CHARLOTTESVILLE — Eastern Hancock’s Keith Oliver told a little white lie Wednesday night, and it worked to perfection.

Before Eastern Hancock senior Caleb Giddings wrestled Lapel’s Keegan Smith during the Royals’ home opener, Oliver and his coaching staff offered their 138-pounder some extra motivation in the form of a tall tale.

“(Coach) told me he was a little better than he was. He said he finished eighth in the state last year,” Giddings explained. “I was like, ‘okay, and I went out there and ended up on top.” In actuality, Smith, a sophomore, didn’t make it to state last year, but it didn’t matter.

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Giddings pinned Smith in 2 minutes, 27 seconds, and the six points proved significant. With Lapel closing in 36-30, Giddings’ fall marked the Royals seventh and eighth win overall en route to a 48-33 victory.

“Giddings came out and wrestled aggressive,” Oliver remarked after his team improved to 1-0 on the season. “I told him before the match that kid finished eighth in the state. He brought a different aggression tonight.”

Giddings (4-2) built a 4-0 lead with a pair of takedowns before turning Smith and giving the Royals a 42-30 advantage late in the dual.

A year ago, Giddings finished 17-9 at 132 pounds and placed sixth at sectional. This season, he’s leaving nothing behind, dedicating his efforts in honor of his friend, Riley Settergren, who passed away in a tragic car accident this past summer.

Settergren, who would have been a senior this season, was part of the football and wrestling teams. With the Royals hosting only three home meets this season, Wednesday night’s dual was more important that usual.

“Losing my best friend was my motivation,” Giddings said. “That’s my motivation to go out there and try my best every match this season. Tonight, it was important to win. A lot of people came out. We had to impress.”

The Royals didn’t disappoint.

Other than a forfeit win at 106 pounds for Eastern Hancock freshman Dylan Anderson, the team used just under 16 minutes combined to rack up 42 points with pins.

Garrett Friesen (4-2), a sophomore, won the first match of the night in 1:30 at 160 pounds. Tyler Vandervliet, a sophomore, won his match at 182 by fall in 2:35.

Junior Alexander Burton’s fall at 220 burnt 1:11 off the clock to push his season record to 4-2, while senior Wesley Myers improved to 5-1 after pinning his heavyweight opponent in 3:31.

Freshman Keagan Kendall put the Royals ahead 36-18 with a fall in 5:08 at 120. The Royals fastest pin came from freshman Avery Wills (4-2) in 17 seconds at 145, which followed Giddings’ win.

“I’m OK with pins. I like pins, but we want wins first and foremost,” Oliver said. “But with our guys, once they get there, they know how to finish. We do a good job of getting there, we just need to finish all the time.”

The visiting Bulldogs tried to match the Royals with five pins and one decision by senior Marc Fensler at 152 against senior Jordyn Wills.

Wills, a two-time semistate qualifier, battled back from a 4-0 deficit to take the lead in the match’s final minute. Opening the third period with a reversal, Wills collected three nearfall points to go up 5-4, but Fensler reversed in the last 30 seconds to win 6-5.

“It’s still very early, so we have a lot to work on,” Oliver said. “I wish Jordyn could have gotten his, but the kid he wrestled was very good. We didn’t wrestle him bad, he just got down early. It was a little too late, but we’ll see him again at their tournament.”

The Royals will compete in the Lapel Invitational on Dec. 9 after trips to the Cambridge City Lincoln Invitational this Saturday and a dual at Triton Central on Dec. 5.

Eastern Hancock placed eighth out of 24 teams during the John Hurrle Memorial Invitational on Nov. 18 to open the season. Their next home match is Jan. 11 against Oldenburg Academy before they host the Mid-Eastern Conference Tournament on Jan. 20.

“We just have keep working on the fundamentals and do the basic stuff better, and I think the potential is there for us to be really, really good,” Oliver said.


Eastern Hancock 48, Lapel 33

160: Garrett Friesen (EH) def. Blake Anderson (L), fall

170: Gage Thompson (L) def. Ben Furlani (EH), fall

182: Tyler Vandervliet (EH) def. Dalton Partington (L), fall

195: Phoenix Mills (L) def. Clayton Cochard (EH), fall

220: Alexander Burton (EH) def. Hunter Morris (L), fall

285: Wesley Myers (EH) def. Justice Kalley (L), fall

106: Dylan Anderson (EH) won by forfeit

113: Harrison Hadley (L) def. Josie Howrey (EH), fall

120: Kegan Kendall (EH) def. Trevor Greuter (L), fall

126: Gavin Manis (L) def. Trey Brown (EH), fall

132: Will Rector (L) def. Ethan Boyer (EH), fall

138: Caleb Giddings (EH) def. Keegan Smith (L), fall

145: Avery Wills (EH) def. Julian Allender (L), fall

152: Marc Fensler (L) def. Jordyn Wills (EH), dec. 6-5

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at or 317-477-3227.