GARFIELD HEIGHTS — Elyria was able to put five wrestlers into the semifinals, keep 11 of the 12 they brought alive for Day 2 and finish in the top four after the opening day of the Northeast Ohio Conference tournament.
It wasn’t enough to satisfy Pioneers coach Erik Burnett.
“I don’t think we wrestled well at all today,” he said. “At this point of the season, with the mistakes we’re making … it’s not good, it’s not good. It’s not the whole team, but overall we’d better pick it up tomorrow — bottom line.”
The Pioneers were led by their trio of top 10-ranked wrestlers — Armando Torres at 113 pounds, Ben Darmstadt at 120 and Brandon Egnor at 132.
Torres had a first-round bye, then pinned Garfield Heights’ Nate Louis in the third period of their quarterfinal.
“I was a little shaky … I had to sit out that whole (first) round,” said Torres, who is ranked No. 2 in Division I by Intermat.com guru Josh Lowe. “I get a little sleepy when I’m just sitting around, so I’d actually prefer to wrestle and have a match under my belt instead of just sitting there.
“But I came out and got what I needed done, so I’m pretty satisfied with it right now.”
Torres faces Shaker Heights’ Reginald Lowery in this morning’s semifinal, and should meet Mentor’s Colin Kramer — ranked No. 11 in the state — in the final.
Torres is looking for his second straight conference title after finishing runner-up to two-time state champion Brandon Thompson of Solon as a freshman. Not that defending his NOC title is high on Torres’ list of priorities.
“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” he said. “I’m just thinking about getting this year’s title. My coach is always saying, ‘Be the hunter, not the hunted.’ So that’s what I’m trying to do right now.”
Egnor is ranked No. 5 in the state at 132, and like Torres is expected to repeat as an NOC champion. Like Torres, he received a first-round bye before picking up a second-period pin against Normandy’s Dave Reynolds.
“I really don’t like byes,” Egnor said. “It takes a long time to get to your first match of the day. But it feels good to win and advance to the semis.”
Egnor will face Mayfield’s Nicholas Bishop in this morning’s semifinal, then should meet Parma’s T.J. Levitsky — ranked No. 8 in the state — for the championship.
Darmstadt, ranked No. 8 at 120, faces No. 1 Thompson this morning. Elyria’s other two semifinalists aren’t ranked in the state, but still looked pretty impressive in getting to the third round.
Alex Parker downed North Royalton’s Dylan League with an 11-1 major decision, then beat Brunswick’s Brandon Bryant 8-2 in the 145-pound quarterfinals. T.J. Halstead pinned Solon’s Desmond Holmes in the first period, then pinned Normandy’s Mike Budlinsky even faster in the heavyweight quarterfinal.
“I’ve been wrestling hard all week, training hard,” Halstead said. “I’ve just been working my hardest so that I can get out here, get into a grind and finish my season out right. I want to finish my season well, get to the state tournament and place.”
Elyria, which has already won the dual meet portion of the conference schedule, came into the tournament without 195-pounder Connor Kamczyc, who was ranked No. 14 in the state.
“I just didn’t feel good about it right now,” Burnett said. “He’s going to be ready for sectionals and that’s what we’re trying to do, get ready for those three weeks — hopefully three weeks.”
“We missed Connor a lot during the season, so we’re prepared to wrestle without him,” Torres said. “He would help a ton, but I think we can still go get (the team title) without him.”
The Pioneers were also missing 152-pounder Kevin Villa, but adjusted by dropping the next two wrestlers down a weight class — a move that should pay off for Taylor Workman.
Workman, ranked No. 15 at 170, was in a logjam of ranked wrestlers expected to be competing for four state spots at the Cleveland State district tournament in a few weeks. Dropping to 160 gives him some breathing room, despite a quarterfinal loss to Solon’s Brian Hawkins on Friday night.
“He was never a big 170, he’s been undersized,” Burnett said. “He’s beat a lot of guys that are bigger than him. But when you’re talking about a couple-day grind, or a three-day weekend grind, it’s nice to be the same size as your opponents.”
It’s also nice to make sure you execute your game plan, something several Pioneers failed to do in the first two rounds.
“You tell a kid to do something and they don’t execute what you tell them, something we’re working on in practice … that’s not good,” Burnett said. “It wasn’t a terrible day by any stretch, but I think we’re capable of wrestling better.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or email@example.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
TEAM STANDINGS: Parma 71, Hudson 69, Solon 68.5, Elyria 63, Garfield Heights 63.
106 — Daniel Clement, Solon vs. Garrett Lambert, Strongsville; Tyler Corradi, Garfield Heights vs. Josh Heil, Brunswick.
113 — Colin Kramer, Mentor vs. Brett Thomas, Brunswick; Reginald Lowery, Shaker Heights vs. Armando Torres, Elyria.
120 — Brandon Thompson, Solon vs. Ben Darmstadt, Elyria; Micah Shorts, Shaker Heights vs. Dan Bartinelli, North Royalton.
126 — Zack Taylor, Brunswick vs. Alec Benedetti, North Royalton; Chris Motter, Hudson vs. Chayse Csongedi, Parma.
132 — Brandon Egnor, Elyria vs. Nicholas Bishop, Mayfield; Nathan Gregory, Hudson vs. T.J. Levitsky, Parma.
138 — Dane Morgan, North Royalton vs. Brandon White, Hudson; Kyle Workman, Parma vs. Ricky Perez, Strongsville.
145 — Tyrone McGuinea, Twinsburg vs. Alex Parker, Elyria; Shamiko Samdian, Garfield Heights vs. Dave Docherty, Parma.
152 — Anthony Collica, Solon vs. Cameron Mayell, North Royalton; Ray Floyd, Brunswick vs. Davis Celinski, Garfield Heights.
160 — Brian Hawkins, Solon vs. Michael Coleman, Hudson; Austin Wilson, Cuyahoga Falls vs. Alex Keller, Twinsburg.
170 — Tyler Hughes, Brunswick vs. Shaquille Morehouse, Solon; Josh Zeck, Parma vs. Craig Sloan, Garfield Heights.
182 — Justin Halaska, Parma vs. Jacob Puntel, Strongsville; Elliot Simpson, Garfield Heights vs. Danny Tiley, Hudson.
195 — Joey Repasky, Cuyahoga Falls vs. Zack Vehar, Hudson; Mike Lewis, Parma vs. Phillip Jaggers, Solon.
220 — Rudy Ware, Cuyahoga Falls vs. Onome Omobien, Twinsburg; Justin Gauden, Strongsville vs. Kevin Agee, Shaker Heights.