AKRON — Ben Darmstadt has a knack for finding the switch just in the nick of time.
The sophomore found his stride late in the season last year and it led to a state tournament appearance. On Saturday, the 152-pound Elyria wrestler turned it up a notch and it led to a Bill Dies Memorial Tournament crown. It was the first regular-season title of his budding career.
Like last year, when he won a sectional crown en route to his trip to Columbus, Darmstadt is feeling that extra gear kick in when he needs it most.
“(This win) makes me feel like everything I’ve done to improve has been paying off at the end,” Darmstadt said. “I feel like I’ve been wrestling evenly, going one tournament to the next tournament.
“I just have to take my next match and build off of that. I can’t look down the line. This one feels great because I’ve been close so many tournaments. It feels good to be on top.”
A strong wrestler known for getting to the semifinals but never hitting that next step, Darmstadt was in great form, notching two pins and a technical fall before turning up the heat against Brecksville’s Luke Strnad in the final.
Heavily in control, Darmstadt ended things with three seconds remaining by decking his freshman counterpart.
“It’s nice because he had a solid match,” Pioneers coach Erik Burnett said. “His technique was good. It’s about trying to hone in on great technique and staying solid, for the most part it’s good for Ben.”
Darmstadt wasn’t the only placer for Elyria, who finished eighth behind six-time defending champion Brecksville.
Junior high state champ and freshman sensation heavyweight Kevin Vough impressed on the way to a runner-up finish. He was joined by Armando Torres (fifth, 120), Mike Price (sixth, 138) and T.J. Brown (fifth, 170) on the podium.
It was a step in the right direction for some and a step back for others, according to Burnett.
“Consistency,” Burnett said. “We have some veterans that have to get more consistent. We have some younger kids that have to build consistency.
“Sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get from our guys. They work hard. We need to become more consistent if we’re going to do well in our dual meet series as well as getting guys down to the state tournament.”
The big surprise came at 120, where Torres faded to fifth. The returning state runner-up made it to the semifinals before falling to returning state placer Josh Heil of Brunswick. In a weight class filled to the gills with state placers, Torres built a 4-1 lead against Heil and appeared to be well on his way to a rematch with Dies winner Austin Assad of Brecksville.
But Torres was dinged for staling with less than five seconds remaining and gave up a reversal to tie things at the buzzer. Heil scored a takedown in the extra session and Torres found himself on the wrong end of a 6-4 decision.
While the loss was devastating, the good news is the state tournament is still more than a month away for the senior.
“One, those kids wrestled really well and we have to make adjustments in the next five weeks,” Burnett said. “If you’ve got to lose, it’s better to do it on Jan. 18 rather than March 1. He knows he has work to do. If he wants to go and get after it, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Avon, which finished 23rd, had placers in Max Kuchenrither (seventh, 132) and Travis Leopold (seventh, 160).
Team standings: 1. Brecksville 324.5; 2. Canfield 190; 3. Brunswick 179; 4. Parma 159.5; 5. Rootstown 151.5; 6. Olmsted Falls 142; 7. Coventry 141.5; 8. Elyria 140.5; 9. Madison121; 10. Garfield Heights 119.5; 11. Norton 117.5; 12. Copley 114.5; 13. Manchester 112; 14. Beachwood 101; 15. Streetsboro 98; 16. Cuyahoga Falls 95; 17.Bloom Carroll 92.5; 18. Barberton 92; 19. Woodridge 90.5; 20. Norwayne 89; 21. Twinsburg 84; 22.Cuyahoga Heights 75.5; 23. Avon 74; 24. Tallmadge 72; 25. Revere 65; 26. Stow 61; 27. Green 60; 28. Mogadore 58.5; 29. GlenOak 52; 30. Euclid 46.5; 31. Jefferson Area 44; 32. Firestone 41; 32. Highland 41; 34. Buckeye 40.5; 35. Chippewa 39; 36. Kenmore 33; 37. Buchtel 29; 38. Hoban 28; 38. Kent Roosevelt 28; 40. Brooklyn 25.5; 41. Garretsville Garfield 10; 41. Sheridon 10.
106: Jo. Bronstup (Brec) d. Grant (Tal); Third: Bowen (Man) d. Shah (Cop), 6-0; 113: Rivera (Brun) d. Yoho (Woo), 2-1; Third: Je. Bronstrup (Brec) p. Nelly (GH), 1:46; 120: Assad (Brec) d. Heil (Bru), 3-1; Third: Pugh (Cop) d. Frost (Can), 8-3; Fifth: Torres (Ely) d. Schaub (Gre), 7-0; 126: Minnard (Bloo) d. Poullas (Can), 8-7; Third: Lasko (Madi) d. Thomas (Brun), 3-1; 132: Hiles (Brec) d. Csongedi (Par), 5-3; Third: Balitt (Jeff) d. Shields (Cov), 5-0; Seventh: Kuchenrither (Avo) d. Daprile (Can), 1-0; 138: Lucas (Brec) d. Chew (Mog), 7-2; Third: Salti (OF) p. Price (Ely), 2:15; 145: Ransom (Mad) d. Davis (Brec), 1-0; Third: Lake (Cov) d. Steiner (Norw), 3-1; 152: Darmstadt (Ely) p. Strnad (Brec), 5:57; Celinski (GH) m.d. Locklear (OF), 10-1; 160: Moore (Norw) m.d. Ladich (Root), 16-4; Third: Strnad (Bre) m.d Bryant (Brun), 14-4; Seventh: Leopold (Avo) p. Woods (Stre), 1:21; 170: Harris (Beac) d. Gibson (Bloo), 14-7; Third: Lang (Bre) by ff Sloan (GH); Fifth: Brown (Ely) d. Naples (Bru), 4-3; 182: Linton (Root) d. Lewis (Par), 10-3; Khalib (Rev) d. Socha Can), 6-3; 195: Murphy (Brec) md. Rowland (Stre), 20-6; Third: Warchak (Bru) d. Wilson (CF), 3-1, OT; 220: Rutherford (Nort) p. Hiling (Woo), :24; Third: Ware (CF) p. Caraballo (OF), 4:11; 285: Hanzel (Man) p. Vough (Ely), 3:08; Third: Fair (Fire) d. Burns (Can), 6-1.