It has been about three weeks since the last time the Grain Valley wrestling team had competed.
Dec. 15 at the Harrisonville Holiday Tournament was the last time the Eagles saw action, and they followed their Christmas break with a matchup with Missouri River Valley Conference West rival Odessa.
There was some rust there. And after wrestlers in the lower weight classes helped Grain Valley jump out to a 33-18 lead, Odessa took the last four matches to end Tuesday’s dual in a 33-33 tie.
“I know we had a close one with them last year and I thought we could have had them,” Grain Valley 113-pounder Caleb Benshoof said. “But crazy things happen sometimes and we have to make it better.”
The Bulldogs got some close wins near the end to pull out the tie. Braden Palmer (182) started the rally with a 3-1 victory thanks to a pair of clasping penalties. Xavier Walsh took a 6-3 decision with a near fall in the last 10 seconds on a string and bow grapple, Clayton Hazelrigg (220) won by forfeit and Austin Thomas (heavyweight) held off Grain Valley’s William O’Neal for a narrow 3-2 win, which ended it in the deadlock.
Grain Valley coach Jesse Whitson cited the rust and the lack of aggressive attacking as reasons for his team losing a 15-point lead.
“We got what we earned tonight,” Whitson said. “We need to shake off the rust and see what flaws we have and make those corrections. I don’t think we got to our attacks enough. They did a really good job slowing us down.”
There were a pair of returning state qualifiers that looked anything but rusty. Benshoof (113), who placed second at state last year at 106, got a pin after working from the up position following a takedown to get the fall victory with 27.8 seconds left in the first period.
“I had to hit the weight room and add a little more muscle to be able to compete in this weight class,” Benshoof said of moving up to 113 pounds. “I felt good and made sure that I got to my stuff and did what I wanted to do. I just wanted to get it over with and that’s what I did.”
Whitson said Benshoof has looked good at a higher weight class so far.
“He took a couple of losses early to good competition,” Whitson said. “He’s going to continue to make adjustments through the season and he needs to have those tough wins at the end of state like he did last year. He’s done a good job with the weight adjustment.”
The other state qualifier who had a good showing was Mitchell Alexander, who pinned Clint Donovan with 14.4 seconds left in the second period. He quickly transitioned from a double-leg takedown to floating over to the top of his opponent and pressing his shoulders down for the victory.
“I knew coming into this one that I was going to have to get the pin,” Alexander said. “I just stayed hustling and fought hard. I went from an ankle pick to his back and got the pin.
“Our lower weights are definitely our strength, that’s for sure. The upper weights are just sophomores, but they just have some learning to do.”
Other wins for the Eagles came from Trent LeGrotte, who held off a late surge from Luke Malizzi to take the 132-pound contest 6-4; Taylor Huwar (145) got a late escape in overtime and managed to keep Max Blake from doing the same in a 2-1 win; Tanner Dennis (170) got a pair of takedowns and a near fall for a 6-0 triumph; and Wolfgang Clapper (138) and Ralph Hernandez (160) had forfeit wins.