By Cort Reynolds

Ada Herald Writer

MIDDLE POINT - The Ada wrestling team finished a strong fifth at the 14-team Lancer Invitational Saturday at Lincolnview, featuring four weight-class winners in the process.

The Bulldog matmen finished just seven points behind Spencerville for fourth place. Delphos St. John's edged Paulding for the team title by 2.5 points, 350.5-348. Fairview scored 326, while Spencerville tallied 238 and Ada 231.

Ada boasted not only its first tournament champion, but three first-place winners in Austin Windle (160 lbs.), Dylan Hannah (170), Jarod Woodland (195) and Brady Pitney (220).

"What an incredible day," said Ada coach Branden Nickles. "As a team we went 30-8 on the day. We dominated a few matches, won close matches, lost close matches and won in overtime."

Windle won his title match by a 5-2 decision. Hannah was victorious 3-0 over a St. John's wrestler, while Woodland won by pin over his Fairview foe. Pitney's title round win was a 12-6 decision over Van Wert.

"We went through every type of situation throughout the day," Nickles noted. "The boys really showed some heart when it mattered. We bulldozed our way through the fourth round, which historically has been our worst part of every tournament.

"Each round we just kept getting better and better," he continued. "We won all of our round five matches, going 8-0 to finish off the day. Austin and Noah had two great matches in the finals, getting revenge victories over opponents that had beaten them last year."

Devon Emlinger (106) and Noah Beach (182) each finished third in their weight class, while Matt Higgins (145) came in seventh in his division.

"Obviously we are going in the right direction at practice; without a doubt we were one of the best, if not the best-conditioned team on Saturday," added Nickles.

Freshman Emlinger won his second-round match against Lincolnview in overtime at his first tournament.

"That was awesome to see," said Nickles. "Our goal this season has been to be a top half team and we again met that goal, actually doing a little bit better by coming in fifth.

"For five years as a coach I have worked and waited on the moment that we were relevant in a tournament from start to finish, top to bottom of the lineup," he continued. "We did that without question on Saturday. We were short in the lineup a couple guys on Saturday, otherwise we may have been able to nip Spencerville at the end. Everyone on our team has reasons to be proud this season."

Nickles noted that the team is ahead of schedule, having met some pre-season goals in December.

"We have met two of our goals already," offered the coach. "(We wanted) to bring home some team hardware for the trophy case and finished second at the Cory-Rawson Duals. We also wanted to get an individual championship, which we did four times on Saturday.

"Thankfully, our boys aren't content to settle for fifth; the determination shown on Saturday has raised the bar. We're looking towards contending for the conference championship in February.

"A little more help and a couple more weight classes filled, and we will certainly have a chance to shake some things up when we get there," he added.

Lancer Invite Team Standings

Delphos St. John's 350.5

Paulding 348

Fairview 326

Spencerville 238

Ada 231

Van Wert 215

Delphos Jefferson 198

Wayne Trace 166

Sidney-Lehman 136.5

Lincolnview 116

Antwerp 84

Parkway 56

Hicksville 55

Defiance 32

Ada also hosted its first-ever varsity grappling event last Thursday against wrestlers from Allen East, Parkway and Cory-Rawson.

"Much like last year, two of the four teams did not have a lineup that would create a great dual-style event, so we matched up the kids as best we could and let them wrestle," explained Nickles. Thus no team scores were kept and match-ups were set by the coaches.

Hannah went 2-0 individually while Windle (pin), Beach, Pitney and Tommy Dotson all went 1-0 and Woodland posted a 1-1 mark.

"We wrestled sluggishly on Thursday," admitted Nickles. "The pressure of our first-ever home match, the stress of getting the gym set up properly, and the format was obviously weighing on our team. We did well on Thursday, but areas of improvement were certainly evident by the end of the night."

The Ada matmen face another big test when they compete at the Lakota Duals Saturday.