CLEVELAND — Tyler Hughes isn’t usually a wrestler who calls his shot.
But with a Division I district title on the line Saturday night at Cleveland State, the Brunswick senior knew what he had to do and told his coaches exactly how he was going to do it.
The 170-pounder then defeated Wadsworth’s Tim Knipl for the second straight week.
“After he got that one point, I looked over at my coaches and said, ‘It’s all right. I’m about to get a takedown right now.’” Hughes said. “And then, boom, takedown.”
Hughes surrendered an early point to Knipl for illegal use of the hands and quickly responded after injury time to get a takedown and late escape for a 3-1 decision.
The win sealed a second straight trip to state for the 12th-grader. It was a quick response that left Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar with a simple question.
“Well, if you knew you were going to do that, why didn’t you do it a bit more often?” he said with a laugh.
Ultimately, the taller Hughes was able to keep Knipl at bay after beating him in a 1-0 thriller last weekend for the Medina Sectional crown.
“Tyler does a really good job of trying to control the tie up and has good head-hands defense,” Koshar said. “That’s what he was able to do to keep that guy from getting in on his legs.”
Despite coming up short in the final, Knipl had one of the more exciting matches in the semifinals. The sophomore built a 4-2 lead against Perrysburg’s Rocco Caywood and had a key escape after avoiding a tilt en route to a 6-4 win to secure his first career state berth.
Caywood is the projected state champ at 170, according to intermat.com’s midseason rankings.
Unfortunately for Knipl, the length of Hughes made a title too tough.
“I was trying to get a good setup, but he’s so good and he’s so long that he could keep me away,” Knipl said. “I don’t wrestle too many guys that are shorter than me, so when I’m on bottom it gives me an advantage, but on my feet (against bigger guys), it can be very difficult to get at their legs.”
Along with Hughes and Knipl, four other Medina Countians punched their state tickets. Brunswick’s Josh Heil and Zack Taylor will be making the trip, along with Wadsworth’s Mathias Zollinger and Highland’s Adam Kluk.
Kluk locked up his fourth state bid with his first career district championship as hung on for a 3-2 decision over Josh Murphy of Brecksville. The result was a 180-degree difference from Kluk’s victory over Murphy for the Medina Sectional title, which came via a pin in a mere 42 seconds.
Despite the nail-biting win, the senior snared a crucial No. 1 seed heading into next week. He also earned one thing missing from his impressive prep resume — a district crown.
“I’ve always just wanted to be the district champion,” said Kluk, a district runner-up last season. “(Former teammate) Colin Rininger did it last year, and it meant a lot to me to come out and win it for once.”
Heil was the other county wrestler in a championship match, where he squared off with Brecksville’s Austin Assad for the third time this season. The Brunswick 106-pounder, who picked up a 1-0 semifinal win over Nordonia’s Tony DeCesare to earn a spot in the final, got an escape late in the first period to trail 2-1 before Assad picked up three points in the final period.
“I really wasn’t feeling it today,” Heil said. “I was worried too much about my weight, but next week I’ll worry more about the match.”
After winning key matches in the consolation bracket, Taylor and Zollinger wrestled in third-place matches at 126 and 138 pounds, respectively.
Taylor, who had to win three consolation bouts to get to qualify, lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Amherst’s Bryan DeRuchie after a controversial call late in the second period awarded him two points.
After losing by major decision to eventual district champ Colin Heffernan (St. Edward) in the championship semifinals, Zollinger took a decision over North Olmsted’s Dick Kelly in a wrestle-back match to earn a rematch with rival Mike DeCesare of Nordonia.
Zollinger surrendered a takedown early to DeCesare, who he had defeated three out of four times this season coming in, in an eventual 3-1 loss.
Fellow Grizzly Abdulhabib Abdulhabib (145 pounds) and Brunswick’s Brett Thomas (113) will be state alternates after winning their fifth-place matches.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.
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