Wadsworth captured its 22nd consecutive Suburban League championship with a 34-21 victory over Nordonia on Thursday.
The dual match was the first of the season for the Grizzlies, putting them in unfamiliar territory, but coach John Gramuglia said his wrestlers responded well and that it will be useful as a learning tool moving toward tournament time.
“When you always have people around you at tournaments, you kind of get lost in the emotions,” Gramuglia said. “So this is good for us. It’s a way of growing up. But I was nervous for them tonight. In a dual, you get to watch your teammates. In a tournament, you don’t get to see them because you’re off doing other stuff. So you actually get to see and hear the coaching and you actually can become a better wrestler by watching.”
The Knights’ strength is in the heavier weights, so the Grizzlies knew they had to set the tone early in the 113-pound, 120-pound and 126-pound weight classes — and they did, winning all three.
After being spotted to a 6-0 lead with a forfeit at 106 pounds, sophomore Noah Baughman started things off for Wadsworth by taking a tightly contested match against Andrew Coghill by a 4-3 decision.
“He’s a 106-pounder and we moved him up to 113 against one of the best kids in the state,” Gramuglia said. “He’s ranked seventh or eighth. And he ends up beating him in a close match. That was a pivotal match to start things off.”
Connor Gray then won the 120 with a technical fall, 17-2, and Darrin Gilkerson won by decision 11-7 at 126 to give the Grizzlies a 17-0 lead.
The Knights made up some ground in the middle weights with Nick Collica defeating Devon Gilkerson 10-4, Jake Urich defeating Jordan Schleigh 4-2 and Mikey DeCesare defeating Brandon Baughman 18-2 to cut their deficit to 17-11.
Senior Robbie Bosley got the momentum back for the Grizzlies at 152 pounds, defeating fellow senior Heath Phillibert 8-4.
“Robbie really kept his cool,” Gramuglia said. “Phillibert is a solid wrestler; that was a big, decisive match.”
In the following match, freshman Alex Jones stayed tight with Nordonia senior Ryan Taylor, but gave up a takedown late in the second period that shifted the momentum and he ended up losing 5-3.
“Alex got a little anxious,” Gramuglia said. “I told him ‘Quit looking ahead.’ He was already thinking third period that he was going to be winning by one. With a freshman, you try to really preach that.”
Shane Mast won the 170-pound class with a 5-2 decision before Tim Knipl had a major decision in the 182 to give Wadsworth a 28-14 lead.
Nick Bina kept the Knights alive in the 195-pound class with a 5-2 decision over Clayton Brandenburg, setting up the potential for an intense finish.
The Grizzlies led 28-17 heading into the 220-pound weight class, meaning the Knights needed two pins to win.
Knights senior Alex Woichehovich nearly got that pin on Alex Carrell late in the second period, but Carrell found his way out to an eruption of cheers from the Grizzlies crowd.
Heavyweight Jeremy Randolph then capped things off with the only pin of the match in 4:35.