BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Last weekend, freshman wrestlers from all over Northwest Ohio took part in a special tournament that not only signaled a significant rite of passage but also honored the memory of a former Maumee wrestler.
Athletes from 16 schools in the area participated in the Andy Bates Memorial Tournament at Maumee on Saturday.
Powerhouses such as Clay, Swanton and Genoa were in attendance, as were schools from Northview, Southview, Napoleon and Rossford, among others.
Maumee coach Brian Buck remembers wrestling in the tournament during his freshman season and said it’s a great way for freshmen to be introduced to high school wrestling.
“It holds a special place in my heart for several reasons,” Buck said. “It was the first tournament I ever wrestled in. My football coach Hal LaFontaine said I needed to go out for wrestling to become a better football player and so I went out for wrestling.
“Like many other wrestlers in Northwest Ohio, it was the first tournament of their high school career and the only time they would only face all freshmen.
“This tournament is much better than being thrown into a varsity lineup and wrestling a senior.”
Four Maumee freshmen participated in the tournament – Brayden Spinale at 106 pounds, Blake Smith at 113, Colin O’Neill at 157 and Jackson Schneider at 215.
Smith finished fourth in his weight class with a 2-3 record, while Spinale won his first match of the day by pin.
The tournament is even more special to Maumee wrestlers because of its namesake; Andy Bates was a wrestler for the Panthers who tragically died in a car accident just hours after his high school graduation.
Buck, who coached at Maumee while in college, instructed Bates for three seasons.
“Andy was a unique individual,” Buck said. “He was not the best wrestler, but he did everything right and did it to the best of his ability. You could always count on him.
“It was a great thing Coach McDermott did in renaming the event. I feel that after the naming our kids took pride in wrestling in honor of Andy Bates.”
As Buck indicated, the tournament gave him and his coaching staff a chance to gauge where his new wrestlers are early on in their high school careers.
“They just need to keep working in practice and get more confidence in what moves work for them and which ones don’t,” Buck said. “I fully expect them to get back in the room and work on getting better.
“The surprise would be if you see what they do in practice and then they don’t do it in a match. We have worked very hard this year on attacking and I just didn’t see it.
“I told the whole team after the tournament we all need to be more aggressive and take our shots and not allow the opponent to attack us first.”