COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge wrestler Taylor Crane’s third match of the day ended in controversy at the state wrestling finals Friday night in Columbia.
Eighteen seconds into the second period, Crane slammed his opponent, Dominique Thornton of Hazelwood East, and his opponent never got up. Thornton’s supporters were clamoring for the referees to call an illegal move, which would have given Thornton the win and an opportunity at placing at least third at the 140-pound weight class. Instead, Crane will continue on his quest to place at the state finals.
Thornton became the third wrestler of the day wheeled off on a stretcher,
“It was definitely a legal move,” Crane said, “he just lost his balance and landed wrong.”
Crane lost his first match of the day, which cost him a shot at the state championship. He went to the consolation bracket and promptly won his next two matches to go into Saturday with a chance at third place. He will have to win his next two matches to finish third.
Regarding his first match of the day, versus Jim Layton of DeSmet, Crane said he was still feeling ill.
“I have strep throat,” Crane said. “It was really tough to breathe throughout the match and I felt like I couldn’t get any oxygen.”
He won his match Thursday night despite not feeling completely healthy.
Coach Brook Harlan felt proud for Crane and the other two Rock Bridge wrestlers who entered the day with a chance to place at the state finals. Senior Kyle Lewis, wrestling in the 145-pound class, lost in the afternoon session, ending his high school wrestling career.
Sophomore Will Evans lost in the evening session after defeating a familiar opponent in his first match of the day. Junior Nick Baker of Francis Howell defeated Evans in the first-place match of the 103-pound weight class in last week’s district finals. Evans won the rematch 6-5 on Friday.
According to Harlan, both Lewis and Evans had tough draws in their brackets. Neither will place in the top six this year after both were similarly unsuccessful in last year’s state finals.
Harlan, a former Rock Bridge wrestler, said he gets more nervous as a coach watching his wrestlers than he ever did when he competed.
“As a wrestler, I would just go out, listen to the coach, and wrestle based on reaction,” Harlan said. “I never really thought about the situation.”
“I try to stay relaxed before a match and not get caught up in everything going on around me,” Crane added.
On Saturday, Crane will try to place in the top five for the third consecutive year.