WELLINGTON — To say fortunes have been smiling down on the Keystone wrestling program the past few weeks would be an understatement.
The Wildcats have won three regional dual meets to advance to the Division III regional finals in the state duals and have been performing well at tournaments.
On Saturday, they added a cherry to the top of an already memorable season.
Buoyed by two individual champions in 132-pound junior Logan Stiner and 182-pound sophomore Jacob Worthington and seven overall placers in the top four, Keystone claimed its first Patriot Athletic Conference Tournament team championship with 155.5 total points.
The Wildcats’ win not only broke through the Buckeye-Black River logjam atop the PAC leaderboard since the conference formed seven years ago, but also gave them their first conference title since they won back-to-back Lorain County Conference titles in 2001 and 2002.
“It was good for the kids,” said Keystone coach Jim Pycraft Sr., who was named the PAC’s Coach of the Year following the tournament. “The kids have been working hard all year. At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of kids that were beat up. We kept fighting through the injuries, and they finally came together and did what they wanted to do. It all came together at the right time.
“We keep saying we’re trying to finish our strongest at the end of the year, and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re hoping Wednesday goes good for us out at Kirtland, which, now that we’ve accomplished this, we’ll be focused on starting tomorrow.”
But, at least for today, the Keystone wrestlers were savoring the long-awaited championship, becoming the first Lorain County school to win the PAC.
“This is such a great feeling, especially since we finally clicked as a team right at the end of the year,” said Stiner, who won his first career PAC championship with a thrilling 8-7 victory over Firelands’ Angel Alexander that came down to the final seconds. “We’re finally winning a bunch of stuff. We have a chance to go to state (as a team) next week. We finally won the PAC today. I couldn’t be happier, honestly. It’s been a great run.”
Worthington also became a first-time conference champ when he outlasted the four other wrestlers in his weight class in a round-robin style bracket with two quick pins, a 15-0 technical fall and a default over Black River’s Jake Maund in the finals.
“We fell short of this last year after leading heading into the final round,” Worthington said. “Injuries just caught up with us last year and we couldn’t get it done. This year is just awesome, especially considering where we were at the beginning of the year.
Stiner emerged from arguably the toughest weight class in the tournament with a 3-0 performance. He edged Clearview’s Matt Hollingsworth, 9-8, in the semifinals, before outlasting Alexander in one of the best matches of the tournament.
With Stiner leading 6-5 late in the match, Alexander scored a takedown to take the lead. However, Stiner was able to quickly reverse Alexander for two points of his own with 10 seconds left, then held on for the big 8-7 championship victory.
“I’ve been in the running for a couple here, but I came up short,” Stiner said. “To come through with it today is a great feeling. I’ve been getting over a bunch of humps this year. This was the last one I had to get over, and getting over the last ones are better than getting over those first ones.
“I came in knowing that this was a hard weight class. Just winning it makes me feel on top of the world.”
The big match of the finals was at 120 pounds between defending PAC two-time champion Mike Hozan of Black River and Lutheran West’s Tim Mecklenburg.
Hozan trailed, 6-2, after one period, but battled back with a stellar second to tie the score at 10 early in the third.
Mecklenburg, a sophomore, got a point for an escape with a minute to go, then was not only able to avoid being taken down or getting pegged a stalling point, but wound getting a takedown just before time expired to come away with the 14-10 victory and the championship.
Had Hozan won, he would have been only the fourth three-time PAC champion in the conference’s eight-year history. Thanks to Mecklenburg’s win, he was named the PAC’s Most Valuable Wrestler.
“I was expecting a good, hard match and he really gave it to me,” said Mecklenburg, who helped the Longhorns finish fourth with 114 points.
Hozan’s loss didn’t dampen a tremendous comeback for the Pirates, who went into the final round in sixth place but wound up finishing second with 121 points and three champions — Sebastian Vidika (106), Spencer White (113) and Ryan Slone (220).
“It feels pretty good, but my goals right now are for the state tournament,” said Vidika, a junior who claimed his second-straight PAC championship with a 17-1 technical fall over Wellington’s Jacob Downs. “That’s all that’s on my mind right now. I’d say this was a good warm-up for the postseason.
