SPRINGVILLE — Three Springville-Griffith Institute wrestlers traveled to Niagara County Community College for the State Qualifier on Feb. 15. NCCC hosted wrestlers from all over Section VI. To qualify for the tournament, athletes must place in the top four at their class meets. Qualifying for Springville was Zack Swank, at 113; Jake Smith, at 132, and Josh Ball, at 285. All three have been standouts for Springville this season, in both tournaments and dual matches. The tournament is a single-elimination format; outside of the top seeds, which have the ability to lose their first matches and still qualify for states.
Swank was pinned by Brent Bachman of Roy-Hart, at 113, in the first round. Swank qualified for sectionals, despite having a losing record on the year. He entered the Class B meet and was able to work his way into the top four to advance. He went 2-2 at the Class B tournament, pinning his opponents in both wins.
“Two years in a row, he’s qualified, despite having a losing record,” said Springville coach Gary Feltz of Swank, who finished the year with an 11-15 record. “He came through in the class meet. It’s great that he qualified for the state qualifier. It’s great experience, just being there. Seeing all of these wrestlers and getting a chance to wrestle against the top wrestlers in the section is really a great experience for him.”
Ball, a sophomore, lost in the first round as well – losing to DJ Hamrick, of Chautauqua Lake, via a pin. Ball finished the season 20-9, including a first-place finish at the Franklinville tournament, a second-place finish at the Maple Grove tournament, and fourth-place finishes at the Erie County Interscholastic Conference tournament, Class B tournament and the Ken-Ton tournament.
“At the state qualifier, being in that weight, there’s an awful lot of seniors and juniors at that weight class,” said Feltz. “He’s done really well this season, especially since he didn’t wrestle last year.”
Smith, at 132, won his first match of the tournament winning an 8-4 decision over Gabe Grey, of Cattaraugus. Smith then lost to Austin Acquard, of Pioneer, by a technical fall and was pinned by Zack Beirfeldt, of Olean. Smith strung together a 28-10 record, this season.
“He has the heart of a champion,” said Feltz, of Smith. “He has the willingness to put the work in on the mat. His experience and maturity made him really ready to set it off this year and he did.”
Springville finished the season with a 7-3 record, including stringing together seven consecutive wins, to end the season.
“We really spring-boarded from last year into this year,” said Feltz.
“I knew we’d be competitive in duel matches but we really went above and beyond that. I’m really happy with the work the guys put in, this season.”
Along with their commitments to the team, Jobe Fleming, Ian Baker and DJ Lynch spent time on Monday nights teaching children as young as 5 years old the fundamentals of wrestling.
The program is called the Springville Kids Club and was organized to teach kids basic knowledge of wrestling, through instruction and games.
Springville has a very young team and will only graduate one senior this year, in Anthony Mitchell.
“We’ll be looking to shoot for the division title, next year,” said Feltz.