AKRON — Ethan Rivera picked a good time to get hot.
The freshman and Brunswick 113-pound wrestler won his first tournament of what could be an illustrious career for the Blue Devils.
That it came at the 27th annual Bill Dies Memorial Tournament on Saturday should only help with the postseason just around the corner.
“It’s just wonderful,” Rivera said. “All the other tournaments I got to the semifinals, but came up short. To get this one, will only make me better at sectional, district and states.
“This is a huge win. It’s just awesome. I feel like I’ll do pretty good at state and then next year I’ll work all summer and do even better.”
Josh Heil (120), who finished third last year at state, certainly put himself in good position moving forward in a weight class loaded with talent.
That he lost 3-1 to two-time state runner-up Austin Assad of Brecksville didn’t hurt too much because of his incredible match with another state runner-up — this one Elyria’s Armando Torres — in the semifinals.
Trailing 4-1 with five seconds left, Heil forced a stalling point on Torres and then reversed Torres at the buzzer to send the match to overtime. He pounced early on Torres to earn a 6-4 win in the extra session.
“That was a big match for Josh,” Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar said. “He’s a very good opponent, but Josh just wrestled hard until the end.
“We harp on the kids the ref will blow the whistle twice (once to start the period, once to end it). You keep wrestling until the whistle blows and that’s what he did and it worked out for him.”
Brunswick put in work itself with five other placers as the squad finished third behind Canfield and six-time defending tournament champ Brecksville.
Dean Warchak (3rd, 195), Brett Thomas (4th, 126), Branden Bryant (4th, 160), DJ Skiba (5th, 106) and Aaron Naples (8th, 170) rounded out the placers for the Blue Devils.
“We’re pretty happy with seven placers,” Koshar said. “We’re missing a couple guys from our lineup. To come here and place seven is a good weekend.
“This is our last big tournament before the final push. This is our, ‘What is it we want to work on from here to get done what we want to do?’ Whether some kids want to win a state tournament or make it to the district, this is the last tune-up to get to that.”
Highland, which was the last team besides Brecksville, to win the tournament had a placer in David McCormick (8th, 120). Buckeye didn’t put a wrestler on the podium.
“It’s definitely an eye-opener for the kids,” Bucks coach Tim Maxworthy said. “They saw that every little mistake is magnified the deeper and deeper we go into the season. The bigger the tournament, the bigger those mistakes are.
“I take it as a steppingstone. We certainly wrestled better here than we did at the MIT, collectively. It should put some drive into these guys as we start the ball rolling toward conference and sectionals. Hopefully, these guys realize all the little things matter.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.