Birthday Bash: Bears pick up last match victory on coach's birthday

The Bears had their cake and ate it, too.

Bunker Hill celebrated coach Rod Tatum’s birthday in dramatic fashion, picking up a last match win to secure the 44-32 victory over Maiden on Monday.

It has been a difficult week for the team, especially with the snow conditions and several key injuries that forced forfeits.

“We haven’t practiced a lot,” Tatum said. “We’ve only had one practice in the last 10 days. To be able to win one today and one on Saturday is pretty good.”

In the early going of the match, it was both teams who were able to keep their distance between one another. After four matches, the contest was tied, 10-10.

While Tatum was celebrating his birthday, two Bunker Hill wrestlers were celebrating their own accomplishments.

During Saturday’s match, senior Jacob Shepard won his 100th match in the 215-pound weight class. Fellow senior Phillip Hicks is also approaching that mark and needs just two wins on the mat to get to the 100-win plateau.

“I thought it was going to feel special, but it is really just like every other win,” Shepard said of his accomplishment. “You shake someone else's hand and get your picture taken. I know I was counting though and it meant a lot to me.”

“Every match is just a match,” Hicks said. “You have to take care of business though. It was pretty cool seeing seniors getting their 100th win when we were in middle school. Jacob and I are in that position now. It is pretty cool to look back at those things.”

The duo of Shepard and Hicks, along with teammate Joe Litton, all picked up pinfall victories to give Bunker Hill a comfortable 28-16 lead, as the match passed its midpoint.

“It was all definitely about momentum,” Tatum said. “I forfeited some weight classes where I thought we were going to lose and a lot of those kids had been out anyways. It was all psychological.”

Maiden fought back though as the match was concluding. With the score 34-22, it appeared as if the Bears were in control of the lead for good.

However, the Red Devils got wins from Ben Mayo and Jacob Hewitt to cut the lead down to 38-32 with one match remaining. A victory for Maiden could tie the match.

“You don’t want to give the other team momentum going into those matches,” Tatum said. “When our best wrestlers don’t get to really showcase themselves, it takes the fire out of the younger kids.”

Jackie Tarris faced off against Tristian Yates in the final battle between the two schools.
At the 4:09 mark in the third and final period, Tarris pinned Yates’ shoulders to the ground and secured the win for Bunker Hill, as his teammates and coaches roared in celebration.

After the match was over, all of the Bunker Hill wrestlers presented their coach with a cake to celebrate not only his birthday, but a hard fought victory on the mat.

“It was pretty cool to win on coach's birthday,” Hicks said. “I think the real win though will be winning conference. We need to take care of business tomorrow and the rest of the conference matches. This is just a step toward that goal.”

“These are good kids,” Tatum said. “They managed to pull through several times when we needed them to. I don’t care if we win by one or 10. Just as long as they keep fighting.”