Bulldog wrestling has always had trouble beating the bigger Columbia County team. But the Dogs finally prevailed in a home match on Tuesday, Jan. 27, taking the victory 40-26.

It was a fierce dual meet and marked the first time Suwannee and Columbia have wrestled in a dual meet in over four years. Still exhausted from the long weekend at the 5 Star Invitational in Jacksonville where the team took second out of 28 teams, the Suwannee wrestlers wanted to "keep the train rollin'" and defeat their old rivals from Columbia.

The Dogs started wrestling at the 119 weight class where Barney Wainwright pinned his opponent. Next up, Josh Davis, 125 weight class, scored a major decision by beating his opponent by more than 15 points. The score swooped to 11-0 in favor of Suwannee.

But the Dogs lost the next two matches. David Sanders, 130 weight class, and William McCrimon, 135 weight class, lost their matches but had to face the two best wrestlers on the Columbia team.

After the two losses, the score was tied, 11-11. Suwannee won the next four matches, thanks to Lee Laxton, Michael Jessop, Donald Slater, and Greg Boyle. The four wins built the Dogs' lead to 31-11.

Eric Lugo wrestled next. Lugo's opponent was a strong wrestler that kept driving Lugo backwards which caused him to be hit with four stalling penalties. As a result, Lugo had to give up four points to his opponent. Towards the end of the match, Lugo started to drive on his opponent, but time ran out and Eric lost the match on points.

After Lugo's match, the team score went to 31-14. Five matches still remained to be fought. The outcome of the dual meet had yet to be decided.

Suwannee had to forfeit two weight classes, 103 and 112. With the forfeits, the score went to 31-26. With three matches left, Columbia still had the opportunity to win.

Next wrestler up was Frank Lee. Lee had a phenomenal weekend at the 5 Star Invitational, winning his first matches of the season and taking fourth place. But the Dogs needed Lee to come up with a win here. It was time for Lee to prove himself again.

According to Head Wrestling Coach Jimmy McCullers, Lee wrestled his heart out in a whirlwind of a match.

"Frank would take his opponent to the mat, almost pin his opponent, then his opponent would roll him and almost pin him," McCullers said.

The flip-flopping of the points lead and of the wrestlers went on for the duration of the match . . . six long minutes.

"When the six minutes was over, and I had almost suffered a heart attack," McCullers said. "Frank defeated his opponent 20-17." The team score went to 34-26 after Lee's win. With two matches remaining, the Dogs had to win one to secure the victory.

Michael Wright stepped on the mat and did just that. Wright, a sophomore, has had an incredible season so far. He beat his Tiger opponent 11-3, securing the win for the Bulldogs. The team score was 37-26 . . .even if Columbia pinned the last Suwannee contestant, they could not win.

So, Kris Kearns stepped up to win his first home dual meet and gain a little respect. Kearns has struggled this year in a very competitive heavy-weight bracket. With the win in the bag for the Dogs, Kearns was wrestling for pride.

Kearns struggled the whole match with an opponent that outweighed him by 45 pounds. Several times Kearns had his opponent on his back, but just could not pin his limber opponent. After wrestling for six exhausting minutes, Kearns defeated his opponent on points. Suwannee had a sweet victory over the Lake City Tiger wrestlers, 40-26.

"It was a great dual meet, probably the most exciting of the year so far," McCullers said. "The wrestlers competed in front of its largest home crowd yet. If you were there, I know you had a great time. If you weren't, well, you missed a great sporting event. I can't describe the energy in that gym last night . . . it was electrifying!"

Suwannee has two more home dual meets, Tuesday, Feb. 3 against Bradford County and Thursday, Feb. 5 against Robert E. Lee from Jacksonville. Mark you calendars and plan to attend. I promise you won't leave disappointed. Go Dogs!

Janet Schrader may be reached by calling 1/386/362-1734 ext. 132 or by e-mail at janet.schrader@gaflnews.com.

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