Concurrent events often challenge the planning abilities of enterprising sportswriters. One activity is no more important than the other, so how does one possibly be in two places at one time?
Simply put, you can’t, so you have to do the best you can. In the process, you can miss a lot.
Our story begins on Thursday, Jan. 17, a day when the Bartow High School wrestling team would have their final home match and the BHS girls soccer team was playing in the district semi-finals. Since the starting times were separated by an hour, there was a window of opportunity. I could see the beginning of one and catch the end of the other.
You may recall that, one month ago, we promised we would get into more detail about the 2012-2013 wrestling team. Senior night would provide a great opportunity to recognize the seniors as well as those who would be charged with creating future success.
Coach Vince Tolley was finishing up the final arrangements for the pre-match ceremony. Six of the seven seniors would be on hand with family members taking part in the activity. The wrestler would enter the mat from one side, carrying flowers, while the supporters would come from the other side. They would meet in the center circle and walk together to the end of the mat. The ceremony may have lasted only a few minutes, but it was the type that will be a memory for years to come.
The opponent sat patiently and respectfully. It was McKeel, a team that had beaten Bartow in a previous meeting. Coach Tolley expressed the importance of evening the score. There was added incentive to get the senior wrestlers a win as the last memory of grappling on the Yellow Jacket mat.
In the meantime, the Bartow High School girls soccer team was watching a potential future opponent. Top-ranked George Jenkins was in the process of dismantling Lake Region in a game that was called at halftime. The Lady Jackets would have to go up against Lakeland. This game was at Bryant Stadium, Lakeland’s home. The teams had met twice before. One game ended in a tie, the other was a Bartow win. Incentive may actually has rested more with the home team, but there was determination for Bartow. The winner, in addition to facing Jenkins, would get a spot in the regionals.
Lakeland held the lead at 1-0 when halftime rolled around. The wind was brisk and the night air had a definite chill to it, but a crowd had gathered with an equal amount of supporters for both sides. When play resumed in the second half, Lakeland put up a wind-assisted goal that gave them a 2-0 lead. The lead didn’t last long. Sarah Valenti scored a minute later and Bartow was on the board. Eight minutes later, some pretty passing set up a tying goal from Anna Koretchko. Ariel Schleicher had a free kick from about 13 yards out at 21:10 that found the twine and Bartow now led, 3-2. Goalkeeper Precious McIntosh kept coming up big, making huge saves and keeping the Dreadnaughts at bay. Time was ticking down when a Bartow player was ruled for a hand ball in the box, a penalty that gave Lakeland a penalty kick, one on one.
McIntosh made a valiant effort, but couldn’t keep the kick from its destination. With under six minutes to play, the score was tied. It would stay that way and set up overtime. Lakeland tried to win it three times in the 10-minute period, but McIntosh wouldn’t allow it. A second overtime was necessary, but it didn’t last long. Lakeland would score in the first minute, bringing an emotional end to Bartow’s season.
The sting of defeat wasn’t felt back at the school gym. Bartow had avenged the previous loss, gaining a 46-34 win over McKeel. The squad will be preparing for the upcoming district tournament, which begins on Jan. 31.
A year ago, there wasn’t much talk about the wrestling team. Coach Tolley was in his first year and it was a big learning curve for the coaching staff and the wrestlers. When it was all said and done a year ago, Bartow was 1-25.
What a difference a year can make. With the victory over McKeel, Bartow improved its record to 19-10. Coach Tolley, along with coaches Dennis Sturgill and Brandon Smith, has made great strides, but the team is not willing to rest on its laurels.
Members of the 2012-2013 Bartow High School wrestling team include Michael Robinson, Cory Trudeau, Antonio Glenn, Seth Sturgill, Belinda Ramirez, Marlon Seawell, Brian Pennington, Vandy Hawk, Trey Sturgill, Antonio Abbott, Austin Hawley, Shara Hawk, Austin Martin, Kevin Mayorga, Ryan Chaney, Kyle Brown, Greg Rhoden, Jose Almaraz, Shaquille King, Avery Tolley, Kaylee Brown, Gavin Osborn, Clayton Moore, Jesse Sansom, Anthony Mendoza, Jonathan Roop and John Harner.