A year ago, Cloverleaf’s Marc Heidelman was nursing an elbow injury that sidelined him for the entire season. Last weekend, he was standing atop the podium as a Suburban League champion.
What a difference a year makes.
The junior used his unconventional style to roll through the SL’s 132-pound bracket en route to his first conference title, but he’s not satisfied just yet.
“It feels good coming back from an injury and doing as good as I’ve been doing all year, but I still have a long way to go before I’m going to be happy,” Heidelman said. “My goals are just to train and get in better shape.”
Heidelman looked impressive at the SLT, as he won by pin and major decision to earn a spot in the championship against Nordonia’s Heath Phillibert.
Heidelman used his untraditional defensive style of scrambling and threw Phillibert to the mat in the third period en route to a 5-2 decision.
“I think why he’s so tough is he is just so unorthodox,” Cloverleaf coach Neal Nutter said. “He’s hard to wrestle and he’s got that winning attitude. He doesn’t like to lose. When he flips around and gets in scramble situations, he’s got good mat awareness. You can’t coach the stuff that he does.”
Ryan Slone knew what he had to do to win the 220-pound weight class at the Patriot Athletic Conference Tournament. In the unique five-man round-robin bracket, Slone needed nothing less than a pin to claim the outright title.
The sophomore pinned Keystone’s Jacob Bustance in 1:13 to cap of a day that included three pins and a decision.
“Losing to Keystone in the final round would have put him third and just a win would put him second. The pin was the only way to win it,” Pirates coach Corey Kline said. “He went out and got it done.”
According to Kline, 182-pounder Jake Maund will be ready for sectionals next week. Maund sat out his PAC Tournament match with Keystone’s Jacob Worthington after sustaining a minor injury in the semifinals.
The Pirates’ 37-34 win over Wellington in their regular-season finale was the 100th of Kline’s career. The former Mapleton wrestling standout took over the program from longtime coach Dave Khoury in 2003-04.
Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar knew if his team was going to have any shot at winning the Northeast Ohio Conference Tournament, it would need a little bit from everyone. The veteran coach got that, as Josh Heil and Tyler Hughes brought home titles and seven others made it to the podium.
“I thought if we wrestled well, we could place 8-11 kids, and we placed nine,” he said. “The good thing was every kid won at least one match with bonus.
Since we only won by 1.5 (points), that was huge. So, it was truly a team effort. They all wrestled well.”
The win marked the first time the Blue Devils have had a piece of the River Division championship in five seasons.
The Bucks’ strength at the middleweights was on display at the PAC Tournament. While senior Anthony Kisiday was a favorite to win the 152-pound title, Buckeye received breakout performances from Artie Clark (145) and Alex Wilk. Clark won an 8-6 overtime thriller, while Wilk pinned his opponent in 3:59.
Coach Tim Maxworthy wasn’t shocked.
“Luckily, of the kids we do have, most of them are middle weights,” the second-year coach said. “(This) means that they are headed in the right direction at the right time of the year.”
Don’t look now, but there is a special group forming in Westfield Township. Along with Heidelman’s SL championship, freshmen Greg Briggs and Anthony Kozma also placed. Briggs lost by decision in the 113-pound title match, while Kozma dropped a 3-1 decision in the third-place bout of a rugged 138-pound bracket.
“I’m excited,” Nutter said. “The future’s bright and everything is starting to fall into place. Last year, we were 0-7 and last in the league and we’ve climbed out of that basement.”
Briggs and Kozma each have won 26 matches heading into next weekend’s sectional.
After being sidelined the last two weeks with a knee injury, Tom Gabyak is expected to be back for sectionals. The senior was one of the SL’s top 160-pounders with 22 wins and, according to coach Paul Casey, has been lifting and conditioning in the pool to get his strength back. He also has been practicing for the last week.
Freshman David McCormick and sophomore Parker Moffa each earned medals at the SL Tournament. McCormick, who moved from New York over the summer, has been the Hornets’ go-to guy at 106 pounds and finished fourth. Moffa was impressive in his fourth-place showing at 126, pushing eventual league champ Darrin Gilkerson of Wadsworth. Moffa lead 6-2 after two periods, only to watch Gilkerson come back and win 10-7. Moffa bounced back with wins over Cloverleaf’s Austin Probert and second-seeded Kyle Higley of Green.
The injuries are starting to take a toll on the Bees as the team sent just eight wrestlers to the NOC Tournament with none advancing to the finals. Danny Gannon (106 pounds), Brandon Gandolf (113), Matt Hogue (120), Stephen Piatt (132), Danny Lind (220) and James Duke (285) are still sidelined with various injuries.
“In my 12 years of coaching, I have never had a team with so many injuries to key wrestlers,” Medina coach Chad Gilmore said. “It has been hard on the healthy guys as well since they are losing teammates and drill partners. We are trying to focus on moving forward and improving and not get hung up on what we can not control.
“Since last week was a low, we are working to walk into sectional and compete as the team we are capable of being.”
Medina did get some good news, as Mark Antonelli and Zach Defraine have been cleared to practice as the team prepares for the Division I sectional tournament, which begins Feb. 15.
Sometimes you have to take a risk to get the reward. Heavyweight Daryk Maki found that out, as the first-year starter made a risky decision by choosing the bottom position in his SL title match with Green’s Mark Dahlman. Maki escaped to win 1-0.
The position choice was a huge gamble after electing down against Dahlman in December at the North Canton Holiday Tournament. Maki lost that match by pin.
“(Dahlman’s) good on top. That’s his game,” Grizzlies coach John Gramuglia said. “I think that’s pretty impressive.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.