GARFIELD HTS. — The Brunswick wrestling team wanted to bounce back this season after finishing dead last in the Northeast Ohio Conference’s River Division.
As they began to compile dual meet victories, the Blue Devils started to think about winning the division title.
When the dust cleared after Saturday night’s NOC tournament, Brunswick was hoisting the overall championship.
“The team championship was more of a goal of (the wrestlers) than mine,” coach Mike Koshar said. “I just wanted to win our division, and the icing on the cake is winning the overall tournament.
“Usually, we just want to advance and get through, but we said, ‘If we can get bonus points, let’s get bonus points.’ We really emphasized that with Tyler Hughes, and he got a tech fall and that really got us the extra points we needed to win.”
Hughes picked up the Blue Devils’ second individual championship of the night when he beat Parma’s Josh Zeck 15-0 in the 170-pound final. The other came from freshman 106-pounder Josh Heil.
“I’m the team captain, so I know how many points we needed to score,” Hughes said. “I’m constantly paying attention.”
Hughes hasn’t just led Brunswick on the mat. He has been a leader in the wrestling room, and has helped the coaching staff implement its strategies.
“We told these guys from Day 1, February will be here before you know it, March will be here before you know it, and it’s that time of year,” Hughes said.
“It’s been a big change for our attitude in the room, the workout the guys put in. They’ve finally opened their eyes. They realize they have to do all the right things to become champions.
“You’ve got to do good in school, you have to work hard in practice, you have to get your lifts in, you have to eat right … and they’re all buying into it.”
The team title offered plenty of motivation, but Hughes said he was well stocked in that department after losing to Mayfield’s Conner Murray in the 170-pound final last season.
“Last year, as soon as I got off the mat, my coach said, ‘You know, it’s good but second’s not first,’” Hughes said. “I’ve been thinking about that the whole tournament — second’s not first, second’s not first. It got me pumped up and drove me to the win.”
While Hughes managed to win a title during his senior season, Heil is in line to grab four after his 4-1 victory over Strongsville’s Garrett Lambert on Saturday night. It was a tough win over a good friend.
“We’ve know each other from back when we were 4 years old,” Heil said. “We’re best friends. I love the kid to death. During the offseason, we’re in the same practice room working to get better.”
Heil was instrumental in Brunswick’s success, but did consider joining older brother Dean at St. Edward.
“I thought about it,” he said. “I wanted to stay with my dad and the other coaches, and we’ve really got an uprising here.”
Heil’s father, Mike, was a two-time state placer at Brooklyn High, then went on to wrestle for John Carroll University. He is a Blue Devils assistant.
Josh said he also works out with Dean, and has begun to tease the Eagles senior because of Josh’s growth spurt.
“This year I finally got taller than him, so I mess with him a lot,” Josh said.
But has he ever got the better of his older sibling on the mat?
“No,” Josh said.
The quick turnaround had a lot to do with young wrestlers taking their lumps last year, then excelling this season. Medina, the other county team in the NOC, is hoping to take a page from the Blue Devils’ book.
The Bees sent eight wrestlers to the league tournament, but failed to advance one to Saturday night’s finals.
Koshar knows what it takes to get back on top. His team finished with a tournament-high nine placers.
“It’s been five years since we last won our division championship,” he said. “I’m very proud of our team, proud of our coaching staff and I’m glad for our school that we’re able to bring back the overall crown.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at (440) 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.