By Dan Hardenbrook
After nearly 13 hours, it came down just a few seconds for Hayden O’Neil. There was plenty of waiting in between plenty of wrestling. There was also plenty of winning, and that left O’Neil with a shot to take home a title at one of the Upper Peninsula’s premier events of the season at Saturday’s Escanaba Elks Invitational. In the end O’Neil came up just short, finishing runner up in the 144lb weight class, falling in the finals on a day that saw him wrestle four total times. O’Neil won his first three matches, all in the first round, to reach the finals.
He wasn’t the only wrestler to have a marathon day on the mat. Quentin Bliss, competing in Escanaba in the 132lb class, wrestled five times. He battled to the very end, closing with a top-five finish. Kennedy Depew also survived a winding road, wrestling his way onto the podium in the 175lb class. Depew had a 3-2 day overall and earned the 6th place finish, continuing a strong senior season.
After being dispatched to the consolation bracket following an opening round loss, Kennedy’s younger brother Gaijye Depew responded, picking up a win of his own in the 150lb division before being eliminated late in the day. Gabe Hamilton was the only other wrestler to find his way to a top-half finish, coming in 6th after a 3-2 overall five match day.
The leading ladies of Newberry wrestling were also in action. Delaney Bliss battled through another tough day, showing grit and determination in overcoming multiple obstacles in a five-match day of her own. Bliss ended up 8th place in a loaded bracket featuring some of the U.P.’s best grapplers. Sheyenne Nelson continued to show improvement despite falling in both matches.