After hosting their first and only wrestling match of the season, the Northland Prep Spartans know what they need to do to find success at the upcoming sectional tournament.
The Spartans went 1-1 on Wednesday, which was their Senior Day, beating the Shonto Prep Grizzlies and falling to the Winslow Bulldogs in a multi-meet featuring all Division IV, Section Four teams. The three teams, in addition to the rest of the section, will meet at Winslow High School on Feb. 2.
“It’s the best we have ever competed against Winslow," said Spartans head coach Ben Stanton. "There were two or three matches we should have won in the third period. We have had a lot of sickness lately, so I told them they really have to work on their conditioning.”
Outside of the extra exhibition matches he wrestled, Johnathan McGrew came away from the meet with two pins for the Spartans. The Northland Prep junior pinned his Shonto opponent in the first round, and battled his way to another victory by fall over Winslow's Chris Curnutte with just a minute and seven seconds left in the 132-pound bout.
He said that his team, despite Winslow dominating the match on the way to going 2-0, is moving toward more hands being lifted in victory.
“Last year, I wasn’t anywhere near this strength, and our development this year is so much better. We have been doing more conditioning, more training and we are overall a better team," McGrew said.
Winslow went on to record six pins against Northland Prep, with Michael Densmore and Mateo Vargas taking care of business in the first period. Northland Prep's Zach Martin and Liam Cashmore each found themselves in the third period against Winslow's wrestlers, but couldn't hang on for the wins.
“Winslow is a tough team, but you know, as a team, we just need a little more conditioning. These guys sat on the couch all winter break -- so did I,” said Spartans captain Huston "Hootie" Jackson with a smile. “During sectionals, three weeks from now, we got it. Sectionals is the goal.”
Jackson, whose record now sits at 24-6 after going 1-1 on Wednesday, admitted he was one of the wrestlers to have a mental lapse cost him a win. He said the team understands that fixing little mistakes and getting into better shape can help get the Spartans back to winning matches at the section tourney.
“Coach on Monday is probably going to talk to us about just staying calm and staying aggressive,” Huston said.
McGrew said most of the fundamentals are there for the team, but they just need to make their effort on the mats come full circle.
“I ended up pinning him with one of the most basic moves," McGrew said of his Winslow pin.
McGrew, wrestling at 132 pounds, recorded his pin against Shonto in the first period. Jackson also needed just one period against Shonto, and Martin finished off his opponent in the second period. Shonto left Northland Prep's gym with an 0-2 team record.
The Spartans honored Jackson, Martin, JT Douros and Zack Bivens as part of Senior Day commencements.
Winslow's heavyweight Ahli Foster, a state champ two years ago, notched a quick pin against Shonto. Last season, Foster's injury kept him from defending his title.
The Spartans hope to end up with some section titles, and Stanton sees the team getting to the championship mats.
“I am really happy with where we are at and where we can be," Stanton said. "I really feel we could have four or five go to state this year.“