New Lexington entered this season on a mission.
After Perry County rival Sheridan snapped the Panthers’ streak of 10 consecutive Muskingum Valley League titles in 2013, coach Dave Ratliff took his team through the rigors to get back to the top.
The plan came to fruition Saturday as New Lexington won three weight classes and placed 13 of 14 wrestlers to recapture the MVL tournament championship at Morgan.
The Panthers totaled 211 points to finish the league season 16-0. Tri-Valley edged Sheridan 143-137 at the tournament and shared second at 13-3.
“Last year was one of our lowest points, so we committed to making the team better,” Ratliff said. “We expect to be the best, and to do that you can’t just train November to March. We held open mats, lifted every day and went to camps. The kids bought in.
“We have set our priorities, and this is the start of the real season.”
Freshman Tyler Hicks edged Morgan’s Hayden Matheney 6-5 in the 126-pound final, Tanner Walker picked up an 8-2 decision against John Glenn’s Matt Tom to win the 182 title and Isaac McFann won by default against John Glenn’s Stone Morgan at 195.
T.J. Newsome (106), Andrew Spicer (120), Jordan Harris (138) and Dimitri Williams (160) all were runner-ups, Chris Settles (113), Austin Ratliff (132), Clayton Glick (145), Mac Swackhammer (152) and Sam Allen (170) each came in third and Bill Thompson (Hwt.) was fourth for New Lexington.
Hicks credited Ratliff and the staff for inspiring the team.
“Losing to Sheridan motivated us,” he said. “It was tough, but the work paid off. We have to keep working hard because we want to do more.”
Tri-Valley junior Kade Kowalski became a three-time MVL champion. He used a pair of three-point near falls in an 18-2 tech fall decision against Morgan’s John Haines in the 145 final.
Kowalski was glad to win another league title, but he has bigger goals in mind.
“I’m trying to stay in good shape and I feel confident,” said Kowalski, who will compete in Division I this season. “I’m going to keep pushing myself in training. I need to wrestle my own match, and hopefully I can place first in the state.”
Slade Tyson (120) and Matt Fellows (160) also won for the Scotties. The Generals had four champions: Nathaniel Kehn (113), Zack Carpenter (152), Devin King (220) and Evan Loughman (Hwt.).
Morgan’s Kody Driggs was named the tournament MVP after winning the title at 132, and Crooksville’s Jordan Burkholder (106) and Philo’s Luke Miller (138) and Steven Frazier (170) also won titles.
John Glenn came in fourth (104½) followed by Philo (95), Morgan (74½), Crooksville (58), West Muskingum (33) and Maysville (20½).