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Batavia senior wrestler has gone through the ropes

Watson returns in time for Upstate Eight tournament

Batavia wrestler Mickey Watson warms up with his team during practice Thursday afternoon. “It feels weird,” Watson said. “Fourth year on varsity, it’s kind of all coming to an end.”
Batavia wrestler Mickey Watson warms up with his team during practice Thursday afternoon. “It feels weird,” Watson said. “Fourth year on varsity, it’s kind of all coming to an end.”

BATAVIA – Mickey Watson followed two older brothers into Batavia wrestling. He’s aware of how both finished, and could live with duplicating either path.

The 195-pound senior still would pave his own way in one department if that happens. While both brothers wrestled more than 45 matches in their final high school seasons, Watson would have to join them as state placers to even push 30.

Back in the lineup for this weekend’s Upstate Eight Conference tournament at Batavia, Watson feels refreshed after missing nearly half the season. He’s eager to forget about a sprained MCL – and the flu that delayed his initial return last week – but would be quick to credit them should his season end on a podium in Champaign.

“If I was going to get injured and sick, this was probably the best time, because I got it at the start of the season,” Watson said. “Got a few matches in, got sick, got hurt, but then got back at it.”

That’s the idea.

In 2009, Danny Watson lay writhing on his back after taking a shot to the groin midway through his final match. He rose to his feet moments later, exhaled, and closed a tight decision to place third in Class 3A at 171 pounds.

Two years later, Augie Watson was sixth at 160 pounds, as Danny watched as a sophomore.

Also a top football and club rugby player for the Bulldogs, Danny Watson senses the urgency that comes with the end of his Batavia career. He’s keeping his options open to compete in any of his three sports after high school, and realizes this weekend won’t make or break his bid if he chooses collegiate wrestling.

Bulldogs coach Scott Bayer, a longtime assistant before taking control of the program this season, has seen the Watsons tangle more than most. That’s part of what inspires such confidence in Mickey.

“He’s going to try to make a run here,” Bayer said. “He might not be 100 percent for this tournament, but with [two] weeks left until regionals, if he can get up to speed and 100 percent, he’s got a good shot of going downstate.”

Watson’s most recent bout came on Dec. 20, an 8-7 decision victory against St. Charles East’s Keegan Furmanski. He was attempting to return from his first knee troubles from earlier that month, but aggravated something and was held out of competition as a precaution.

Everything was trending toward a return for the Batavia tournament last weekend, but Watson got sick with the flu and stayed home.

He was back in the mat room Monday, thinking little of the lull. Even his healthy teammates couldn’t blame him.

“Each competition is an opportunity to get better, and it’s a competition you want to win,” Batavia senior 160-pounder Jon Wagner said. “But, you know, we recognize the fact that the big show is in February with regionals and sectionals and state. We want our best performance to be then and not right now.”

Batavia still aspires to turn some heads this weekend. Senior Joel Shump is 31-0 at 126, while Charlie Smorczewski (138) and Connor McKeehan (220) are coming off runner-up finishes in last weekend’s tournament.

For Watson, the countdown to a hopeful downstate berth begins this weekend. He may only have 14 bouts under his belt this season, but there’s plenty of muscle memory from three earlier years on varsity, plus no shortage of inspiration from his brothers.

“You’ve got to do [the work], got to do what’s best,” Watson said. “Then hope you keep better and keep going.”

Upstate Eight Confernece wrestling tournament glance

Where: At Batavia

When: Today (5 p.m. start) and Saturday (10 a.m. start)

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