WADSWORTH â€” Raise your hand if youâ€™ve heard of Alfredo Gray, Clay Wenger and Shelden Brandenburg.
Didnâ€™t think so.
After the Wadsworth wrestlers put forth impressive first-place performances at the 22nd annual Grizzly Invitational Tournament, however, many fans got a healthy look at the future stars.
Along with already-superstar sophomore Brad Squire, all three freshmen worked their way to the top of their hometown tournament, helping the Grizzlies to 243.5 points and a seventh straight GIT title. Harrison was a distant second with 185 points, while Georgia-based Cass was third with 184.5.
â€œWeâ€™re so proud of them,â€ Wadsworth coach John Gramuglia said of his ninth graders. â€œI talked to them earlier and said, â€˜You guys have nothing to lose and everything to gain.â€™ Theyâ€™re good enough to do it and it was a matter of going out there and wrestling instead of worrying about, â€˜What if Iâ€™m going to lose?â€™ or, â€˜If I do this I might get in trouble.â€™ They kept wrestling, never stopped moving and took advantage of good opportunities.â€
The most thrilling championship victory for the Grizzlies was by the 140-pound Brandenburg.
After crushing Columbus Academyâ€™s Ayman Bazernashi in the semifinals, Bradenberg found himself quickly down 4-0 to Streetsboro junior John Fraley.
Brandenburg didnâ€™t quit and looked like a seasoned veteran the rest of the way, literally pulling off a last-second reversal in the second period to eventually force overtime. He finished the deal in the extra frame when Fraley inexplicably turned right into Brandenburg, who slammed him to the mat for the pin and come-from-behind triumph, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.
â€œI knew that I was going down, so I had to get back up,â€ Brandenberg said of the comeback. â€œI didnâ€™t think he was (going to turn into me), but whatever happens itâ€™s wrestling.â€
While Brandenberg had the most impressive final, Wenger came up with the biggest surprise in the semfinals.
The 119-pounder was a huge underdog against Justin Martin â€” Cassâ€™s two-time state champion who was undefeated coming in.
Wenger hung tough and, with the score tied at 3-3, took down Martin with nine seconds left in the third â€” Wengerâ€™s toes were barely inbounds â€” and escaped with a heartpounding 5-4 win.
He used that momentum to get three takedowns against Louisvilleâ€™s A.J. LePar in the finals to win 6-4.
â€œIt was real exciting,â€ Wenger said of his first tournament title. â€œI got a lot of confidence from winning (the semfinal). It felt good winning.â€
Gray, who tips the scales at 103, was simply workmanlike.
He kicked off the day by taking down 19-1 Andrew Higgins from Central Crossing 9-5, then used a takedown/near fall combination to break open his championship bout with Sanduskyâ€™s Davion Caston to cruise 12-5.
â€œI wanted to win,â€ Gray said. â€œI know how good I am now.â€
Running his career mark to 53-0, Squire (130) made Sylvania Southviewâ€™s returning state qualifier Alex Latham look ordinary in an easier-than-it-appeared 5-0 decision.
Wadsworth freshman Nate Ballâ€™s magical run for the Wadsworth â€œBâ€ team came to an end in the 145-pound final 8-4 in a highly entertaining match with Woodridgeâ€™s Pat Rado, while Danny Foore (125) couldnâ€™t hold a 1-0 second-period lead in the championship round and fell 3-2 to Central Crossingâ€™s Austin Sanders, who was named the Most Valuable Wrestler.
Jordan Richards (215, 3rd), Alex Gray (112, 3rd), Louden Gordon (135, 4th), Ben Buzzelli (285, 4th) Marc Snodgrass (135, 5th) and Nate Lamp (189, 6th) also placed for Wadsworth.
Even though the GIT doesnâ€™t have the moxy of the neighboring Medina or Brecksville Invitationals, Gramuglia feels his troops have picked up a little steam heading into the home stretch.
â€œIt gives us lots of momentum,â€ he said. â€œThey believe in the system now. They now know the formula we are giving them is going to work, so theyâ€™re only going to get better.â€