GRANVILLE – Coach Tim Jordan thought a top four finish would have been a nice accomplishment, but his Utica wrestlers delivered a whole lot more Saturday.
Despite losing one wrestler to injury and having a couple of others out, the Redskins won a tiebreaker to beat North Union in the championship match and capture the 12-team Granville Blue Ace Invitational.
Pins were the name of the game for Utica. They and North Union tied 39-39, but the Redskins had four pins to three by the Wildcats to claim the title. After three rounds of individual competition, Utica was seeded fourth. But the Redskins knocked off top-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek 42-39 before beating second-seeded North Union, which had routed third-seeded Paint Valley 58-24. Amanda-Clearcreek finished third.
No one did their part more than junior Matt Siefert, a state qualifier last year at 106 now wrestling at 120. He pinned all five of his opponents Saturday.
“We lost our heavyweight Matt Moore to injury early today, and he’s a possible state qualifier,” Siefert said. “So we were giving up three weight classes, plus two of our best wrestlers, Quinton Piazza and Ian Cree, both had to wrestle up. We had to make up the points somewhere, so I had to go for pins. I’m extremely happy.”
Jordan could only smile as he held the championship trophy.
“I would have been pretty happy with top four,” he said. “It’s been a tough couple weeks for us with injuries, and we needed pins. It was a lot for us to overcome. But we had some freshmen step up today. Mason Williams went 4-1 (at 132). We’re basically all juniors and freshmen. Our juniors and senior Zach Bartley did what they were supposed to do, and that’s step up and lead.”
Lakewood was seeded eighth heading to the duals, but the Lancers beat fifth-seeded Highland and seventh-seeded Crooksville to finish fifth.
“We have 19 kids out, which is the biggest team we’ve had in years,” coach Roger Atwood said. “We finally have some seniors, and the three of them are providing great leadership. We’re about 50-50, between experienced kids and those who haven’t wrestled.”
One of those seniors, 113-pound Ray Huber, squares off against 106-pound sophomore Donnie Allen daily in the wrestling room. Both lost only one match on Saturday to lead the Lancers. Huber is a two-time district qualifier.
“Having that many wrestlers, gets us all fired up,” Huber said. “It makes the coach happy, and if coach is happy, we’re happy. We can finally win some duals.”
Allen said Huber has helped him tremendously.
“He beats me all the time, but it’s making me better,” Allen said. “My technique and strength have been good together, but I’m working on my speed.”
Huber gets one last shot at making the state, and doesn’t intend on missing out.
“The match I lost, I basically stuck myself,” he said. “I should have wrestled smarter.”
Host Granville placed seventh Saturday, after being stung by injuries during individual matches. Freshmen Keegan VanMeter and Brandon Haley were both lost for the team duals and the Blue Aces had to forfeit four matches. But after losing to seventh-seeded Crooksville, Granville whipped fifth-seeded Highland 39-18.
After making the state at 126 pounds, junior Luke Mendicino looks every bit as good, if not better, at 160. He and sophomore Tristan Haley (132) both went 4-0 on the day and had three pins apiece.
“I feel stronger,” Mendicino said. “I’m a little shorter (than his opponents), but it just helps me get a little lower. I go against (6-foot-2) Matthieu Holt in the practice room, and that helps a lot.”
Mendicino said the Blue Aces will be a threat once they get healthy.
“Keegan and Brandon are banged up, but they’ll be back and we’re waiting on Trent Compton,” he said. “We have studs in the middle of the lineup, and we should be able to control matches. If we get all the guys wrestling at a high caliber, we have a chance to make it to St. John (Arena) as a team.”