The LaRue County Mat Hawks finished the season at the KHSAA State Wrestling Tournament as runners up in the small school division and seventh overall. Four Mat Hawks finished in the top eight of their weight class.
“I am proud of the way we competed,” said head coach Gary Canter. “Every match was a hard-fought affair and every point was important. Only eight points separated fifth from ninth place.”
Since 1998, Canter has had only one year in which he didn’t have a finalist. This year’s finalist was senior Des Jakes at the 152-pound weight class.
Jakes had a hard path to make it to the finals. In his quarter-finals match, Jakes faced the second-ranked wrestler from Johnson Central. In what Canter calls his best match of the tournament, Jakes defeated his opponent by four points.
In the finals match, Jakes ran into a hot-wrestling Union County grappler and finished his career off with a silver medal.
“Des wrestled great and has been a very big reason we have won like we have this year,” said Canter. “I am proud of what he has done and I know he has opportunities to wrestle at the collegiate level, and I hope he thinks seriously about doing it because he has the ability to wrestle in college.”
Freshman grappler Nick Paden at the 103-pound class took third. Ranked second all season, Paden drew the number one ranked wrestler, and future state champion, in his weight class in the semi finals.
After losing his semi-finals match, Paden dropped into the consolation bracket and defeated the ninth and third ranked wrestlers in the state to finish in third place.
“Nick had a tough draw,” said Canter. “I was proud of the fact that he didn’t hang his head after losing in semis but came back and wrestled to the best of his ability and took third. After he saw his draw last weekend, Nick said either he was going to finish in first or third. He was determined to finish high this year.”
Senior Justin Thompson, the Hawks 112-pound wrestler, took home a fifth place medal, despite tough draws. Thompson drew the number one ranked wrestler in the state before the finals match. He drew the future state champion in the quarterfinals.
After dropping into the consolation bracket, Thompson battled to make it to fifth place. In his medal match, Thompson was able to pin his opponent and not only win the fifth place medal, but more important for the team finish, scored two extra bonus points.
“J.T. had a tough quarterfinals match,” said Canter. “When you lose earlier than semi finals, you have a long tough road to travel to medal. J.T. never lost his composure and wrestled great to win fifth place and pinning in that last match was huge in terms of team finish.”
At the 130-pound class, sophomore Shaquille Cox took fifth in the state. Like Thompson, Cox lost a tough quarterfinals match but battled back to take fifth place.
In his medal match, Cox, in exciting fashion, was able to score a reversal in the last two seconds to win 2-1.
“Shaq had a very good tournament,” said Canter. “He was tight in his first couple of matches, a little nervous I think, but after he settled down and wrestled like he is capable of, he was dominate in most of his matches.”
The Hawks had three wrestlers who were just one match away from placing in this tournament: senior Logan Hull, freshman Shawn Hull and freshman Drew Newberry.
“To start Saturday with seven wrestlers alive and in position to win a medal said a lot about this team,” said Canter. “We are a very young and the few seniors we did have were good leaders. When a team starts three eighth graders, four freshmen and four sophomores out of the 14 weight classes, we are going to need the seniors to step up and lead.”
“Both Logan and Shawn lost early in the tournament and battled and saved some of their best wrestling of the year for this past weekend. They were close and lost to very tough competition. “
“Drew has been dominant all year long and lost in the quarter finals to a tough kid from Trinity. We are going to be counting on him for the next three years to score big points for us and I have no doubt he will help this team out tremendously in the future like he has done in the past,” said Canter.
Final state records:
Nick Paden, 5-1
Justin Thompson, 5-2
Caleb Canter, 1-2
Shaquille Cox, 5-2
Logan Hull, 2-2
Shawn Hull, 3-2
Vince Couch, 0-2
Des Jakes, 4-1
Bernard Ray, 2-2
B.J. Carman, 0-2
Drew Newberry, 2-2