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Fort Hays State wrestling pulls out 26-21 win over Newman

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News
Fort Hays State's Marty Verhaeghe wrestles Newman's J.D. Johnson at 174 pounds on Sunday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

The Fort Hays State wrestling team capped off a productive week with a down-to-the-wire dual win over Newman on Sunday at Gross Memorial Coliseum. 

After cruising to a 44-11 win over Central Missouri on Thursday, Sunday's battle with the Jets came down to the heavyweight match between A.J. Cooper and Jacob Stoneberger. 

Cooper rallied from a 6-0 hole to outlast Stoneberger with an 8-6 win in sudden victory, helping the Tigers take the dual, 26-21. 

"It was a team effort," FHSU first-year coach Erik Wince said. "I'm not going to say our execution was great at times. We wrestled in more positions that they wanted to be in, instead of forcing our own positions and our own fights.

"But overall, a good team effort. We had some guys give up losses early that actually saved the dual, guys not giving up big bonus points. We were close to getting pinned a few times, guys fought off their back. And we had guys go get bonus points when they needed to go get it."

FHSU's A.J. Cooper works against Newman's Jacob Stoneberger in the 285-pound match on Sunday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

No. 2-ranked Mason Turner continued to impress at 126 pounds, pinning J.J Gilbert in 45 seconds. 

"He's really buying in," Wince  said. "He likes to do what he does. He's a pinner and likes to be kind of fancy when he does it. I've had a lot of conversations with him: 'Let's keep it simple early.' Guys are expecting him to go big early. ... When he's doing the basics, he's getting points early and keeping it simple, guys break. It makes putting guys away a lot easier, so you don't have to go out and pin the guy the first 30 seconds. 

"He's doing an awesome job. He's buying in and leading by example and killing it in the classroom as well. He's pretty special. As long as these other guys are buying in, which I think they are, we're in pretty good shape as a team."

The Tigers led 12-0 after Colin Cole won by forfeit at 133 pounds. The Jets got on the board when Tyler Lawley took a 17-0 technical fall at 141 pounds against Broderick Green.

Cole Zebley, who returned to the lineup this week after a concussion kept him out for about a month, came through with a key performance at 149 pounds, earning a 13-3 major decision over Brecken Phipps. 

"That was big a difference-maker," Wince said. 

Newman's Baylor Smith (157) and No. 3-ranked Cameron Frame (165) put the Jets in front, 17-16, after respective pins over Josh Lenker and Kadin Heacock. 

The Tigers regained the lead after 174-pounder Marty Verhaeghe picked up a 9-1 major decision at 174 pounds. Verhaeghe completed three takedowns and surrendered just one escape to help FHSU go up 20-17 lead.

FHSU's Clint Herrick took a 12-2 major decision loss to Nate Panagakis at 184 pounds, but avoided the technical fall or pin. 

FHSU's Tereus Henry, top, earned a 9-2 decision over Newman's Ivan Balavage at 194 pounds on Sunday.

Tereus Henry then put the Tigers in position to win the dual with a 9-2 decision at 197 pounds over Ivan Balavage. Henry, a redshirt-freshman, recorded a takedown and two near fall points in the first round, and had another takedown in the third period. The win put the Tigers up 23-21. 

"We wanted bigger points at 174 and 197," Wince said. "Their effort was there, we just got to fix a couple things execution wise so they're not exhausting themselves in positions that we've been working on all week, finishing up on our feet, not rolling around and letting guys hang out in matches."

In the 285-pound match, Stoneberger nearly pulled the upset against No. 9-ranked Cooper, securing a takedown and four near-fall points to go up 6-0. 

Cooper got on the board with an escape and then turned the match around with a big takedown and a two-count near the boundary midway through the second period. After a scoreless third period, Cooper secured a takedown in overtime to cement an 8-6 victory. 

"He's capable of winning a national title as long as wrestles to the best of his ability," Wince said of Cooper. "He's got to not let guys hang out in matches when he can go out and impose his will. I firmly believe he's one of the best heavyweights in the country, and he's got to go out and prove it every time. 

"He found a way to win in overtime, dug deep after going down six early. Shows a lot of heart."

Due to injuries and COVID-19 protocols, Wince said the Tigers haven't had their full complement of top wrestlers available yet this season. 

"We were down a couple bodies this week, but we had guys go out and put up a fight," Wince said. "We're blessed that we have guys that are willing to go out and put it on the line. Again, that's where the team effort comes in. Everybody's got to be on board.

"When we get our (top wrestlers), 125 through heavyweight, in the lineup, we're going to be very, very good," Wince said. "We just got to get everybody healthy."

The Tigers, now 3-6 in duals this season, will return to action on Friday at No. 3 Central Oklahoma. 

Fort Hays 26, Newman 21 

 125 — #2 Mason Turner (FHSU) over JJ Gilbert (NU) (Fall 0:45)

133 —  Colin Cole (FHSU) over Unknown (For.)

141 — #12 Tyler Lawley (NU) over Broderick Green (FHSU) (TF 17-0 5:00)

149 — Cole Zebley (FHSU) over Brecken Phipps (NU) (MD 13-3)

157 — Baylor Smith (NU) over Josh Lenker (FHSU) (Fall 0:26)

165 — #3 Kameron Frame (NU) over Kadin Heacock (FHSU) (Fall 0:43)

174 — Marty Verhaeghe (FHSU) over JD Johnson (NU) (MD 9-1)

184 — Nate Panagakis (NU) over Clint Herrick (FHSU) (MD 12-2)

197 — Tereus Henry (FHSU) over Ivan Balavage (NU) (Dec 9-2)

285 — #9 A.J. Cooper (FHSU) over Jacob Stoneberger (NU) (SV-1 8-6)