April 16, 2014

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High school wrestling: Defending champ Amherst off to good start at K of C tournament

AVON LAKE — After one day of the 32nd annual Knights of Columbus Wrestling Tournament at Avon Lake High School, Amherst is right where it wants to be: at the top of the standings and in good shape to defend its title.

The Comets outscored the 14 other teams in the field with 115 points and were the only team to break the century mark after Friday’s three-round, round robin, which set up the A and B brackets for today’s finale.

“Overall, we wrestled pretty well, but there’s still a lot of things we have to work on,” Amherst coach Brian Cesear said. “We’ve got to get in shape. We’ve got to work at doing better on top, those sorts of things. We looked all right for the first tournament.

“We talked all week about everyone taking care of themselves and the team score would take care of itself and fall into place. But we set a goal of winning it again as a team, so we’ll see what happens.”

Eight Amherst wrestlers — Alex Funderburg (138), Bryan DeRuchie (132), Nick Wearsch (160), Bryce (145), Austin Williams (152), Derek Eibon (182), Dennis Breeding (195) and Stephan Moody (285) emerged unbeaten after Day 1.

“All of those guys looked pretty good,” Cesear said. “We’re missing a couple of guys still. Hopefully by next week or the week after, we’ll have a full lineup together.”

Funderburg is Amherst’s lone defending K of C champion. But, as luck would have it, he’s matched up with another defending tournament champion in Lakewood’s Yassir Abdel-Salam at 138. Abdel-Salam won the title at 132 last season and moved up.

Abdel-Salam was seeded higher than Funderburg, but that didn’t seem to faze the senior who won 30 matches last season.

“I prepared a lot this offseason. I came out ready to wrestle whoever was put in front of me,” said Funderburg, who had a second-round bye sandwiched between a 32-second pin of Vermilion’s Quentin Zadravec and a 57-second pin over Clearview’s Brandon Folloey. “I always like to wrestle against tough competition. It gets me better for state, and that’s my goal this year — to get to state. The better competition, the better I’ll get.”

Cesear is confident Funderburg will have a good showing today.

“Funderburg wrestled like 50 offseason matches this summer,” he said. “He wrestled in tournaments a lot tougher than this one, so he’s not going to be too worried about it. He’s been there, and that’s important. He’s seen tough competition before, so he’s used to it.”

North Ridgeville leap-frogged Rocky River with a strong third round and is in third place with 87.5 points. The Rangers trail a surprising Bay team, which is in second with 99.5 points.

“I think we did pretty good,” Rangers coach Josh Bement said. “I think we had some ups and downs. We started off strong. We had quite a few kids that won all their matches and went 2-0 or 3-0. Evan Collier (113) and Drew Dickson (120) definitely looked pretty strong. Ricky Godri at 145 looked pretty good, going 3-0.

“Nick Bailey, our heavyweight, he’s been working hard in the offseason and kind of grew into his body a little bit better. He’s done good. But we had two tough one-point losses by Jonah Bowden at 195, which was kind of tough.”

Dickson, a two-time defending K of C champion, and Collier, a defending K of C runner-up, were the top seeds in their respective weight classes and certainly didn’t disappoint.

Collier had a second-round bye sandwiched between a pinfall in 1:45 over Amherst’s Brian Stringer and another pinfall in 3:45 over Brookside’s Madison Burns.

Dickson, who had a second-round bye sandwiched between a pinfall in 1:04 over Clearview’s Christian Cortright and a 23-6 second-period technical fall over Rocky River’s Jack Omori, is in arguably the toughest weight class. Keystone senior Dylan Stiner is the defending K of C champion at 120, while Bay junior Adam Tepper is a defending runner-up.

“I definitely agree with that assessment,” Dickson said. “But that’s cool. I’m excited about that. Hopefully, I can wrestle both of them. It will be fun.”

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.

TEAM STANDINGS: 1. Amherst 115, 2. Bay 99.5, 3. North Ridgeville 87.5, 4. Rocky River 86, 5. Port Clinton 77, 6. Avon 74.5, 7. Lakewood 74, 8. Clearview 74, 9. Avon Lake 61, 10. Keystone 56.5, 11. Normandy 53.5, 12. Holy Name 53.5, 13. Brookside 50, 14. Midview 47, 15. Vermilion 31.5.