With injuries hampering the Wildcats in the early portion of the season, they were not able to fill a full lineup and forfeits cost them several matches.
One of those matches came against Lutheran West, which Keystone wound up losing by criteria.
On Wednesday, in the quarterfinal round of the Division III, Region 19A Dual Meet Tournament at Beachwood High School, it was a different story.
Back at full strength, the fifth-seeded Wildcats avenged that Patriot Athletic Conference loss to the Longhorns, picking up eight straight victories en route to a 44-21 win.
The fourth-seeded Longhorns are still unbeaten in the PAC regular season with a chance at an outright title tonight against Fairview. However, it is Keystone that advances to the regional semifinals, which will be held next Wednesday at 6 p.m. back at Beachwood High.
Keystone will meet the top-seed and host Bison in one of the semifinal matches. Beachwood defeated eighth-seeded Wellington, 53-20, in the other quarterfinal match Wednesday night.
“We’ve got most of our guys back in the lineup, so that’s a good thing,” Keystone coach Jim Pycraft said. “We’ve been waiting for that all year. Everybody did a good job in what they were looking to do. Once we got a couple of pins, we were able to keep the momentum on our side.
“We tied Lutheran West earlier, and by criteria, we lost. But we had a lot of guys out of the lineup then. We were hoping to get everybody back by then. We finally got some people back. They’re not quite 100 percent yet, but at this time of the year, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
The two winners of the Cuyahoga Heights portion of the regional quarterfinals will wrestle each other simultaneously as Keystone and Beachwood wrestle at Beachwood. The two winners will meet 20 minutes after the last dual is finished for a berth in the Region 19 finals, which will be held Feb. 6 at a site to be determined.
“We came in wanting to take one match at a time and hoped to get a chance at next week,” Pycraft said. “We want to keep everybody healthy and we’ll see what happens.”
Keystone trailed 18-6 following two pins and a forfeit in the first four weight classes. The biggest pin of them was at 120, where defending state qualifier Tim Mecklenburg stuck Keystone’s Dillon Stiner in 1:41.
Needing a huge win, junior Logan Stiner delivered at 132, pinning Colin Gill in 1:19. Then, Chris McKenzie followed by pinning Vermilion resident Adler Vasiloff in 3:35 to tie the score at 18.
“We have a small team, so we have to look for the pins every time,” Stiner said. “I’ve seen (Gill) before and I pinned him last time, so I was definitely looking for a pin this time.
“The dual meet during the season with Lutheran West, we didn’t win, so to come in to the state duals with a healthy team and win like we did is a great feeling. To see our kids come out and win some matches like we did is a great feeling and does wonders for our confidence going forward.”
McKenzie avenged a loss to Vasiloff in the earlier dual meet.
“I was a little anxious about it and nervous, but then I remembered that that was only my third match of the year,” said McKenzie, who improved to 9-8 with the victory. “I’ve wrestled a bunch of tough people since then and I’ve come close to beating some of them while beating others. So I knew if I could beat those people, I knew that I could step it up and pick up my half of the team stuff.
“To be honest, I watched Logan go out and get the pin, and I thought, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ We’re both going down the same path. We’re both drill partners and we keep each other in shape. We go at it all the time. We both make each other better every day. Just winning this proves that we’ve got what it takes.”
Clay Hartley’s 5-1 decision over Gevin Maxwell at 145 gave the Wildcats the lead, 21-18. David Gale (152) followed with an 11-6 decision, which was followed by an 11-1 major decision win by Joshua Fisher (160) and a pin in 3:15 by Jeremy King (170) to increase that lead to 34-18.
Jacob Worthington (195) and Corbin Chizmadia (220) put the exclamation point on the big run with a 16-5 major decision and a 19-second pin, respectively, giving the Wildcats an insurmountable 44-18 lead with one match to go.
“They had a few guys back, so we didn’t benefit from any of the forfeits that we got the last time we wrestled them,” Lutheran West coach Dave Ressler said. “We also had the flu going through us, so I’m missing guys that would have allowed us to avoid some of the forfeits we took. We would have been able to get the forfeit at 182 instead of double-forfeiting, but our backup 182 is sitting at home with the stomach flu.
“We lost matches we won last time. We beat that kid at 138 last time, and this time, we got pinned. That’s a nine-point swing, and that really sucked the sails right out of us.”
Wellington took an early 12-0 lead on a 3:29 pin victory by 106-pounder Jacob Downs and a forfeit by 113-pounder Zac Koubek. However, the Dukes only won two more head-to-head matches.
A 28-second pin by two-time state placer and projected state champion Ryan Harris (160) over Matt Kitko highlighted five pin victories for the Bison.
Josh Kitko (152) and Kaz Dec (182) were the other winners for Wellington, which was without senior 132-pounder Ben Provoznik (sore shoulder).
“We had a bad draw going up against the No. 1 seed,” Wellington coach John Sedlick said. “I think we gave them a match in a couple of matches there. The forfeits hurt us a lot. But it was exciting to be a part of.
“I like this type of tournament, with the single dual. It reminds me of the good-ole’ days where you had to win one match at a time in order to be the best. I’m excited about the future of this tournament.”
Beachwood coach Dugan Bentley said Keystone could be a tough matchup for his team.
“As good as we are as the No. 1 seed, we’re going to be consistently giving up some points because we don’t have a full lineup,” he said. “You could have the worst team in the state, but if they have a full lineup of first-day wrestlers, they’re going to score 24 points on us. From that aspect, it’s frustrating for me. It makes you look at the sport differently, which potentially isn’t good for our sport’s future.
“I think we match up well with Keystone. There’s a chance we might not lose a match in a 7-8 match stretch, but once you start getting into forfeits and any type of upsets along the way, which has happened here a few weeks ago against Pymatuning Valley, things could get interesting.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.