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Hitting the mat
Freshman JR Mares works for the pin in Tuesday's 285-pound match at Charlie Dalton Gym. Warren County defeated Rockvale 35-32 to move to 2-1 overall. - photo by Jeffery Simmons

The list of state wrestling qualifiers from Warren County may grow again in a few months. The Pioneers are looking mighty on the mat again, especially when they made their home debut Tuesday night.

Warren County held off Rockvale 35-32 at Charlie Dalton Gym, helping the squad improve to 2-1 this season. It was a huge victory for the grapplers, especially early as the program looks to continue to take big steps toward contention as a group and measure up its top individuals against the best in the Midstate.

“We’ve got a solid team and I think we saw that from top to bottom against Rockvale,” said coach Matt Turner. “It’s a solid blend of guys who were helping us last year and some new guys who have stepped up huge. We need more wins like this – we’re always competing in one of the toughest regions in the state and it’s important to build early momentum.

“I liked how we battled and took care of business at home. There were some matches that came down to the final seconds and it felt like we were on the right side of those almost every time.”

Through three matches, the Pioneers have had some leaders emerge on the mat. Zerek Keel, coming off a run to state as a freshman last year, and junior Seth Lindsay were already looked at as top wrestlers in Warren County, but freshmen Xavier Simmons and JR Mares haven’t taken long to establish themselves as indispensable members of the squad.

All four have yet to be beaten in the first three matches this season, including Simmons picking up perhaps the biggest victory for Warren County in the Rockvale win. 

The match started at 132 pounds and was tied 20-20 when the 220-pounders stepped on the mat.  Simmons was representing Warren County in the weight class and was able to battle out of a deficit in the third round against Jack Jarboe to get three crucial points for his team. He was able to get loose from Jarboe’s grasp for a key point in the third round, then got an extra cushion when a penalty helped keep him in front for good in a 5-4 decision.

Keel and Mares both picked up six points each for Warren County against Rockvale, keeping their streaks of pinfall victories alive this season. Keel simply overwhelmed Donnie Geetling in their 182-pound bout for his third straight win by pin. 

The sophomore, who has delighted in bulldozing opponents early this season, easily gained the upper hand against Geetling and used a three-quarter stack to smash his opponent’s shoulders to the mat for the pin.

Later in the heavyweight matchup, Mares had a similar result. The youngster quickly moved into a dominant position against Steven Nelson and wouldn’t let up once he had control. Mares barely needed a minute to defeat Nelson and push the Pioneers one win away from victory against the Rockets.

Aiden Lindsay pushed the Pioneers over the top when he won his 106-pound matchup with Maximus Garcia, giving the Pioneers a 35-20 lead with just three weight classes left. Rockvale claimed 12 uncontested points as Warren County had to forfeit the 113- and 120-pound bouts, but neither team had a wrestler to compete at 126 pounds and the match ended with the Pioneers up by three.

Warren County wouldn’t have escaped the win over Rockvale without Anthony Johnson dominating on his way to a pin at 132 pounds, Seth Lindsay rolling off 17 consecutive points in a technical fall win at 160 pounds and Raul Manus going down to the wire to beat Mason Khemko 11-10 at 145 pounds.

The home debut Tuesday came after Warren County started the season with a split in Murfreesboro last week. The Pioneers defeated LaVergne 60-12 on Nov. 22, but lost to Blackman 51-27 on the same night. Warren County was back in action last night at Moore County, but results were unavailable at press time.

The Pioneers will stay busy this weekend when they compete in the Ooltewah Invitational Saturday starting at 8 a.m. Warren County won’t be back at home until Tuesday, Dec. 13 when it slated to face Oakland.