After a dominant performance Saturday in the Region Three Tournament, Mark Hitchings is confident his Fern Creek High School wrestling team can contend for a state championship next week.
The Tigers won seven of 14 weight classes and qualified 11 wrestlers for the State Championships while taking the regional crown at Pleasure Ridge Park.
Ranked No. 3 in the state by KentuckyWrestling.com, Fern Creek will try to capture its third state title next Friday and Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
“Union County is the favorite,” Hitchings said, “but us, Trinity, St. X and Campbell County aren’t far behind. Any of us could still win.”
Fern Creek finished with 272.5 points, well ahead of runner-up Doss (173). Bullitt Central (144) was third, followed by Valley (136) and Fairdale (119). The top four finishers in each weight class earned spots in the state tournament.
The Tigers will have plenty of momentum after winning all 13 of their final matches Saturday (seven for first place, four for third place and two for fifth place). Fern Creek did not enter a wrestler in the 285-pound class.
“We’re loaded in our lightweights, and we have a few bigger guys who are good, too,” junior A.J. Bindner said. “I think if they all show up next weekend and depending on the draw, I think we can put another banner on the wall.”
Bindner (132 pounds) was the last of a quintet of Fern Creek wrestlers who swept the lightest five classes Saturday. Mike Klein (106), Jorge Vega (113), Cedric Binford (120) and Connor Cambron (126) also won.
Vega, who finished third at State last year, is ranked No. 1 in his class this year and sports a 45-1 record. His only loss came to Union County’s Saul Ervin, who is ranked No. 1 in the state at 106 pounds.
Vega cruised through the regional despite battling a cold, pinning Doss’ Derek Ringlen at the 1:44 mark of the final.
“I just tried to get through it,” he said. “I’m probably about 80 percent.”
Other winners for the Tigers were Bryce Hoffman (152) and Kohl Dodd (195).
Runner-up Doss had one individual champion in senior Thomas Ray, who beat Bullitt Central’s Josh Walls 3-2 in the 170 final. With the match tied at 2 in the third round, Ray earned the decisive point with an escape.
Ranked No. 4 in the state, Ray is part of a wide-open weight class. Former No. 1 Dominic Lampe of St. Xavier was suspended from his team this week, and No. 3 Caleb Barrett of Southern failed to qualify for State after suffering a concussion Saturday during his semifinal match.
“I feel like I’m going to be on top, No. 1,” said Ray, who is short for his weight class at 5 feet 5. “I have an easier way to the top now. … Knowing they’re gone, I’m motivated even more to win.”
Fairdale’s Tristan Sanders was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the meet after beating Valley’s Nathan Thompson in the 138-pound final. Fairdale’s other champion was Trey Norton (160).
Iroquois also had two champions in Bilal Mamedov (182) and Brandon Reed (220).
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
REGION THREE WRESTLING TOURNAMENT
At Pleasure Ridge Park
Top four in each weight class advance to State
* Team scores – 1. Fern Creek 272.5; 2. Doss 173; 3. Bullitt Central 144; 4. Valley 136; 5. Fairdale 119; 6. Iroquois 118; 7. Pleasure Ridge Park 101; 8. Bullitt East 85.5; 9. Southern 85; 10. Western 58; 11. DeSales 50; 12. North Bullitt 30.
* Most Outstanding Wrestler: Tristan Sanders (Fairdale).
* 106 pounds: Final – Mike Klein (Fern Creek) def. Blake Evans (PRP), 20-6; 3rd place – Luke Polin (DeSales) pinned Logan Henry (Bullitt East), 3:26.
* 113: Final – Jorge Vega (Fern Creek) pinned Derek Ringlen (Doss), 1:44; 3rd place – Husseini Husseine (Valley) def. Trever Skeeters (PRP), 14-12.
* 120: Final – Cedric Binford (Fern Creek) def. Ansar Kurbanov (Iroquois), 6-3; 3rd place – Nicholas Curtis (Bullitt Central) pinned Andrew Mattingly (Bullitt East), 1:57.
* 126: Final – Connor Cambron (Fern Creek) def. Jaython Elliott (Southern), 13-5; 3rd place – Desmond Lewis (Valley) def. Nathan Sneed (Bullitt East), 14-5.
* 132: Final – A.J. Bindner (Fern Creek) def. Max Powell (Doss), 21-6; 3rd place – Dalton Priddy (Bullitt East) pinned Jordan Matherly (North Bullitt), 0:28.
* 138: Final – Tristan Sanders (Fairdale) def. Nathan Thompson (Valley), 7-3; 3rd place – Jeremy Henehan (Fern Creek) def. George Pumphrey (PRP), 9-6.
* 145: Final – Larry Broaden (Valley) pinned Jerome Jones (Doss), 5:52; 3rd place – Jared Branch (Fern Creek) def. Cain Edwards (PRP), 9-4.
* 152: Final – Bryce Hoffman (Fern Creek) def. Samim Alokozai (Iroquois), 4-2; 3rd place – Marcus Churn (Doss) pinned Joe Ware (Western), 0:27.
* 160: Final – Trey Norton (Fairdale) pinned Joshua Garner (DeSales), 1:56; 3rd place – Tevin McAtee (Fern Creek) pinned Nate Guinn (PRP), 1:25.
* 170: Final – Thomas Ray (Doss) def. Josh Walls (Bullitt Central), 3-2; 3rd place – Yo Majesty Warfield (Fern Creek) def. Laquantae Jackson (Fairdale), 14-5.
* 182: Final – Bilal Mamedov (Iroquois) def. Adrian Shifflett (Bullitt Central), 15-11; 3rd place – Logan James (North Bullitt) pinned Charles Pyles (Southern), 0:47.
* 195: Final – Kohl Dodd (Fern Creek) pinned Eli Thacker (Bullitt Central), 3:00; 3rd place – Steven Brown (Doss) pinned Antonio Fish (Western), 3:32.
* 220: Final – Brandon Reed (Iroquois) pinned Austin Weird (Fairdale), 0:42; 3rd place – Tommy Nauert (DeSales) def. Erik Decker (Southern), 4-2.
* 285: Final – Sean Sanders (Bullitt Central) pinned Nolan Bowman (Southern), 3:12; 3rd place – Spencer Warren (Bullitt East) def. Andre Williams (Doss), 3-1.