June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Grizzlies crown 8, win 21st straight wrestling title

GREEN — For the majority of the final round of the Suburban League Tournament on Saturday, Wadsworth’s wrestling team congregated near the podium as opposed to sitting in the stands.

Maybe they were just saving themselves the trip.

Wadsworth 170-pounder Tim Knipl takes down Revere’s Ahmad Khatib in the finals of the Suburban League Tournament. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDD SMERGLIA)

The Grizzlies placed a wrestler in each weight class except one, highlighted by eight winning individual titles, as the program claimed its 21st consecutive SL championship by outlasting Nordonia for the tournament crown.

“I’m real proud,” Wadsworth coach John Gramuglia said. “We weren’t as emotionally high, but we just wrestled very solid and stayed within ourselves and put on a show in the finals.

“I mean, we had 10 in the finals and eight champs … that’s pretty good. I think that’s a statement right there.”

It was a business-like approach for a Grizzly team that has wrestled with the slogan “Blackjack” all season long to keep in mind the task of winning their 21st straight title.

Not too shabby of an accomplishment for a young squad many around the league thought wouldn’t be able to continue the streak.

“This just shows that our program is phenomenal in what it does,” senior Mathias Zollinger said. “We’re able to take those young guys and develop them into great wrestlers. To have two freshmen win the league this year, that’s just amazing.”

Zollinger pulled off an impressive win to take the 138-pound title, as the senior frustrated Nordonia’s Mike DeCesare en route to a 12-6 decision.

While the two have met on three separate occasions already this season, with Zollinger coming away with two wins, both will most likely see each other again at the Medina Division I Sectional in two weeks.

“I just had to wrestle smart and not make stupid mistakes,” he said of his second career SL title. “I don’t worry about giving moves away (for later this season). It’s more the fact that you don’t want him to have confidence going into the next match. You want to control it.”

Speaking of control, the Grizzlies had a handful of wrestlers make impressive comebacks in the finals.

Tim Knipl bounced back from a 4-0 deficit and a scary moment when the sophomore was stuck on his back in the opening minutes of his 170 final to beat Revere’s Ahmad Khatib 12-7.

“He got a big early jump, and I didn’t want to try and rush it and get myself in a worse position, so I tried to take a little bit from his lead at a time it ended up working,” he said. “Once I got up off my back, I regained my composure. I’ve done it before. It felt good to come back like that.”

Lightweights Noah Baughman and Connor Gray also rallied from early deficits to win as they claimed the 106 and 120 pound weight classes, respectively. Baughman outlasted Nordonia’s Tony DeCesare 6-5, while Gray posted a 5-3 decision of Noah Schaub of Green.

Darrin Gilkerson (126 pounds), Abdulhabib Abdulhabib (145), Robbie Bosley (152) and Daryk Maki (285) also won individual titles.

Maki recorded a hard-fought 1-0 victory over top seed Mark Dahlman of Green, and Abdulhabib avenged an early season loss to Nordonia’s Jake Urich to win his first title.

“This whole week in practice, I’ve been focusing on what I did wrong and how to get better and that helped a lot,” Abdulhabib said. “I worked with Mathias because he faced the same Nordonia kid at the (state team tournament) dual and he should me how to take him down.”

A pair of other Medina Countians brought home championships, as Cloverleaf 132-pounder Marc Heidelman and Highland 195-pounder Adam Kluk each won their respective finals.

Heidelman’s takedown of Nordonia’s Heath Phillibert late proved to be the eventual winner as the junior won 5-2.

“It was a little rough coming out,” said Heidelman, who was sidelined all of last season with an elbow injury. “But after I threw him, it kind of broke him and after that it was good.”

Kluk added another SL title to his resume by putting five points on the board in the opening seconds before eventually pinning Tallmadge’s Jacob Wiegand at the 1:00 mark.

“I just tried to hit my stuff and come out strong,” the senior said. “I really wanted to come out today and see where I was at for sectionals. I just came out and tried to get it done.”

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