NORTH CANTON — Wadsworth wrestling coach John Gramuglia felt the weekend was a measuring stick for his team.
If Saturday night’s finals at the North Canton Holiday Tournament were any indication, the Grizzlies are in for another great season.
Despite missing two starters with minor injuries, Wadsworth had 10 wrestlers place en route to finishing second in the 32-team event at Hoover High School.
“This was kind of a gauge of where we’re at,” said Gramuglia, whose team was fifth at the tournament a year ago. “It was a good weekend. We ran into some tough finals matches and lost a lot of one-point matches, but I think we’ve made big, big strides from last year. I just think overall we’re better (this year), but we just can’t be satisfied.”
Without the services of All-Gazette selection Tim Knipl and fellow junior Connor Gray, the Grizzlies still managed to compile 211½ points to finish behind champion Uniontown Lake (228). Highland was 23rd with two individuals advancing to the finals.
Three Wadsworth individuals wrestled for titles, with Noah Baughman (113 pounds), Darrin Gilkerson (132) and Shane Mast (170) all placing second.
“I thought our team came out strong this weekend and we all wrestled well,” Mast said. “We had 10 placers, and that’s not bad. We’re all working hard.”
Mast trailed 1-0 heading into the third period of his final against Mansfield’s Jesse Palser. He tied it up with an escape before Palser responded with a takedown and held on for the 3-2 decision.
It wasn’t the way the junior wanted to close the tournament, but he was happy to earn a spot on the podium and is confident he will see Palser again.
“I didn’t really move my feet a lot,” said Mast, who was one match away from placing at North Canton last season. “He was stronger than me and I just have to get my set-ups going. I’ll see him in districts, probably.”
Baughman and Gilkerson also lost tough bouts that came down to the closing seconds.
Against the tournament’s second seed, Tariq Wilson of Steubenville, Baughman stormed to an 2-0 lead before allowing four straight points with less than a minute remaining. The sophomore pulled within a point with 15 seconds left and appeared to have the winning takedown, but time expired.
“It was a tough loss, and I just have to bounce back and learn from it,” Baughman said. “I had a couple of takedowns that I didn’t finish on and I had a couple other opportunities that I didn’t capitalize on, so I definitely need to work on that to get better.”
Gilkerson seemed to have his title match with Jackson’s Justyn Bostic in control late in the second with a 3-2 advantage, but Jackson escaped a hold late in the period to force overtime before winning 5-3.
“I just don’t have the gas tank that he has … yet,” he said. “He was fast-paced and I just wanted to keep good position. That’s what I did, but I couldn’t keep the lead, went into overtime and his tank had a little bit more left.
“It was my goal this year to play higher that I did everything last year. I was sixth last year, and to finish second this year shows that I’m improving.”
Jordan Schleigh and Robbie Bosley each won their third-place matches at 138 and 152, respectively, while Alex Jones (160) and Clayton Brandenburg (195) placed fourth. The Grizzlies also picked up points from fifth-place finishers Brandon Randolph (106), Cody Surratt (120) and Jeremy Randolph (285).
Surratt, a freshman filling in for the injured Gray, earned a hard-fought 4-2 decision over Highland’s Marko Vilimonovic just days after losing to him in a dual.
“That’s nice when a freshman steps in for your captain and takes fifth,” Gramuglia said of Surratt. “That was pleasant surprise, but all three of our freshmen (Surratt, Randolph and Jones) did well.”
The loss was a tough one for Vilimonovic, who opened the tournament Friday with a pair of pins and gave third-seeded Cory Simpson everything he could handle in the semifinals before dropping the fifth-place match.
“Marko had a real solid tournament. He’s starting to figure some things out,” Hornets coach Paul Casey said. “It was a little disappointing for him (finishing sixth), but I imagine those two will trade blows throughout the season.”
Highland’s Brandon Linder was sixth at 132.
According to Gramuglia, Gray and Knipl are expected to be back in the lineup when the Grizzlies travel to Mentor to take on the host Cardinals and state-power Perry.
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.