Morenci junior Jeffrey Nofziger didn’t come home from the state wrestling finals with much in the win column, but he proved that he deserved his place at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Nofziger had the lead for two periods against the wrestler who finished fourth in the state at 145 pounds and he stayed close with the eventual number three. Along the way, he posted a decisive win.
It was his opening match Thursday afternoon that set him on a tough path.
“We thought we had that one won,” said Morenci coach Scott Clark. “We ended up losing a match we shouldn’t have and then taking the hard road.”
Nofziger was showing good control against his opening opponent from Iron Mountain, Joey Wollum, who came into the tournament as the two-time defending champion with a 53-2 record.
Nofziger, who went to the Palace with a 29-3 mark, took a 4-1 lead into the final period, but that’s when it all fell apart.
“I don’t even have an explanation,” Coach Clark said. “Maybe he was trying too hard not to get hurt.”
Nofziger has battled a recurring injury that developed in his freshman year.
Wollum ended up with a 12-4 victory and Nofziger moved to the consolation bracket where he posted a strong 14-4 decision against Eric Heath of Leslie.
Clinton’s Ryan Perry (49-4) was Nofziger’s next foe. Perry won his opener before losing to the eventual champion.
Perry and Nofziger faced each other earlier in the season when Perry won 5-3 at the Clinton tournament.
Nofziger trailed 4-3 with about a minute remaining and needed to earn some points.
“He tried to throw him and it ended up costing him five points,” Clark said.
Perry won the match 9-3 to end Nofziger’s season. Perry later defeated Wollum 8-5 to finish third in the state.
“Both of Jeffrey’s losses were closer than the scores show,” Coach Clark.
He looks forward to returning to the Palace next year with Nofziger and at least a couple of his teammates.