AVON LAKE — Heading into the 33rd annual Avon Lake Knights of Columbus Wrestling Tournament, many observeres believed the biggest challenge to Amherst gaining a three-peat as team champion was tourney newcomer Lorain.
After one day, in which all wrestlers competed in three round-robin matches to determine the bracket for today’s action, the Comets find themselves tied with the Titans atop the team standings with 86 points each.
Amherst had seven undefeated wrestlers, while Lorain had six, setting the pace for the 16-team field heading into today.
Among Amherst’s unbeaten wrestlers were defending K of C individual champions Austin Williams (senior, 145) and Mike Wearsch (senior, 170). Williams had three pins, while Wearsch had two pins and a bye.
“Three matches (and) three pins always feels pretty good,” Williams said. “Anytime you can go into the next day undefeated in the championship bracket is a boost of confidence. I didn’t sweat as much I would have liked to by getting those pins so I’ve got to run a little bit. But it is a lot better to pin your way through. My goal is to pin my way through the tournament.”
The Comets are without Austin’s twin brother Bryce Williams, another defending K of C champion. Bryce was hospitalized and will be out until at least January, according to Austin.
“I think us seniors have really come together, knowing this is our last chance,” Austin Williams said. “This is our last chance to do something special. We’ve got to leave it all out on the mat. Winning this tournament has always been really big, and we want to keep it going this year.”
Lorain, entering this tournament for the first time since the 1980s (the Lorain Steelmen took second in 1986), came in with high hopes of winning it all. Led by seniors Adam and Austin Kuchta, who had three pins each at 195 and 182 pounds, respectively, the Titans are pleased with where they are.
“My goal was to pin everybody,” Adam Kuchta said. “My coach told me to go for pins, so I did. Being in this position, I’m just trying to go out there and do my best in all my matches (today). If it means pinning everyone to help my team get into first place, that’s what I’m going to shoot for. This is a team sport, and I want to help my team out as best as I can.”
Austin Kuchta singled out the Edwards brothers, Devione (113) and Xaevier (126), who also went 3-0 Friday.
“Our goal is to win this thing,” Austin said. “Whether we’re in first or second place after today, we’ve got to work our (butts) off. There’s no way we can stop. We’ve just got to keep going. Overall, I thought everyone wrestled very well today.”
Ironically, both Kuchta’s were matched up with wrestlers from their former high school, Elyria Catholic. Austin pinned Tom Gillespie in 2:29, while Adam pinned Cory Vasil in just 20 seconds.
“To me, it felt like just another person on the mat and just another opponent,” Adam Kuchta said. “If you’re my opponent, I’m going to go 100 percent. That’s what I did.”
Host Avon Lake sits in third with 81.5 points, just ahead of Rocky River (79.5), North Olmsted (79) and Avon (74.5) for a nice pack of teams heading into today. The Shoremen haven’t won this tournament since 1995.
Midview (seventh, 67), North Ridgeville (eighth, 64), Keystone (ninth, 60.5), EC (12th, 48.5), Vermilion (14th, 37) and Clearview (15th, 34) make up the rest of the area contingent.
Defending state qualifier Jacob Worthington, a Keystone senior, went 3-0 at 182 with two quick pins and a technical fall to lead the Wildcats.
“I dropped down to 182, and I feel pretty good at this weight,” said Worthington, who won the Edison Invitational last weekend. “There’s some things I could have done better today, but overall, I thought we wrestled pretty well and I’m looking forward to (today).”
Action will resume this morning at 10, with the finals set for 5 p.m.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
TEAM STANDINGS: T1. Amherst, Lorain 86, 3. Avon Lake 81.5,
4. Rocky River 79.5, 5. North Olmsted 79, 6. Avon 74.5,
7. Midview 67, 8. North Ridgeville 64, 9. Keystone 60.5,