LAKEWOOD — Losing in the regional finals of the Division I State Dual Team Tournament a year ago didn’t sit well for Wadsworth coach John Gramuglia.
Those bitter memories can all be erased tonight, when the Grizzlies participate in the Division I, Region 2 semifinals at St. Edward High School.
A year after losing to Brecksville, Wadsworth will need to get past Medina County rival Brunswick and either Olmsted Falls or defending state champion St. Edward to earn a bid to Ohio State’s St. John Arena next weekend.
It would mean a lot for the Grizzlies from a bragging rights standpoint and as an important milestone to advance at an event that a former Wads-worth assistant, the late Mike Kallai, helped create.
“It was an empty feeling last year to not be a part of the inaugural event,” Gramuglia said. “With Chief Mike Kallai’s work to get this event an OHSAA-sanctioned one, we feel it necessary to represent Wadsworth at St. John Arena.
“It is one of our big team goals this year again, especially after hosting the state duals for 12 years and winning it twice — the only public school to do this.”
Standing in the Grizzlies’ way is a Blue Devils team that mirrors them in a variety of ways.
Both teams have important tournaments this weekend, as Wadsworth looks for its 22nd straight Suburban League crown and Brunswick is out to defend the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division.
The task will be quite different for the Grizzlies, however, as Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar announced his team will be concentrating on its two-day league tourney and will be sending its reserves to battle tonight.
“For the state duals, we will be sending our JVs,” Koshar said. “Our varsity will focus on the NOC.”
Despite the lineup change, Gramuglia still knows his team can’t overlook its semifinal opponent with a highly anticipated potential rematch with the Eagles in the wings.
“Well, anytime you can wrestle St. Edward at St. Edward, it is important, but we can’t overlook Brunswick,” he said. “They are a team that mirrors our program. They are young and hungry to make a run at state recognition.
“We will have to dig down deep and pull out the one-point matches, then turn around and do the same versus St. Edward an hour later.”
The Grizzlies lost to St. Edward 39-15 earlier this month. They lost six bouts by three points or less just hours before knocking off nationally ranked Claymont.
With a lineup that features 10 wrestlers in intermatwrestle.com’s statewide midseason rankings, the Eagles are a daunting task for Wadsworth
If the Grizzlies’ upperweights can hold off Gabe Dzuro (6th, 182), Mike O’Malley (9th, 195), Parker Knapp (5th, 220) and Ralph Nichols (5th, 285), Wadsworth will have a good shot at a state berth.
A much-anticipated rematch could take place at 113, as Wadsworth’s Noah Baughman, who is No. 1 in the state, could see No. 2 L.J. Bentley. Bentley posted in a 3-0 decision in the first meeting this season.
Look for fellow Grizzlies Connor Gray (120), Darrin Gilkerson (126), Robbie Bosley (152) and Tim Knipl (182) to pick up major points.
“It is a very unique to wrestle two tough matches and then turn around and win the conference,” Gramuglia said. “That is what separates wrestling from other sports. We have to condition our bodies and minds to be resilient enough to make it through the highs and lows. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves and we don’t dwell on it.
“We follow the motto, ‘The grind takes no days off.”’
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.