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Hartford Press Box

Wrestling team falls at team regionals, sending three to state

Last week, the Hartford Husky wrestling team returned to the mat in postseason competition, as the entire team participated in the team regional, while six wrestlers tried to punch their way to an appearance at the individual state finals. The wrestlers have had one of their best years in recent memory, coming into the week having won 18 team dual matches on the year, finished second in the regular season conference race and won team district for the first time in 15 years.

In the previously mentioned team regional, which was held at Dowagiac, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, the Huskies were in a regional which also included the host Chieftains, Constantine and Hopkins. In the regional semifinals, Hartford took on Dowagiac, looking to get to the team regional final. Unfortunately, the wrestlers were unsuccessful in their bid, falling 47-33, ending their season as a team.

Hartford wrestlers that won matches against Dowagiac included Ernesto Rodarte (120 pounds), Alex Saldana (126 pounds), Braeden Birkhead (150 pounds), Linken Birkhead (190 pounds), William Candelario (215 pounds) and Govani Gonzalez-Perez (285 pounds).

In the team regional final, Constantine defeated Dowagiac, 49-22, sending the Falcons to team state, which will be held this Friday and Saturday, at the Wings Events Center in Kalamazoo.

In terms of individual regionals, Hartford sent six wrestlers into battle this past weekend, with thoughts on making it to individual state in a couple weeks. Since the team had young men and ladies competing, the two events were held over two days, in two different locations.

In the previously mentioned individual regional for the men, which was held at Adrian Madison, on Saturday, Feb. 18, the Huskies sent four individuals to the competition, with their seasons on the line. In the end, two wrestlers, Ernesto Rodarte and Alex Saldana stamped their ticket to Ford Field to compete for a place on the podium.

Rodarte finished as the runner-up in the 113-pound weight class. He started the day with a pair of victories, pinning Aiden Bocanegra (Napoleon) in 1:20 before defeating Christian Millican (Brooklyn Columbia Central) by decision, 13-8, to clinch his spot. In his final match, he went up against Braylon Long (Clinton) and suffered a loss by technical fall, 15-0.

Saldana finished fourth in the 126-pound weight class. He started the day with a quick victory over Paul McClure (Adrian Madison), pinning him in :29, before losing, by fall, to Connor Younts (Clinton) in 4:25. With his season on the line, he wrestled Landon Mohr (Adrian Madison) and scored the pin in :30, clinching his spot at state. In his final match, he went up against Bear Geibe (Constantine), in a rematch from the previous week, and was pinned in 3:45.

Braeden Birkhead (144 pounds) and Govani Gonzalez-Perez (215 pounds) also competed at the individual regional; Birkhead got within one match of being a state qualifier, losing in the blood round, 6-0, while Gonzalez-Perez was pinned in back-to-back matches.

In the previously mentioned individual regional for the ladies, which was held at Cadilla, on Sunday, Feb. 19, the Huskies sent two individuals to the competition, with their seasons also on the line. In the end, one wrestler, Mikayla Hartline, stamped her ticket to Ford Field to compete for glory, becoming the first female wrestler from Hartford to make an appearance at state finals.

Hartline finished fourth in the 170-pound weight class. She started the day with a victory over Gabriella Rodriguez (Hastings), by fall, in 2:42, before matching up with Heaven Cole (Kalamazoo Loy Norrix), suffering defeat by pin. With her season on the line, she matched up in the blood round with Adalene Chambers (Kingsley) and won by fall, in :56, securing her spot at state. In her final match, she went up against Shayleigh Simonds (Galesburg-Augusta), and was pinned.

Anya Watkins (110 pounds) also competed at the individual regional. She won her first match over Ashlyn Emmendorfer (Hemlock) by fall, in 1:18; however, she was defeated in the next match by fall, and suffered a close defeat by decision in the blood round, 3-0, ending her season a match away from state qualification.

As a team, Hartford finished the season with an 18-11 record in team duals. Ernesto, Alex and Mikayla will continue practicing hard in the week ahead, as the individual state tournament will not take place until Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4 at Ford Field in Detroit.

Boys basketball loses two weekly contests

Last week, the Hartford Husky boys varsity basketball team returned to the court for another multi-game stretch of regular season action, as the men played in two of three scheduled contests over the course of just two days. The team came into play with a record of 8-6 on the season, while trying to put an end to a recent skid that has seen the squad lose five of their last eight games entering play. The stretch run is here, and their best basketball needs to come right about now.

In their first game of the week, a home non-conference contest against the Lakers of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic (formerly Lake Michigan Catholic), on Monday, Feb. 13, the Huskies went up against a team they used to compete with on a yearly basis, when both were members of the Red Arrow Conference. This one went to overtime, and Hartford was on the losing end, 45-41.

The first half saw both teams make scoring runs, as Our Lady of the Lake Catholic won the scoreboard battle in the first quarter, 11-4, before Hartford went on a 14-8 scoring run in the second stanza, to cut the deficit to one at half, 19-18. The second half saw a 12-10 advantage in scoring for the visiting Lakers in the third quarter, before the host Huskies tied the game, ending regulation with an 11-8 scoring advantage in the fourth. In overtime, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic outscored Hartford, 6-2, to leave the gymnasium with a hard-fought victory.

Seven players scored for the Huskies, including one that finished the night in double figures. Brody Johnson led all Hartford scorers with 12 points, while Austin Reyna, Julien Rodarte and Zach Truelove chipped in six points each in the loss. Other players finishing in the scoring column included Caiden Smith (5 points), Dylan Kuehnle (4 points) and Bryan Torres (2 points).

