulido, Sam Castetter, Chase Vogel, Paris Olmedo, Chance Craig.

Eighth grade: Caleb Elliot, Allen Garcia, Isaiah Fontanez, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Trejo, Chandler Drummond, Matthew Lane, Mason Engelking, Eli Abner, Ethan Hawkins, Jake Schlatterer, Brody Shipley.