July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Wrestling: Blue Devils earn NOC River Division title

HUDSON — There were no elaborate celebrations Thursday night as Brunswick’s wrestling team clinched the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division regular-season title with a 43-18 win over Hudson.

There were only the occasional smile and the look of focus for the postseason ahead, but don’t let the straight-faced looks fool you, Brunswick (13-1, 5-0) has been waiting for this moment.

Brunswick 220-pounder Matt Purdue scores a pin against Hudson’s Dylan Carlson. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDD SMERGLIA)

“It was big. It was real big for us, the whole team,” freshman D.J. Skiba said. “It’s been emotional with practice. Everyone’s broke. And to get through it, it’s just a real emotional thing.”

Those emotions meant bad news for Hudson (10-7, 3-2).

The Blue Devils, fresh off their first dual meet loss of the season with a 35-33 setback to Amherst in the opening round of the state team tournament, came out focused and wasted little time dismantling an Explorers squad that was missing four starters for everything ranging from injury to reaching the allotted limit for matches in a season.

Senior Tyler Hughes posted the most impressive win of the night, as he moved up a weight class to 182 pounds to battle Hudson’s Danny Tilly, a returning district qualifier.

With Brunswick already up 6-0 with a forfeit win by Brian Fontana and one by decision with Mike Bekeny, the two battled to a 1-1 draw at the end of regulation before Tilly, a transfer from CVCA, looked to have Hughes beat with a takedown at the buzzer of the first OT, only to have the official award no points.

“It was a little scary,” Hughes said with a smile. “As you wrestle at a higher weight, the style sort of changes. Wrestling at 170 is in between the styles. This kid was wrestling that heavy style that I don’t necessary practice a lot.

“I started getting scared there and I was like, ‘I might really have to turn it on to take this kid down,’ because I took a couple of shots throughout the first and second periods and just got stuck.”

Hughes finally got the shot he needed in the second overtime to win 3-1.

“I knew I could outlast him,” he said. “I knew I was in better shape than him and I can usually tell around the second or third period if I’m going to be in better shape than the guy or not. So I knew if we went into overtime, I would probably get him.”

Hughes’ win, along with a pin by Matt Perdue, put the Blue Devils up 18-3 early, which set the stage for Brunswick’s strength — its lightweight wrestlers — to put the match out of reach.

D.J. Skiba built a 14-1 lead over 103-pound counterpart Hadley Vandyak before pinning him in 5:24, followed by Josh Heil winning by major decision at 113 and Brett Thomas earning a forfeit win.

“Work. I had to work real hard,” Skiba said of getting the pin. “It was tough. It was more mental than physical.”

Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar said while the lightweights usually set the table, it’s a joint effort.

“When we go in our dual meets, we count on those guys,” he said. “Then our middle guys and our uppers, one of them are always picking up the others, so as a dual meet team they’re always helping each other out. They’re a pretty good group.”

Despite dropping bouts at 126, 132 and 138, Brunswick closed the match with Brandon Bryant earning a 4-2 decision over Hudson’s Brandon Wright and then 152-pounder Ray Floyd putting the exclamation point on the NOC crown by pinning Sam Semenczuk in 51 seconds.

Not a bad way to erase the bitter taste of a two-point loss and set the stage for an exciting NOC Tournament next weekend at Garfield Heights.

“I’m very happy with our performance,” Koshar said. “Especially after not having a great performance (Wednesday), we said, ‘Hey, the good news is that we can right the ship right away and not have to wait until next Friday.’ I thought they wrestled pretty well.”

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