Eaton Rapids grapplers celebrate their 34-27 Div. 2 regional championship over St. Johns February 18, 2015, at DeWitt.
Eaton Rapids — Things were looking grim for Eaton Rapids in the final moments of Wednesday’s Division 2 regional final.
After a forfeit in the 125-pound matchup, the No.4-ranked Greyhounds were trailing No. 1-ranked St. Johns, 22-31, with only two matches remaining. And for Eaton Rapids to win in regulation and grab its first regional title since 2009, the Greyhounds had to land two pinfalls.
Eaton Rapids’ Austin Eldred got the first one with 1:10 remaining in the third period, over the Redwings’ John Baker, to cut the Greyhounds’ deficit to three. Then, with everything on the line, Eaton Rapids’ Hunter George (135) pinned St. Johns’ Tyler Welch as time expired in the first period to give the Greyhounds a 34-27 victory over the Redwings — St. Johns lost points due to unsportsmanlike conduct.
“That was the biggest win of my whole career,” George said. “I feel confused, happy … everything. We are tough. We never give up. It’s been a lot of hard work.”
Not only did the Greyhounds stop St. Johns from making its sixth consecutive finals appearance, but they now have an opportunity to grab their first state title since 1999.
“This has been our goal since the senior class were freshman. This is what we’ve been working towards,” Eaton Rapids coach Joe Ray Barry said. “We say it every day. When we breakdown every day we focus on going to Battle Creek.”
The Greyhounds started the finals by winning the first four matches. Eaton Rapids’ Jaedin Sklapsky (140) opened the meet with a 6-4 decision in overtime over Lucas McFarland — which, ironically, foreshadowed the rest of the event.
“We knew it was going to come down to the very end,” Sklapsky said. “We had just been doing matchups in our head the whole two weeks that we were preparing for this. We just kept telling ourselves to not give up and keep fighting.”
St. Johns’ Logan Massa (171) snatched the momentum from the Greyhounds in the fifth match of the finals. With 20 seconds remaining in the first period, the senior pinned Austin Hutchison.
From there, the Redwings went on to win five of the next seven matches before Eaton Rapids’ miraculous finish.
“It’s definitely a tough loss, but hats off to Eaton Rapids. They wrestled really well,” said St. Johns’ Jake Gnegy, who defeated Triston Warner by decision in the 285-pound match. “We just have to build off this loss and take it in the individuals.”