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Two Mat Rats place at Dixie Nationals
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Andrew Houghton and Tyler Fisher earned fourth and third place wins respectively at the 2008 Dixie Nationals in Atlanta. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon

Two wrestlers from the Liberty County Recreation Department Mat Rats wrestling team entered into the arena set up at the World Congress Center in Atlanta 13 days ago for the 2008 Dixie Nationals. Fourteen hours later, Rats Andrew Houghton and Tyler Fisher placed fourth and third, respectively, in the Rookie Division for their folkstyle wrestling accomplishments.

The Dec. 29 meet allowed the wrestlers to add more individual points to their USA wrestling card at the nationally sanctioned event that drew in roughly 2,000 wrestlers from across the nation.

Fisher competed in the 14-and-under, 130-pound weight division and Houghton fought in the 8-and-under, 70 pound weight class.

"It was a grueling long day," Mat Rat coach Philip Howe said. "We started wrestling at 7 o’clock in the morning and our last match was at 9:30 in the evening."

Houghton may have fought in the rookie division, but the youngster has already earned seven medals in his first season and a half as a Mat Rat. He swept his class, taking gold at the Creekview Grizzly Takedown in Calhoun Nov. 15. Houghton was one of the young Mat Rats featured two weeks ago on WSAV’s sports segment called Slats Superstars by sports anchor Ken Slats.

According to Howe the 7-year-old’s signature maneuver is a hip toss.

"It’s his favorite, probably because he has a lot of success with it," the coach said.

Fisher said his favorite move is the Peterson or Granby roll, but the coach said Fisher placed at the Dixie Nationals using the lateral toss.

"He set a club record, getting a 10-second pin at nationals using that move," Howe said as he explained how the lateral is done. "You are tying up the upper body and actually launching the other person over your body, arching your back backwards as you spin. It causes the opponent to be tossed in the air and thrown on their back."

The tournament came as many of the LCRD Mat Rats were finishing off their holiday hiatus. Howe said one of his wrestlers enjoyed his off time too much, returning eight pounds heavier. But they will soon work off their holiday feasting as they are set to compete this weekend at the Kent Townley Lil Bulldog Brawl in Lyons.

Joining the Mat Rats for extra workouts and mat experience is Richmond Hill HS star Mat Cat Zach Sheffield. The junior finished in second place in the 130 pound weight class division at the Toomey Memorial Wrestling Tournament at Groves High School on Jan. 3. He also took first place in a meet against South Effingham.

"We are taking Andrew, Mason, Tyler, Zach and Trey," Howe said. "We will be entered as a team in that one."

In the meantime the Rats have incorporated rope training into their workout routine to help with grip and strength. They are still looking for sponsors, hoping to buy a second mat. More information about the Mat Rats can be found at their Web site:

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