By Andrew Johnson
The Vikings trailed defending state champion Richmond by 20 points with six matches to go, and most observers probably thought it was over.
But Whitehall Coach Cliff Sandee had a shred of motivation left for his team, courtesy of social media. He told his wrestlers that their opponents might already be watching the other mat, where top-seeded Dundee was competing in another quarterfinal.
“You got to say what you got to say to get your kids up,” Sandee said. “We got on social media (earlier this week) and a lot of people from Richmond were saying we’ll we just have to beat Dundee in the semifinals this year.”
Is that what fired the Vikings up? We’ll never know for sure. But they proceeded to win all six of the remaining matches and stun Richmond 37-29 and advance to Saturday’s state semifinals.
Whitehall will face Dundee, the team Richmond expected to face, at noon at CMU. A victory would put the Vikings in the 3:30 p.m. state finals.
“They are some tough kids,” Sandee said after the comeback. “They just keep fighting.”
Things didn’t go well for Whitehall in the first eight matches against Richmond.
The Vikings managed only two victories – from Jake Parmley (189) and Hunter Bower (103) – and trailed 29-9.
Dominick Haynes (130) and defending individual state champion Reiley Brown (135) started the Viking comeback, winning each of their matches with pins. Haynes won his match at the 4:28 mark, while Brown finished off his opponent at the 1:53 mark.
Those victories cut the Viking deficit to 29-21.
Haynes is one of the lesser known Whitehall wrestlers, and failed to make it out of individual regionals this year, but Sandee thought that may have been a good thing.
“We bragged to Dominick all year, especially when he got beat out at regionals, he’s the best kept secret in the state,” Sandee said.
Whitehall’s comeback continued when Jwan Britton (140) dominated Alex Roberts with a 14-2 major decision.
Then Josh Thommen (145) pinned Richmond’s Eric Barr at the end of the first period to give Whitehall its first lead, 31-29.
It looked like the Vikings were going to clinch a berth to the semifinals in the second to last match when Jojo Dowdell (152) nearly pinned Richmond’s David Kaltz (152) multiple times. Kaltz was able to keep fighting, and Dowdell had to settle for a 9-5 win that gave the Vikings a 34-29 lead.
The only thing that Joe Haynes (160) had to do for the Vikings in the final match was avoid a pin. But Haynes did even better, beating his opponent 8-4 and clinching the Whitehall victory.
“They are pretty good but we’re pretty good too,” Sandee said about Dundee. “We’ll fight, we’re 14 scrappers.”