By DAVID GREEN
It was the toughest call Morenci coach Scott Clark was ever forced to make: calling off a match in the state finals, when his own son was wrestling.
“It wasn’t a call I wanted to make,” Clark said Monday.
But only about 30 seconds into the championship bout of the 140-pound weight class, the referee came over to Clark and asked if his wrestler was all right.
Clark knew he wasn’t. Jeffery Nofziger, the Bulldogs’ top wrestler this season, suffered a shoulder injury in the semifinals the night before and he was obviously hurting.
“He’s wrestled through pain in the past, so we had to give him a shot,” Clark said.
Nofziger made it through two rounds and wanted to go for more, but Coach Clark had seen all he could take. The match was halted in an injury default and Nofziger learned later that he tore a shoulder muscle in the rotator cuff.
Nofziger advanced to the finals but never really had the chance to try for the top spot.
“He didn’t have an overpowering opponent,” Clark said. “Jeff just couldn’t do anything with one arm.”
Nofziger opened the tournament with an impressive 22-5 technical win against Kaleb Myer (38-20) of Dansville. Next came William Hodge (28-4) of Bangor and Nofziger posted an 8-1 victory.
The score shows a clear win for Nofziger, but the tall, lanky Hodge put up a challenge.
“His height made it more difficult for me,” Nofziger said. “I’m used to wrestling shorter kids.”
Nofziger’s favorite match of the weekend came in the semifinals when he faced Cassopolis senior Cory Lowe (45-4).
“He was pretty tough, but I got three takedowns on him,” Nofziger said.
Nofziger took the match 12-3, and it brought a special feeling: “I realized I was that close to reaching my dream.”
But before the match ended, Lowe was on top and Nofziger was working hard to escape.
“I was trying to get out and stretched my arm and it popped,” Nofziger said. “I still had a lot of adrenaline so I didn’t really feel it. I just hung in for the last three minutes.”
He still scored six more points and when the match ended, medics at the Palace suspected a shoulder displacement.
But the damage was done, Clark said. You just can’t wrestle with one arm and Aaron Smith (50-4) of Mio claimed the top spot.
Up until the finals, Nofziger never gave up a point other than those he gave away through intentional escapes.
“That was a good run,” Clark said. “I figured he could end up in the top three.”
He finished his senior season with a 37-4 mark, with two losses coming from state champs.
DUSTIN ROLLER—Morenci’s 130-pound junior, Dustin Roller, didn’t come up with a win at the state tournament, but he showed some skills at the Palace.
“He looked good in both matches,” Coach Clark said. “He wasn’t outclassed. He proved that he belonged there.”
Roller missed five weeks of competition due to an injury and returned to action not long before qualifying tournaments got underway.
He opened action Thursday against Bronson senior Preston Lucas (32-8) who ended up fifth in the state.
“Dustin scored a take-down right off the whistle and almost had him on his back,” Clark said.
Lucas recovered to score a 10-4 decision.
In his second match Friday, Roller took on Dansville senior Cody Mulhollen (41-13). Roller was trailing 4-7 when he was pinned in the final period. Mulhollen went on to place eighth.