April 24, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
48°F

Blue Devils face reigning wrestling champs tonight

HUDSON — A year ago, Brunswick’s wrestling team was in the cellar of the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division.

Tonight, the Blue Devils have a chance to wash that bitter taste out of their mouths as they travel to reigning league champ Hudson with a shot at winning the River championship for the first time in five years and capping an undefeated conference season.

Brunswick’s Josh Heil attempts to escape from Brecksville’s Austin Assad at the Bill Dies Memorial Tournament last weekend. Heil and the Blue Devils take on Hudson tonight with the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title at stake. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY AARON JOSEFCZYK)

But what exactly has been the difference?

“Just the energy in the room from last year is high,” Brunswick coach Mike Koshar said. “They’re excited when we come to practice and it’s just a good atmosphere. Winning just breeds that excitement, so we have a lot of that going on right now. It’s a good feeling.”

The Blue Devils were far from your typical basement-dwelling team a year ago. Despite going 0-5 in River matches, the team lost two of those contests by a point and another in the final bout. The other two setbacks came by just five and eight points, respectively.

Flash forward to the current season and Brunswick (12-0, 4-0) has found the right mix of gritty underclassmen and savvy veterans to put itself one match away from a title.

“In all five of those matches, there was a chance that we were going to win, so we knew we were at least competing,” Koshar said of the 2011-12 season. “This year, they’ve kind of taken it up another level and things are going well.”

Led by lightweights Josh Heil (106 pounds), Brett Thomas (113) and Zack Taylor (126), along with upper weights like Tyler Hughes (170), the Blue Devils have made significant strides.

Koshar even added assistant coaches in Mike Heil and Jim Hewitt to help accelerate the learning process and take the next step.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Thomas said. “Last year, we were 1-11 in dual meets and now we’re 12-0. We’ve worked hard in the offseason and have some new coaches there to work with us.”

The Devils will be tested by the Explorers (9-5, 3-1), who are coming off of a dominating win over Stow in which they didn’t surrender a takedown until the 11th match.

Hudson features strong wrestlers in the middle of its lineup, led by junior 160-pounder Michael Coleman.

Fellow district qualifiers like Nathan Gregory (120), Brandon White (126), Zack Vehar (182) and Danny Tiley (195) fill out a lineup similar to Brunswick’s. Tiley spent last season wrestling for Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.

“We have to get bonus points when we can get bonus points and if we have a guy that might be a little inferior, they have to make sure that they don’t give up bonus points,” Koshar said. “That’s going to be the key to winning the match.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.