Second place in the Suburban League regular-season standings was at stake Thursday when Highland and Barberton faced off in a dual meet.
Junior Tyler Houska, who normally wrestles in the 215-pound weight class moved up to heavyweight to face Barberton junior Lance Coher in the meet's final match. Houska entered the match with a 24-4 record, and Coher was 28-4.
Despite Coher's weight advantage, Houska pinned him in 4:27, lifting Highland to a 38-33 victory over Barberton (12-2, 5-2). With the win, Highland (8-1, 6-1) finished second in the regular-season league standings behind defending champion Wadsworth (8-1, 7-0), a 59-9 winner over Cloverleaf on Thursday.
Barberton coach Dave Mariola juggled his lineup, moving several of his wrestlers into weight classes they don't typically compete in. The Magics forfeited matches at 112 and 152 to avoid encounters with Highland seniors and returning state qualifiers Bart Young and Steve Timoteo. There were four Barberton wrestlers whose weight classes were different than they were this past Saturday at the 21st annual Bill Dies Memorial Tournament at Firestone High School.
Mariola's strategy almost paid off. The Magics led 33-32 heading into the final match, but Houska delivered to shatter their dreams of two consecutive wins over the Hornets.
"It was an exciting match for the fans," Mariola said. "Everybody is talking about how there's no good dual meets anymore. I think this was nice to have it come down to the wire. It's good for the sport."
Highland, which won the Dies Tournament in part because of another clutch victory from Houska, had two wrestlers in weight classes that they were not accustomed to.
"I know Dave (Mariola) was doing the same thing," Highland coach Mark Savoia said. "We analyze who's going to win where and how. You try to calculate it to the best of your advantage to where you know you're going to win.
"I hate moving kids around because some kids have to sit, and some kids have to face a monster. But you have to sit and figure it out. If you don't, you're not a very good coach. It's pretty tedious and you do take a lot of heat for it, but the end result is what counts."
LEW STAMP/Akron Beacon Journal
Barberton's Tony Yoder controls Highland's Jordan Brant during a match in the 125-pound weight class Thursday at Barberton High School. Yoder won the match by pinning Brant in 4:54, but the Hornets defeated the Magics 38-33 to earn second place in the Suburban League regular-season standings.