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Photo by Lee Cable

Startin' a new tradition


January 14, 2009
There's a new game in town and it can be found at Crawford County High School. Yes, wrestling is back after a hiatus of about 11 years and it looks like it's back to stay.

On a recent Tuesday evening, the new Crawford County team, coached by brothers Jimmy and Jason Ward and Benny Miller, all of Corydon, took on Washington High School and, although it lost, 24-52, the Crawford County team looked good, stood its ground and gave a few on the more muscled Washington team a run for their money.

The Crawford County team, working through its first year, is still learning, but the wrestlers clearly have the desire to do better.

"I'm really pleased with the team's progress," coach Jimmy Ward said. "They're really coming along. So far, we've had five wins and 14 losses, which is not bad for a new team. This was our first home match, and I think several on the team were a little nervous to wrestle in front of the home crowd, but they put on a good show and certainly have nothing to be ashamed of."

The Washington team seemed to have a little swagger in its step as the match began, knowing it was going up against a less-experienced team. But after a couple of really close matches, it wiped the grin off its face and hung on, seeing that the Crawford team was serious about wrestling.

There was a total of four forfeits as the teams didn't have every weight class covered, and those without an opponent had their arms raised as a victor.

Crawford's Gabe Talley was one of those who didn't have an opponent.

"I came ready to wrestle," Talley said, "but you never know until the last minute if you'll have an opponent in your weight class."

Talley, 16, has 13 wins and five losses for the season.

The Crawford County team also has three female wrestlers. Rachel Rodriquez, who was surely out-muscled by her Washington opponent, showed she had a lot of grit, and even though she lost the match, her opponent was clearly exhausted when the match was finished.

The Wards and Miller decided to take on the coaching duties at Crawford County when they discovered that the school's wrestling program had stopped years ago.

"We knew they didn't have a wrestling program," Jimmy said, "but, yet, they had the mats and the facilities, and I always wanted to coach, so it was a perfect fit. Besides, Mr. Greg Moe, the high school principal here, is a state certified and licensed wrestling referee, and he helps us with the program. It's working out really nicely."

And, indeed, Moe is quite experienced in wrestling.

"I wrestled in both high school and college," he said. "I've been a referee for 19 years and have refereed on a professional level for over 11 years. I think the team has done well the first year out. We have some who are physically limited and some are more athletic than others, but they're doing much better and they're beginning to see that you have to be tough in this game.

"We'll have another match at home on Jan. 22 against Paoli, and they're looking forward to that one. And I plan to form a junior-high team this spring, also. We had a good turnout of fans at the last home match, and I think most who came were impressed with what they saw. A lot of time, people think this is professional wrestling, like the WWE, but this is real wrestling. Nothing is staged. Our athletic director and coaches totally support the program, and it adds a lot to the school."

Moe's wife, Chris, is the scorekeeper for the team.

The coaches, Jim and Jason Ward and Ben Miller, were wrestlers at Corydon Central High School for several years and also played football there.

"I'm excited about the year as a whole," Jimmy said. "We started practice in June and had our first match in November. This coming year, we'll build on what we have, and I'm pleasantly surprised that all the wrestlers are going to stay except for one. We'll be a much better team next year.

"On Jan. 31, our regular season ends, so after the Paoli team is here on the 22nd, we'll travel to Tell City for a match, we'll have a home match with New Albany and a match against Providence High School. We've got some tough ones coming, so we have to be committed and dedicated."

(Lee Cable may be reached at 738-4552 or lcable@clarionnews.net.)

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