CONCORDIA, Kansas — Arley Bryant Gymnasium played host to a full evening of wrestling Thursday night when No. 15 ranked Cloud County Community College hosted Central Christian College.
Prior to the collegiate dual, Concordia High School and Republic County High School squared off in a thrilling matchup that saw the hometown Panthers win 40-39 via tiebreaker.
The T-Birds then capped the evening with a win of their own, starting 2019 with a 27-12 dual victory over the visiting Tigers.
"I thought the night was awesome," said Cloud County head coach, Cody Cole. "The crowd from Belleville and the Concordia crowd really did a great job all through the night. A lot of people stayed for our dual and the two high schools put on an exciting show. It was exciting to see those guys compete up at the college and hopefully it's something we can continue."
Cloud County, which had much of its roster out in Oklahoma in preparation for Friday's Northeast Oklahoma A&M Duals, was able to give a handful of guys a crack at competing in the varsity lineup and the T-Birds responded, winning four of the six matches wrestled.
"It's important to keep guys fresh because you never know when you're going to be called upon. I think it's important for us that these guys don't get stagnant in the second half of the year," Cole said. "We talked before the dual and knew we were going to match up with these guys (Tigers), each of us giving one forfeit, and wanted to go win as many matches as we could. The guys bought into that mentality."
Former Republic County standout Brady Lowell began the evening with a pin of Tye Paluso in 2:13 to get the T-Birds out to the early 6-0 lead and reenergize the building.
"It was really exciting to see Brady get a win in front of his old high school team and it was definitely exciting for him," Cole said. "The crowd went crazy after that happened."
Freshman Albert Werden followed with a pin of his own at 133-pounds, knocking off Travis Weatherhead in 4:15.
Werden, who has suited up at 125 pounds before this season, was one of two young wrestlers Cole said were big highlights Thursday.
Fellow freshman Michael Dorer, recommended to Cloud County by Central Christian's head coach Tom Carr, concluded the evening with a spirited 7-2 decision win.
"Mikey wrestled really well and really smart tonight. He did a great job for us," Cole said. "I also thought Albert was great for us. He weighed in at 125 pounds tonight but wrestled at 133 for us and got a big fall there."
The T-Birds also received a win from freshman Matthew Cruickshank at 184 pounds as he bounced back from a slow start to pin Joseph Krussick in 3:44.
Cole also praised the effort of sophomore Tanner McGivney, who suffered a high-ankle sprain late in the third period when he led 13-10. Instead of forfeiting and giving up six points, McGivney stayed in for a 17-13 decision loss to save three points for the T-Birds.
The rest of the Cloud County squad will now turn its attention toward Friday's NEO Duals in what will be a great measuring stick for the T-Birds as a slew of the nation's top talent will be out in Miami, Oklahoma.
"We get to wrestle some of the top ranked teams in the country (Friday), all five duals will be against top-10 teams in the country, and I think it'll be a really great preview for the national tournament," Cole said. "The first day of nationals you could have 4-5 matches. It's important for our guys to go face these ranked opponents so when it does come down to the national tournament, it's just another singlet and we're not worried about it because we took care of business in January."
Cloud County begins the day at 9 a.m. against No. 2 ranked Northeastern Oklahoma. The T-Birds will then face off against No. 5 Ellsworth, No. 7 Iowa Western, No. 4 Iowa Central and No. 6 Iowa Lakes in succession.