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CRESTWOOD – For the first time in three years Ryan Houchens was going have his birthday cake and eat it – on his birthday.Houchens capped his 17th birthday Saturday by winning the 189-pound wrestling title at the Dragon Invitational.“Not a bad way to end my birthday,” Houchens said. “The last few years the Dragon has been after my birthday so I couldn’t eat any cake until after the meet. I figure I am going to go home and have some ice cream with it too.”Houchens, a junior ranked No. 2 in the state, raised his record to 33-1 on the year with a 13-3 win over Will Hogeben of Ryle in the finals. Houchens is undefeated against in-state competition this year, his only loss came in the Evansville Mater Dei invite back in early December.Houchens controlled the finals match from the opening whistle, taking a 4-0 lead with a pair of quick takedowns. Hogeben cut the lead to 4-1 with an escape to open the second period before Houchens went right back to work, increasing the lead to 6-1 with a reversal.Houchens dominated the third period with a takedown and near fall to go with an escape, allowing Hogeben a reversal for his final two points.“I had beat him earlier this year at the Ryle meet by like three points so I definitely did better this time,” Houchens said.It was the second Dragon title for Houchens who won the 189 crown last year and was second at 171-pounds as a freshman.“He’s doing a great job for us this year,” SOHS coach Steve Fiser said. “What he’s doing is giving himself an opportunity to win a state championship by working and performing on the mat.”Houchens will compete in the state duals this weekend in Lexington and follow that with a likely match against No. 1 and undefeated Mark Jones of North Hardin on Jan. 30.“That will big for both of them,” Fiser said. “It’s an early chance for them to size each other up before they both head into the state tournament.”
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