Litchfield gives Lions a licking, Braves back on top of NE8

Staff Writer

Dobie Litchfield knocked off #12 Jacob Veatch in a thrilling 113-pound match late in the dual against undefeated Leo. The Bellmont Braves walked out of the gym with a third consecutive NE8 win; a 43-31 victory Thursday night at the Teepee.
With the match score 22-16, the freshman showed no fear of Veatch, even with the extra time to think about his match with a five-minute break at the halfway point instituted by the Bellmont coaches to honor the Porter family for a contribution to the wrestling room renovation.
Litchfield scored the opening takedown, shucking Veatch forward with 30 seconds in the opening period and then chose neutral to start the second. Veatch clawed back with a takedown of his own and then gave Litchfield a ride, clutching and leveraging him with an arm constantly for over a minute. Litchfield knew the stakes and did not turn.
“I knew going in if I started off fast and set the pace, I could eventually come out on top.”
Veatch thought he had a 3-2 lead when he chose bottom to start the third, but Litchfield never wavered, waiting for the Leo wrestler to stand up and hitting a tilt with a trip, bringing Veatch back to the mat several times on restarts. Litchfield finally made one stick and got a three-count and a 4-2 lead, riding out Veatch for the victory and turning the match in the Braves’ favor.
“I thought: As long as I have the wrist and arm, I might as well take a page out of Eli Johnson’s (the Norwell wrestler who beat Litchfield Saturday with the same move) book and tilt him right from his feet.”
Compounding the deficit for Leo head coach Rod Williams was the fact that the regular Leo 120 was unable to wrestle when he didn’t pass his skin check. That handed Paco Hutker six points and put Bellmont in the driver’s seat.
After Carter Thomas battled Leo’s top wrestler, Ian Heath, for almost four minutes before giving up the fall, Kyle Lawson made quick work of Jared Fletcher after building a 6-0 lead with a 48-second pin. That gave Bellmont a 15-point lead with just three matches remaining.
With Bellmont needing one more win to move back into first place in the NE8, senior Mason Burkholder knew what he needed to do, with his family and classmates looking on.
“I was just excited to finally wrestle. Paul looked at me before I went out and said ‘If you win, win.’ And that’s all I needed.”
Burkholder was all over Carson Hoeppner, getting a fall right in front of the Bellmont bench, who showed plenty of enjoyment at the sound of the pin call.
Bellmont got into a position to win thanks to some hard work from the Bellmont coaching staff, who spent most of the evening strategizing what do with winning the coin toss. The jockeying came early when Gunsett held Jon Ruble back after Logan Lothamer reported first for Leo at 160 in the opening bout.
“We talked this week,” said a smiling Gunsett after several interviews and handshakes after the match, “about everyone being ready, because you never know when your number is going to be called. Today was Carter Siefring’s day. We saw an opportunity where putting him in might give us a better start.”
Siefring made the most of the opportunity after making 160, a weight at which he had struggled to meet in previous weigh-ins. He took Lothamer down twice before getting a fall 90 seconds in. While the match was the first of the night, its importance was not lost on Gunsett afterwards.
“Carter made the most out of his opportunity by getting the fall and getting the ball rolling for our team.”
The dependable Jon Ruble came through at 170 with a first-period fall and Caden Friedt followed with a dominating 17-5 win at 182.
Dakota Roudebush then pulled out a gutsy performance against a much bigger Justin Poeppel at 195. Down 6-0 after two periods, Roudebush went to the circle with his coach in his ear, screaming “two hard minutes!” Roudebush escaped but was then taken down to make it 8-1 and was let up with 52 seconds. With Leo looking for the major decision, Poeppel shot in on a double leg and Roudebush let out a scream, writhing in pain with a knee injury.
After some help from the medical staff and an injury timeout, Roudebush recovered from a kneecap injury and gutted out the last minute to give up just a major decision, which was a big help to the Bellmont efforts.
Leo’s upperclassmen quickly dispatched of Dalton Robinson and Branson Bills at the top two weights to send it to classmate Ike Ruble at 106.
Ruble scored an opening takedown early against Sam Ford and then tried all sorts of cradles before finally getting his hands in the right position to score the fall with three seconds remaining in the first period.
Headed into another meat-grinder of a super dual on Saturday, Burkholder recognized how important this win was for him and his teammates, and the program overall.
“We needed this one bad. We wrestle some tough teams going into Saturday and man, did we need momentum. We also couldn’t forget about staying up front in conference. After losing to Norwell on Saturday, we needed this and one more to still win conference.”
Gunsett praised Litchfield and Ruble after the match.
“Jon came out with another first period fall and really got the ball rolling for us. Dominic’s win was huge. He showed that he can be rough on top and did a great job finally getting that tilt.”
The Braves have just one practice to prepare for Saturday’s super dual at Penn. Wrestling begins there at 8:30 am.