by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge 285-pound senior Tyler Cox was the only Skyhawk to tally a pin against Sunset, flattening the Apollos Alex Betancourt in the third round.

Word to the wise, it might not be in one’s best interest to tell Caleb Johnen, Alex James and Tyler Cox that wrestling could be considered an “individual sport.”

All three of the Southridge wrestlers came away conquering against Sunset on Thursday, with Johnen and James winning by decision and Cox pinning Sunset’s Alex Betancourt in the final match of the night.

Yet, each of the Skyhawks sported a detectable disgust on their faces as they quickly gathered their gear and made a beeline to the Southridge bus.

The way Southridge grappled as a team, dropping eight six-minute matches and losing constant winnable bouts in a 36-19 defeat bothered the Skyhawk trio to their bones.

In the minds of the Skyhawks, their showing against Sunset was unacceptable, and hopefully amendable for down the road.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Cox. “We didn’t win a close match the whole night. They won every single close match. They just killed us mentally. We couldn’t find any fire. It snowballed as the night went on. I’m just disappointed in the team.”

“No one wrestled the way they wanted to, including myself,” added Johnen. “We didn’t do what we were planning to do. This is a dual we should’ve been close with and even won. It’s a bad performance and that’s on all of us.”

The defeat dropped Southridge to 1-1 in the Metro League standings, but the loss to Sunset is doubly impactful, because now the Apollos own the tiebreaker between the two teams.

Toward the ends of matches, in the contest’s waning seconds the Skyhawks were oftentimes the team getting scored on, whether it was a late escape or calculated takedown for Sunset’s benefit.

“This cost us our Metro League title, maybe,” said James. “Even the guys that won aren’t happy about their performances. We didn’t wrestle hard enough. We had six or seven matches where we were down by one, or even tied, and the guy took us down. It was over. It’s definitely a pride thing. We just have to work on it and want it on the mat.”

Johnen beat Sunset’s Zachary Morello, 14-6, in the 113-pound match for the majority decision win. However, the Skyhawk was frustrated he couldn’t splinter Morello and record the fall. A pin could’ve given Southridge an early jolt of energy, Johnen said. Instead, Sunset won the next eight matches, seven by decision.

“That’s a kid I should’ve pinned very easily,” said Johnen. “Instead, I gave up offensive points. Overall it was just an awful performance by everyone, including myself. We have to work harder. We have to put the kids out there who deserve to be on the mat, the elite 14. If they don’t want it, then we can’t have them out there.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge 113-pound Caleb Johnen won his match by major decision against Sunset on Thursday. The Skyhawks lost to the Apollos, 36-19.

James said he’d beaten Sunset’s Ellis Parr at least four or five times in the past with two pins mixed in the results. Yet, the 182-pound James had to settle for the six-minute decision and three points instead of six.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridges Alex James was one of three Skyhawks to beat Sunset on Thursday on the road. James beat Ellis Parr by decision.

“I should’ve had the fall tonight,” said James. “I think we all have to practice harder and transfer that onto the mat. That’s the only way we get better from this. Otherwise it’s going to hurt us later on in the season.”

The 285-pound Cox was seething as he stomped into the middle of the ring against Betancourt for the dual’s last meet and Southridge’s final inhalation at a pin. With Southridge down 36-13 after Nathan Buell won by forfeit, Cox didn’t let down, scoring a near fall to go up 5-0 in the first period and pinning Betancourt with 9.6 seconds remaining in the second period. It was Southridge’s only pin of the night.

“In my mind, I knew I was going to win,” said Cox. “I tried to come out a lot more aggressive than usual and show some heart because we really didn’t have any out there. I had to show some form of excitement or be an example of heart or something out there for the guys.”

Cox vowed to go hard on his Skyhawk teammates in practice and constantly remind them of the shame they felt getting stonewalled by a Sunset squad that Southridge felt was breakable. And, with Aloha coming up this week, there’s little time to rest.

“Some of these guys might hate me after the next couple weeks,” said Cox. “But, I’m going to push everybody. Running, pushups, lifting more. I want to teach them how to be mentally tough. We’re not mentally tough out there at all. It’s frustrating. But, we’re going to be alright.

“We definitely have to push this next week,” continued Cox. “We have to get after it more in the (practice) room. We’re pushing it hard. We’re in better shape than a lot of those (Sunset) guys. We see them dogging it. We see blood in the water, and we’re not attacking and being aggressive like we need to.”

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