It’s the final week of the regular season and that means it’s time for the wrap-up of the conference tournaments.
Locally, that means the Patriot Athletic Conference, the Southwestern Conference and the West Shore Conference will crown champions Saturday before beginning preparation for their respective sectional tournaments the following weekend.
The PAC tournament will be held at Oberlin High School, with wrestling starting at 10 a.m. and continuing through to the finals. Black River is the defending two-time champion — in the league’s two years of existence — but the Pirates have lost three of their best wrestlers to season-ending injuries over the past few weeks.
“We are not looking forward to the PAC,” Pirates coach Corey Kline said. “After the loss of (Tylor) Hall, (Brian) Bush and (Josh) Pfister, we are very young. I am looking for growth and improvement this weekend.”
While Black River won’t just roll over and give their title away, there isn’t a clear-cut favorite as to who might be the team to dethrone the Pirates. Lutheran West has four 30-win wrestlers, Buckeye has been hot the past month and Clearview and Wellington always bring a strong lineup.
“I think it will be a close race,” Longhorns coach Dave Ressler said. “Black River is still the frontrunner but the gap has closed because of the injuries they’ve suffered. The team that gets the most wrestlers to place will pull it out. It will probably take four individual champions and 10 total placers to do it.”
Phoenix coach Craig Enos said that the field will have several wrestlers trying to defend their PAC titles from a year ago, including Colin Dennis, Eric Bednash and Josh Malave from Lutheran West, Jake Thomas from Buckeye, Nick Chmura from Oberlin and Jon Bill from Clearview.
Ressler’s statement seemed to echo around Lorain County by coaches in the midst of preparation for their league tournaments.
“It’s going to come down to how many placers you have,” North Ridgeville coach Ed Haller said. “I think we have anywhere from seven to 10, 11, 12 kids that could do pretty decent based on what they did during the regular season.”
The Rangers went 7-0 during the WSC dual-meet season and will earn an automatic share of the championship if they finish in the top two at the tournament. Fairview is this season’s host of the event, which will begin at 11 a.m. and also continue through to the finals.
“I know we went 7-0, but that just means you have a target on your back,” Haller said. “I think we’re capable of winning four or five weights.”
Behind North Ridgeville is Fairview at 6-1, Midview at
5-2, Rocky River at 4-3, Vermilion at 3-4, Avon at 2-5, Bay at 1-6 and Firelands at 0-7.
The SWC tournament will be hosted by Avon Lake, with wrestling starting at 10 a.m. and the finals beginning at 6 p.m.
After the dual-meet portion of the season, Brecksville is in first, with Olmsted Falls, Amherst and Berea trailing.
“The kids now know that all they have to do is finish ahead of Brecksville and we gain a share of the title,” Bulldogs coach Bill McGrain said. “Doing that is not an easy task, but having a chance going into the tournament is great. We wrestled very well in duals this year to go 6-1 in the SWC.”
Braves coach Mike Rice doesn’t have the same amount of optimism sitting in fourth, but he certainly knows that anything can happen in a tournament atmosphere.
“It is going to come down to avenging some of our close losses we had during the duals,” Rice said. “If we can do that, we can place toward the top.”
The SWC should also provide some solid potential matchups. State placers Nick Lawrence of Westlake and Ryan Marks of Brecksville could meet in the 119-pound bracket, Avon Lake’s Danny Urbin and Olmsted Falls’ Mike Varga — both 20-plus match winners — could collide at 125 pounds and state qualifier Aaron Winemiller from Amherst should see potential challenges from Avon Lake’s Ben Kovach and Berea’s Joe Abujaradeh.
“At 130, (Berea’s Chris) Yutzy and (Amherst’s Brandon) Morgan could be a good match,” Rice said. “They didn’t get a chance to wrestle in the dual due to Yutzy being injured earlier in the year.”
Picking up the Bill
Bill, Clearview’s senior
140-pounder, earned his 100th career victory last weekend, pinning Crestview’s Adam Daniels at the Gribbels Classic in Loudenville.
“The first match of the day was going to be my 100th win, but I lost,” said Bill, who placed third in the event. “That made me kind of mad. But I was confident I’d get the job done during my next match and I did.
“I’m a little bit proud of myself because I was injured every year of my high school career and I still managed to win 100 matches.”
Bill missed the first month of this season, and middle portions of the last three. He said he’s looking forward to this weekend’s PAC tournament and the postseason, but he’ll also have something to look forward to when the season’s over.
“I was talking to my principal and he said when you get 100 wins they hang your wrestling shoes in the trophy case,” Bill said. “I’m pretty excited about that.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.