AKRON — Don’t look now, but Brunswick’s wrestling team is back.
A year ago, the Blue Devils finished in the middle of the pack at the Bill Dies Memorial Tournament, but Saturday night was a different story.
Brunswick took third with 136½ points and had five wrestlers earn a spot on the podium, placing behind champion Brecksville (255) and Barberton (146).
Highland was 27th thanks to Adam Kluk’s impressive run through the 195-pound bracket for the title, while Buckeye was 35th.
“It seems like the kids are starting to buy in to that the hard work in the room is going to pay off to winning matches,” Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar said. “They’re starting to believe.”
A pair of second-place finishes, combined with a third, fourth and eighth, paced the effort in the 26th edition of the event at Firestone High School.
Tyler Hughes was one of the Blue Devils who shined, as the 170-pounder shocked nationally ranked Quinton Hiles of Brecksville 6-4 in overtime to earn a spot in the championship bout. Hughes then almost pulled off a comeback against Rootstown’s Travis Linton in the final, but fell short 6-5 in a wild finish.
Trailing 6-2, the senior was able to pick up three points in the final 1:30, and almost had Linton pinned with 45 seconds left. Making the ending strange was the fact Hughes wrestled as if the score was tied in the final seconds, thinking he picked up an additional back point instead of going on the attack.
It was something Koshar took full blame for.
“He thought the match was tied, and that’s why he wasn’t moving at the end,” Koshar said. “He’s like, ‘I’m wearing the guy out and I’m going to be able to beat him in overtime,’ and I’m yelling, ‘Move your feet, move your feet.’
“That’s my job to communicate that to him, and when he looked at me, I said, ‘We’re down by one’ and he nodded his head, but he thought when they got the third caution that the 6-5 was going to be 6-6 and that was the fifth point.”
Freshman Josh Heil also was runner-up for Brunswick, falling at 106 pounds to Brecksville’s Austin Assad.
Teammates Brett Thomas (113 pounds) and Zack Taylor (126) placed third and fourth, respectively, while Christian Camacho (132) took eighth.
Thomas rallied in his third-place match, hitting a reversal late to break up a defensive struggle against Green’s Chris Doyle.
“I knew if I stayed moving that I would get him,” Thomas said. “He was gassing, and I knew that I could push through and get some points.
“I feel good. I had a little slip-up in the semifinals (a loss to eventual champion Aaron Assad of Brecksville), but I was able to catch my head again and work through it.”
Kluk’s run to the 195-pound crown was efficient, to say the least.
The Highland senior won his first three bouts by pin before beating state qualifier Joe Repasky of Cuyahoga Falls in the semifinals by major decision. Kluk then jumped to an early lead before outlasting Barberton’s Aaron Tschantz — a two-time Dies champ and state placer — 9-3 in the final.
“I thought it was going to be a lot closer and a lot harder to hit my stuff,” Kluk said. “It just felt good to go out there and execute right away.”
Fellow Hornet Mark Vilimonovic was seventh at 113.
Buckeye’s lone placer game at 145, as senior Anthony Kisiday made quick work of Green’s Jake Bostic in 1:49 to take home the fifth-place medal.
“I don’t have a lot of moves, but the moves I do hit, I make sure I’m really good at them,” Kisiday said. “I try to keep it simple, and sometimes it’s the simple stuff that works the best. You set it up, you hit it and just do your business.”
Highland 160-pound senior Tom Gabyak, who entered the week 22-5, didn’t compete due to a knee injury. There is no timetable for his return.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.