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Twenty-one area wrestlers semistate bound

Feb. 3—PENDLETON — It seems fitting on a day when upsets, surprises and comebacks were the theme at the Pendleton wrestling regional all area champions were first-timers.

Alexandria's Ezra Fye continued his dominance of a familiar foe, Pendleton Heights' Jaylen Covington broke through against a top-10 opponent and Frankton's Jonah Ellis took the regional title with his first win against an adversary he had lost the last four matches against, highlighting a day that saw 21 area wrestlers qualify for the semistate next weekend.

Pendleton Heights led the way with six advancing wrestlers, followed by Alexandria with four, Madison-Grant, Anderson and Frankton with three each and Daleville and Elwood adding one apiece.

The Arabians were led by Covington, who after coming up short of the title a year ago, battled to an overtime win in the semifinal before pulling out a 2-1 decision over top-10 ranked Sam Bustamante of Bishop Chatard in the final.

The senior improved to 35-3 on the season with his first regional title, which will result in a top seeding next week at the always difficult New Castle semistate.

"Last year, I lost in the semis and got third, so getting into the finals this year felt great," Covington said. "But I wasn't done and had one more match to win it."

Two other Arabians advanced to the finals but came up short. Jack Todd was runner-up at 144 pounds while Chris Crank lost a 7-5 decision to Ellis in the 190-pound title tilt. Max Bowers (126) placed third while Turner Seale (157) and Eli Libler (215) were fourth.

It was the first loss of the season for Todd (28-1) as Cathedral's Dillon Graham (29-9) took advantage of a rare error by the Arabians' senior to claim the title. PH coach Dave Cloud said Todd will learn from the loss and use it to his advantage next week as he hopes to qualify for the state finals for the second straight year.

"He grabbed the head on a shot, and I'll be using that as an example with all my middle school kids that if he can lose grabbing the head on a shot, nobody should be grabbing the head," Cloud said. "Without that, the takedown doesn't occur, the near fall and the scramble and fall. ... It was a mental mistake. He's got to recover from that and go next week."

It may have felt like déjà vu for Fye (37-3), who defeated Elwood's Kayden Simpson (26-5) in the title match for the second straight week.

While he has gotten the better of Simpson of late — including by fall Saturday — familiarity does not mean the wins are coming any easier.

"I kind of knew who I was going to see in the finals. I just have to show out and wrestle," Fye said. "It's tough. Once you see him so many times in a year, it's 50-50 almost. It's really just who wants to go out there and win it."

Fye will be joined at semistate by third-place finisher Tyler Huffman (25-14) at 113 pounds and fourth-place wrestlers Camden Shelton (23-16) at 175 pounds and Harrison Fife (18-13) at 285 pounds.

Fife's first-round win over top-seeded Kyrese Rhodes of Providence Cristo Rey was one of the more improbable victories of the day. Fife trailed Rhodes throughout the match and was down 11-4 in the third period before taking control and winning by fall with just 17 seconds remaining.

"He was getting killed the whole match," Alex coach Scott Rowland said. "He got it turned there at the end and stuck him."

Ellis led the Frankton contingent, grabbing a win by fall in the first round, another by medical default in the second before holding on for a tough 7-5 decision over Crank in the final. He will be joined by a pair of third-place Eagles, Garek Ellis at 215 pounds and Ty Everson at 285 pounds.

Jonah Ellis was grateful to have finally gotten the better of Crank after the results were reversed in the sectional final at Elwood.

"It feels great, especially against a kid I've been wrestling all year," Ellis said. "I hadn't gotten him yet, but I got him this time."

"A great day for Jonah, he and Chris Crank have wrestled at least three times this year, and we haven't beaten him yet," Frankton coach Courtney Duncan said. "It's the last match that matters most, and at this regional if you can come out with a one (seed), you're set up for next week."

Anderson will be represented at New Castle by third-place Lorenzo Moreno at 132 pounds and Jensen Shryock at 165 pounds and fourth-place Jackson Richardson at 120 pounds.

Simpson will be the lone Elwood wrestler at New Castle as he advances to semistate for the second straight time.

While the bulk of the area teams competed at Pendleton, Madison-Grant wrestlers advanced through the Peru regional while Daleville was at Jay County.

Three Argylls moved on, led by runners-up Tripp Haisley (23-4) at 126 pounds and Grant Howard (26-10) at 138 pounds. With a fourth-place finish, Boston Caudell (190 pounds) completes the M-G contingent heading to Fort Wayne next week with a 40-4 mark.

Daleville's 157-pounder, Reazon Davenport, fell short of the title but did earn his third career trip to the Fort Wayne semistate with a 33-2 record and a third-place finish.

History was also made for the second straight Saturday by Hamilton Heights 106-pounder Kendall Moe. After becoming the first female champion in the Elwood sectional, she became the first to advance through the Pendleton Heights regional, claiming a third-place finish for the Huskies.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.