GRIFFITH | Kankakee Valley graduated nine seniors from a solid team that won the Northwest Crossroads Conference title as juniors and placed second as seniors.
Fortunately for the young Kougars still in the wrestling room, not many of those graduated seniors had ski trips or other holiday duties to consume their time on their winter break. Thus, six of the nine were in practices for the last week-plus, passing along instruction while getting a free workout to combat the dreaded "freshman 15" weight gain.
The extra assistance paid off for the Kougars on Thursday as they won the Griffith Super Duals by going 5-0, with six wrestlers matching that mark individually.
Dakota Dellahan, one of two seniors, said the end result provided a nice feeling heading into Christmas.
"It was a good Christmas gift," he said. "I get to put another medal on the shelf, go in, eat a little bit and celebrate our victory."
Dellahan, who had three pins and two wins via forfeit at 145 pounds, was particularly proud of the way the Kougars battled eventual runner-up Griffith in the third round, beating the NCC rival Panthers 45-29.
"The whole team stepped it up and wrestled to a different level," Dellahan said. "Everyone showed a lot of heart.
"Having those college guys come back, like Dustin Schultz (who now wrestles at Purdue), trains us and motivates us to win."
Against Griffith, Dellahan was taken to his back via headlock but got out of it and won by pin en route to improving his season record to 19-2. Teammates who joined Dellahan with a 5-0 slate were Matt Mezzacapo (119), Will Sutton (135), Beau Taber (140), Jake Erwin (215) and heavyweight Kyle Dalka.
"It was a sound performance," K.V. coach Tom Dellahan, Dakota's father, said. "This is really promising for the future."
Griffith went 4-1 with Collin Slagle (125) leading a group of 5-0 wrestlers that included Nate Reitz (103) and Brian Orzechowicz (112). Slagle pinned Highland 119-pounder Danny Rodriguez in the second period of their match after Rodriguez, a state qualifier last season, went up a weight. Slagle is now 15-0 and Orzechowicz is 14-1.
"We haven't peaked yet," Griffith coach Travis Walls said.
Griffith's Ahmed Khalid (152) and Tyjuan Culbreath (171) each went 4-1 with seven pins and a technical fall between them. Both wrestlers had pins against K.V., which came in handy because Griffith's starting heavyweight was out with illness.
"My brother came into town and I put it all on the mat for him and got some pins for him for an early Christmas gift," Khalid said.
Culbreath, a sophomore, chucked some bad habits, which paid off.
"I used to wrestle calm and collected, but everyone I wrestle is usually older than me, and I was losing," Culbreath said. "So I started being aggressive, started snapping and threw the half (Nelson) and got some pins."