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Three wrestlers punch state tickets

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

Three Grant County wrestlers punched tickets to Bankers Life Fieldhouse at Saturday’s semi-state meet.

The Marion duo of Victor Lee and Gabe Watkins along with Mississinewa’s Kyler Funk all earned top-four finishes at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and, in the process, booked trips to the state meet in Indianapolis next weekend.

Watkins led the way on the day at 285 pounds, advancing all the way to the final before falling to Holden Parsons of Yorktown via decision, 5-0.

Lee and Funk each fell in their semi-final matches and were relegated to the consolation match. Lee earned a pinfall victory in the third round over Dan Wickersham of Northridge while Funk was pinned early in the second round to take fourth.

“We brought half our team down, so I was happy with that,” Marion head coach Lonnie Johnson said. “We had two make it out. Overall, we had a good day man. We got some tough draws. Everybody performed pretty well. I think we could have had a few that could have gotten a few more wins…but overall I’m satisfied.”

Watkins started his day off with a bang in the heavyweight class. After a fairly uneventful opening period against Steven Worlds of Goshen, Watkins exploded with a simultaneous slam and pin 32 seconds into the second round to earn the win.

In the ticket round, Watkins earned another second-period pin over Chase Leeper of Eastside to earn his state qualification. The semi-final match saw him hold on for a 7-5 decision win to advance to the final.

In the championship match, Watkins was blanked by the 18th-ranked heavyweight in the state in Parsons.

“Gabe, here this last half of the season, he’s just really come on and just really wrestled tough,” Johnson said. “That was a tough kid he wrestled (in the final). He’s just been wrestling phenomenal the last half of the season. We can’t ask him too much more.”

For Lee, a pinfall win in his opening round matchup against Mitch Gigli of Bishop Luers was followed with a decision win over Brandon Bergman of Lakeland, 11-4. In the semis, Lee fell to Draven Rasler of West Noble 6-3 before bouncing back for a pinfall victory to secure third.

“Victor, he actually, he pulled the trigger a lot more today than sitting around waiting,” Johnson said. “Then in his big match, his biggest match (against Rasler), he kind of held back. He did things with like with three seconds left and didn’t get points on the board. He definitely got takedowns, just…too late. But he pulled the trigger a lot and he wasn’t as conservative so that worked out big for him.”

Funk’s dramatic day saw him start with a majority decision win over Garrett’s Doler Bevis, 16-5. His ticket-round duel, though, was not nearly as easy as Funk need three overtimes to eventually knock off Andrew Abbott of Muncie Central and earn his spot at state.

Eventual semi-state winner Conner Graber would best Funk in his semi-final match-up, earning a 19-3 tech fall win in the third period.

Only Oak Hill’s Harper Dedman at 113 pounds earned a win on the day. Dedman downed John Robinson of Delta 9-4 in his opening match before falling to Brayden Shearer of Garrett by decision, 8-3, in the ticket round.