Big day for Bulldogs girls wrestling as five advance to sectionals

Big day for Bulldogs girls wrestling as five advance to sectionals
All five Bulldogs earned a trip to sectionals on Saturday. From left to right: Kaylynn Pehle, Abby Drew, Brett Iman, coach Tony Senor, Katie Bowen, Choice Foster. [Eric Mattson]
Dave Faries

Abby Drew was on the edge of a bleacher seat in Mexico’s Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon, the combination of excitement and exhaustion causing her to tremble.

“Look,” she said, stretching out an arm. “I’m shaking.”

Moments earlier the Bulldogs 122 pounder had bested Fulton’s Emma Oglesby in an epic four overtime match full of plot twists, claiming an 11-10 decision that sent Drew to the third place match. And almost the same time on the second mat, Kaylynn Pehle’s sudden move with 30 seconds left gave her a 10-6 win over Camdenton’s Lucinda Baker and a spot in the 132-pound consolation final.

The consecutive victories by Mexico wrestlers at the Class 1 District 4 tournament ensured that all five members of coach Tony Senor’s first year squad would be heading to Sectionals.
Mexico’s history season continued with more firsts. Drew’s was the first ever four OT win by a Bulldogs girl. Katie Bowen earned gold in the 102 class – the first time a wrestler from a Mexico girls team claimed top of the podium.

And when Pehle raised her hand after knocking off Tipton’s Holly Parker in the opening round, she became the first Bulldogs wrestler to win in districts as part of a girls team.

In two weeks, Bowen, Drew and Pehle, along with Choice Foster and Brett Iman, travel to Versailles to take part in Sectionals, with the state tournament the next step.
“It’s a great day,” Senor said. “I’m proud of every one of our girls.”

The district tournament brought girls from 22 schools in 14 weight classes to the pair of mats laid out on Mexico’s gym. For the hosts things started well. Pehle’s win was followed with Bowen’s opener.

Seeded no. 1 at 102 thanks to a 27-8 season mark, the Bulldogs standout freshman dispatched Battle’s Natalie Shea quickly. Although her opponent took the first shot, Bowen regained the advantage and worked for a pin.

“This is my match, I’m going to own it,” Bowen said. “I kept working.”

Bowen had received a first round bye, so she moved into the championship round. The match with Dalayna Hargis of South Callaway was a drawn out, headgear and mouthpiece flying, kind of affair. But Bowen scored steadily and at the end of six minutes emerged with a 24-11 decision and first place at districts.

In the first season of a state sanctioned girls team schedule, the field was patchy. Some weight classes were full, while others were short enough that all entries had a guaranteed path to Sectionals.

Foster and Iman were beneficiaries of the latter. Foster battled in her lone match at 143, with Savena Hees of Jefferson City. She pushed, rolled and pressed, but lost by fall.
With a medal ensured, Foster was philosophical.

“It’s not about the medal,” she said. “It’s about all the hard work you put in.”

Iman faced a massive challenge in her opener at 151 – Olivia Chapman of Eldon, who entered districts with a 33-1 record and had beaten the Mexico wrestler before. This time Iman lasted longer against the stalwart.

The top four advance, and hers was a four girl field. But Iman fought well against Blair Oaks’ Halie Eaton in the consolation round. Taken down, she rolled twice in an effort to wriggle free and held on until six seconds were left in the first.

“I was trying to get a reversal, but it didn’t happen,” Iman said.

Drew took third at 122 by pinning Kirksville’s Lauryn Nelson in the first period.

“I didn’t think I was settled back enough to get the pin,” she said. “Then I heard the ref’s hand slap.”

Pehle looked destined for a fourth place at 132. That is until 45 seconds into the second period. After going down 2-0 in the first, she started the second in the down position and struggled to get to her feet.

Out of the blue, Pehle whipped, fired and pinned Stalena Whitehead of Jefferson City, someone who had bested her by pin earlier in the year.

“I was just trying to grab her hands,” Pehle said of the move that won her third in class. “I got to my feet and drove into her.”

But the consolation semifinals were defining moments for both wrestlers and the Bulldogs team – particularly Drew’s overtime match.

The Mexico wrestler had Oglesby stationary on the mat in the third period until a blood situation put them back at neutral. Momentum swung suddenly to Fulton and the buzzer sounded with Oglesby on top 9-8 – on the scoreboard.

But there was a discrepancy. The scorekeeper missed a point earned by Drew, sending the match into added time. And more added time – two wrestlers, evenly matched.

In the fourth period of OT Drew started down, pressed hard and managed to get up and hold her ground for the winning point.

“I thought I lost, but coach said we’re still going,’” she said. “I had to get up quickly and she kept using the same single leg move.”

Drew was still shaking for several minutes – with a big smile on her face.

“It’s a great first season,” Pehle said.


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