Utica Eisenhower captures third straight wrestling district crown

By: Timothy Pontzer | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 9, 2017

UTICA — Utica Eisenhower won its third straight wrestling team district championship, defeating Troy Athens 50-17 in the title round Feb. 9 at Utica High.

"I think this shows that we're still around," said Ike coach David Drath. "We had 14 kids graduate from last year, which is quite a bit. Even with that and a lot of injuries, we showed that we can wrestle tough, which says a lot about our entire team."

The Eagles recorded six pins versus the Red Hawks, advancing to the regional round, a place Ike has never captured a team title in program history.

"I thought tonight went pretty well, I really liked our matchups against Athens, and Troy (High) was nip and tuck most of the way, but we showed what we can do," Drath said, referencing his squad's 51-21 victory against the Colts in the opening round. "Now we head out to Oxford for regionals, which it seems like we're at every year, but one of these times we're going to get them."

Drath praised the leadership he saw from his senior class as a major reason for the three-peat, specifically pointing out Mekhael Kattula (285 pounds) and Gavin Hughes (160).

"This is amazing, I'm so happy for the team," Kattula said. "We work hard all season, and tonight we showed we can finish hard. This only sets our confidence very high for the regionals, we think we can surprise a lot of people."

"This is a really good accomplishment for us," Hughes added. "It's a nice way to finish out the year, and all of our careers as seniors. It is a nice reward, because it shows how hard the whole team worked."

Ike's crosstown rival, Utica fell in the opening round to Troy Athens 43-31.

In his 11th season at the helm of the program, Utica coach Clinton Davis admitted the team had gone through a down year, but looked forward to the offseason for improvement.

"We have a really young team," Davis said. "After the match, I was just talking to them about how we need to get after it and commit to doing the extra stuff in the months off."

Utica will only graduate four seniors, three of whom were first-year members of the squad.

"Our guys are still learning a lot, and we're still pretty young and small," Davis said. "We need to work hard in the weight room and in our strength program. I emphasized that if they want to compete on a night like tonight, they have to be willing to do the extra stuff."

With the team season over, the coach singled out two wrestlers from the 152-pound class as Chieftains to watch in the individual districts and beyond, citing senior David Stemple and junior Dylan Page.

"We're really looking forward to see what Stemple and Page can do," Davis said. "I really like their chances, they're both solid wrestlers, with both competing with us since they were freshmen."