In their second game of the week, a home non-conference contest against the Eagles of Marcellus Howardsville Christian, on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the Huskies came into the game fresh off of a disappointing result, looking to rebound with a key victory. However, the Eagles came out of the gate playing well and pulled away all night long, as they would defeat Hartford, 72-58. The result of the game would be determined in the first half, as Howardsville Christian outscored the Huskies, 16-9, in the first quarter, and 26-19 in the second stanza, to build a 42-28 halftime lead. The second half was a draw, as both teams managed to score a total of 30 points; both squads managed 17 points in the third quarter and 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Seven players scored for the Huskies, including three that finished the night in double figures. Brody Johnson and Caiden Smith led all Hartford scorers with 12 points apiece, while Julien Rodarte chipped in 11 points in the loss. Other players finishing in the scoring column included Zach Truelove (9 points), Austin Reyna (7 points), Dylan Kuehnle (4 points) and Bryan Torres (3 points).

The Huskies were scheduled to travel to Bloomingdale, to take on the Cardinals, on Thursday, Feb. 16, but the game was postponed due to weather and the deteriorating road conditions. No official make-up date has been announced, but rumors are hinting towards next Monday, Feb. 27.

Hartford is currently 8-8 on the season and is 7-4 in Southwest 10 Conference play. The men will take the court for two games in the coming week, with both counting towards the conference standings. The team will have started the week by hosting the Chiefs of White Pigeon, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, and will finish the week by traveling to Cassopolis, on Friday, Feb. 24, for a contest against the Rangers.

Girls basketball finishes three game week with 1-2 record

The Hartford Lady Husky basketball team had an action-packed stretch of regular season contests, as they played in three games over the course of just four calendar days. The team entered play with a 6-11 record on the year, but has shown improvement in games, while playing more inconsistent in other contests. With the season down to its waning weeks, and the postseason looming, their best play has to occur at this pivotal time.

In their first game of the week, a road non-conference contest at Marcellus Howardsville Christian against the Lady Eagles on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the Lady Huskies went up against a team that they have not played in years, if ever, which left them wondering how well they’d fare. The result wasn’t to their liking however, as Hartford would take the loss in this game, 39-28. The opening eight minutes saw the Lady Eagles edge out to a 4-3 lead, before extending the lead to seven at the half, 15-8. They outscored Hartford, 11-5, in the second stanza.

Howardsville Christian added to their lead in a huge way in the third quarter, utilizing a 14-3 scoring advantage to blow the game open. The Lady Huskies responded with a solid, 17-10 fourth quarter scoring blitz, but the game was already on ice by that point.

Four players scored for the Lady Huskies, including one that finished the night in double figures. Brooke Birmele led all Hartford scorers with 12 points, while Raven Ledesma chipped in nine points in the loss. Other players finishing in the scoring column included Ava Bachman (5 points) and Fantasia Eastman (2 points).

In their second game of the week, a home non-conference contest against the Lady Titans of Saint Joseph Michigan Lutheran, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, the Lady Huskies played another team they haven’t seen in a while, if ever, but a team that came in with a winning record on the year. Hartford played a solid game from start-to-finish and earned a critical late-season win, 37-30. The visiting Lady Titans got out to an 8-7 lead after the opening eight minutes, before the Lady Huskies responded with an 18-8 scoring blast in the second quarter, to take a 25-16 lead at the half. The final two quarters were both low scoring, in that neither team was able to put more than 10 points up in either stanza; Hartford won the scoreboard battle in the third quarter, 7-6, while Michigan Lutheran battled back to take the advantage in the final stanza, 8-5.

Six players scored for the Lady Huskies, including two that finished the night in double figures. Ava Bachman led all Hartford scorers with 12 points, while Brooke Birmele chipped in 10 points in the win. Other players finishing in the scoring column included Rylee Ackerman (8 points), Rylee Deckard (3 points), Fantasia Eastman (2 points) and Abby Valdes (2 points).

In their third game of the week, a home conference contest against the Lady Cardinals of Bloomingdale on Friday, Feb. 17, the Lady Huskies looked to earn back-to-back wins against a conference opponent with a winning record, and one they lost to by just six points earlier this year. Unfortunately, this result remained similar, as the Lady Cardinals took the win, 55-41. Bloomingdale took an early 15-6 lead after the opening eight minutes, before Hartford responded with a 13-9 scoring advantage in the second quarter, to trim the lead to just five, 24-19, at the break.

The momentum quickly shifted back to the Lady Cardinals in the third quarter, as they blew the game open thanks to a 17-5 scoring blitz in the frame to open a 41-24 lead with eight minutes left. However, give credit to Hartford, though; despite being down double-digits, they fought back to take the final stanza, 17-14, to end the contest on a good note despite the result.

Five players scored for the Lady Huskies, including one that finished the night in double figures. Ava Bachman led all Hartford scorers with 18 points, while Raven Ledesma chipped in nine points in the loss. Other players finishing in the scoring column included Brooke Birmele (5 points), Rylee Deckard (5 points) and Fantasia Eastman (4 points).

Hartford is currently 7-13 on the season and is 6-8 in Southwest 10 Conference play. The Lady Huskies will take the court two times in the coming week, with one game counting towards the conference standings and the other a crossover contest. The team will have started the week by traveling to White Pigeon, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, for a matchup with the Lady Chiefs, before hosting the Southwest 10 Conference crossover game (opponent to be determined) on Thursday, Feb. 23, which will conclude the regular season.

As always, GO GREEN! GO WHITE!

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