“It would have been nice if Mike would have made it titles for all three of us, but Mecklenburg’s a good opponent. All three White, a junior followed Vidika’s win with an 8-3 victory over Brooklyn’s Dominic Meehan to claim his first-career PAC title.
“I’m finally winning some tournaments this year, so to win this one as well is really nice,” White said. “I’m finally wrestling at my weight this year, and that’s really helping a lot, I think. I’ve got great drill partners (in Vidika and Hozan). We’ve just got to keep going.”
Defending PAC champion Mike Hollingsworth of Clearview ran into another defending PAC champ in Brooklyn’s Lewis Roginsky at the 126-pound finals.
Hollingsworth got an escape with 43 seconds left to tie the score at 5. Just nine seconds into overtime, Roginsky got control on a scramble and scored the two winning points to win, 7-5.
TEAM STANDINGS: 1. Keystone 155.5, 2. Black River 121, 3. Buckeye 119, 3. Brookside 119, 5. Lutheran West 114, 6. Fairview 108, 7. Clearview 107, 8. Wellington 104, 9. Brooklyn 73.5, 10. Firelands 36.5, 11. Columbia 25, 12. Oberlin 18.
106 – FIRST: Sebastian Vidika (Black River) tech. fall. Jacob Downs (Wellington), 17-1; THIRD: Jarrett Hylton (Clearview) dec. Jacob Ressler (Lutheran West), 6-2.
113 – FIRST: Spencer White (Black River) dec. Dominic Meehan (Brooklyn), 8-3; THIRD: Aiden Wonder (Brookside) pinned Nick Arnspaugh (Wellington), :56.
120 – FIRST: Tim Mecklenburg (Lutheran West) dec. Mike Hozan (Black River), 14-10; THIRD: Dylan Stiner (Keystone) pinned Tom Palisin (Fairview), 2:43.
126 – FIRST: Lewis Roginsky (Brooklyn) dec. Mike Hollingsworth (Clearview), 7-5; THIRD: Stefon Inman (Buckeye) maj. dec. Devin French (Brookside), 13-4.
132 – FIRST: Logan Stiner (Keystone) dec. Angel Alexander (Firelands), 8-7; THIRD: Matt Hollingsworth (Clearview) dec. Ben Provoznik (Wellington), 9-6.
138 – FIRST: Jake Taylor (Fairview) dec. Matt Gatto (Brooklyn), 5-3; THIRD: Chris McKenzie (Keystone) pinned Adler Vasiloff (Lutheran West), :56.
145 – FIRST: Artie Clark (Buckeye) dec. Ian Standen (Brookside), 8-6 OT; THIRD: Alex Imhoff (Wellington) dec. Gevin Maxwell (Lutheran West), 6-2.
152 – FIRST: Anthony Kisiday (Buckeye) dec. Derrick Foster (Clearview), 6-2; THIRD: Josh Kitko (Wellington) def. Tyler Thomas (Oberlin) by default.
160 – FIRST: Alex Wilk (Buckeye) pinned Dan Mize (Brookside), 3:59; THIRD: Mitch Minnich (Fairview) dec. Noah Pine (Firelands), 6-0.
170 – FIRST: Andrew Liese (Lutheran West) pinned Amin Awad (Fairview), 1:10; THIRD: Jeremy King (Keystone) pinned Cullen Wolford (Brookside), 1:48.
182 – FIRST: Jacob Worthington (Keystone) def. Jake Maund (Black River) by default; THIRD: Kaz Dec (Wellington) maj. dec. Divante Holt (Clearview), 15-6.
195 – FIRST: Tyler Keating (Fairview) pinned Jose Caraballo (Columbia), 1:09; THIRD: Corbin Chizmadia (Keystone) pinned Jacob Squire (Wellington), :34.
220 – FIRST: Ryan Slone (Black River) pinned Jacob Bustance (Keystone), 1:13; THIRD: Ivan Mendoza (Brookside) pinned Nick Johnson (Firelands), :49.
285 – FIRST: Deion Arnold (Clearview) dec. Ian Long (Lutheran West), 2-1 3OT; THIRD: Matt Stricklett (Buckeye) dec. Casey Huhn (Brookside), 10-7.