WRESTLING: Fehlman claims Fred Bell title

GROVE CITY – Revenge is sweet.

Warren’s D.J. Fehlman avenged his only loss of the 2012-13 wrestling season – and captured the championship trophy in the process – during the 29-team Fred Bell Memorial Wrestling Tournament Saturday at Grove City High School.

The 126-pound sophomore Fehlman (26-1) toppled General McLane’s Keller Watkins in the finals of the tournament, capping off a 5-0 weekend and capturing his second major tournament victory of what is quickly becoming a season for the ages.

Fehlman was dominant in his two Saturday matches leading up to the showdown with Watkins. He started Saturday morning with a 16-4 major decision over Clarion’s Riley Gunter and needed even less time to win his semifinal bout.

In the semis, Fehlman needed only 4:41 to build a 19-0 lead and earn the technical fall over Redbank Valley’s Mitch Blose.

The win over Blose set up the showdown with Watkins. The two had met earlier this season during McLane’s 68-3 dual match victory at Warren Area High School. That night, Fehlman – having battled the flu for most of the week prior – was defeated by Watkins, 7-2.

Saturday was a different story.

With Fehlman at full strength, the super sophomore quickly executed a takedown and led 2-0 after a period. Watkins escaped early in the second period, but Fehlman again was able to take Watkins to the mat, building a 4-1 lead as the second period expired.

After watching Watkins rally from a third period deficit on January 16, Fehlman stayed strong this time executing two additional takedowns in the third period and allowing only two Watkins escapes to make the 8-3 final margin.

“It felt good to win that match,” said Fehlman on Sunday evening. “It defintely built my confidence back up and hopefully sent a message that I can compete with him. We’re tied up 1-1 now and have a big match coming up on Thursday so hopefully this will keep me heading in the right direction.”

The win will likely allow Fehlman to reclaim the top seed in Rob Coleman’s District 10 and Northwest Region Class AAA rankings when they are released next week.

Fehlman wasn’t the only wrestler in action on Saturday, though he was the only to finish among the top six in each weight class. Entering Saturday, 152-pounder Garrett Smead, 182-pounder Chris McNeal and 220-pounder Alex Streich had also qualified for the quarterfinals.

All three were defeated in the quarterfinals and McNeal was eliminated in his first round of consolations.

After Smead was pinned by McLane’s Mike Sutton in the quarterfinals, he bounced back with a 6-0 decision of Saint Marys’ Alex Feldbauer in the consolations before seeing his tournament end with an 8-4 loss to Grove City’s Chet Simoni in the consy quarterfinals.

Streich suffered a 5-0 loss to McLane’s Ian Mallory in the quarterfinals, but bounced back with a victory in his first round of consolations. The sophomore’s tournament ended with a tight 1-0 loss to Redbank Valley’s Cal Haines.

A fourth Dragon to win matches on Saturday was 195-pounder Dan Henry. After falling into the wrestlebacks on Friday evening, Henry started Saturday with a 4-3 decision over Titusville’s Tyler Nicol. Later, Henry was pinned by Hickory’s Brad Garman, ending his tournament.

The Dragons have a busy week ahead, hosting Cambridge Springs on Tuesday before competing in the District 10 Class AAA Team Duals Thursday at Central Tech High School. Warren will face General McLane in the 5 p.m. semifinals.