The Elyria High wrestling program continued to shine Friday as junior Ben Darmstadt and sophomore Kevin Vough each earned a bronze medal at the USA Wrestling Cadet national freestyle championships in Fargo, N.D.
Darmstadt went 6-1 at 160 pounds to earn All-American status with his third-place finish, while Vough went 5-1 to match his teammate’s finish and earn his second All-American award at heavyweight. Vough won the 285-pound national championship in Greco-Roman earlier in the week.
Lutheran West sophomore James Handwerk went 5-2 at 170 pounds to take fifth place. It was the Longhorn’s second All-American performance after finishing as the national runner-up in Greco-Roman earlier in the week.
“They did a nice job. Both of them looked pretty impressive,” Pioneers coach Erik Burnett said during a phone interview Friday night. “Ben and Kevin were coming out here to win it. They had to rebound after tough semifinal losses. Some guys would end up taking sixth because they can’t handle (a semifinal loss).”
Darmstadt reeled off four wins — a 16-6 technical fall over Nevada’s Andrew Berreyesa, a 1:11 pin of Georgia’s Matthew Waddell, an injury default win over New York’s Alexander Herringshaw and a 1:14 pin of South Carolina’s Sean Alford — to advance to the semifinals.
Darmstadt’s run was stopped by New Jersey’s Brandon Dallavia, who earned a 16-5 technical fall victory over the Elyria wrestler and then went on to win the 160-pound national championship.
“It’s pretty tough … all the preparation you put into getting into the finals and winning a national title, then you get shut down like that,” Darmstadt said. “You have to take a little time (after the loss). I said to myself, ‘I’m not dropping to sixth.’ You have to get that into your mind and then finish as high as you can.”
Darmstadt did that with a 16-6 technical fall of Berreyesa in the consolation semifinals and a 57-second pin of New Jersey’s Joe Grello in the placement match.
“It’s nice to be in the top three in the country,” Darmstadt said. “But the goal was to be on top, so I have to keep working on it.”
Vough also steamrolled his way to the semifinals — with a 12-1 technical fall over Florida’s Harry Walker, a 12-1 technical fall over Iowa’s Omar Begic and a 2:15 pin of Illinois’ Nick Grujanac — before losing to the eventual national champion.
Vough suffered a 10-0 technical fall loss to Oregon’s Osawaru Odighizuwa, the same wrestler Vough beat 8-1 in the Greco final.
Vough bounced back with a 15-2 technical fall over California’s Christian Rebottaro in the consolation semifinals and a 6-3 decision over Illinois’ Bryan Ditchman in the placement match.
“(Fargo) was a good experience,” Vough said. “I walked away with a first and a third. That’s not really what I wanted, but it’s still good.
“Now I have two-a-days (football practices) starting next week. I’ll take a little time off from wrestling, then after a few weeks I might work on wrestling once a week again.”
The Elyria program also brought Josh Breeding, Nico O’Dor and J.T. Brown, and all the local wrestlers won matches at the national event.
“All the guys that came out here are very talented,” Burnett said. “I’m thinking this should bolster their confidence. Not just what they did out here, but all the work and performances leading up to this week.
“Success is nice. It’s great to get all those trophies and ribbons on the wall. But as a coach, I’m looking for progress … and I see it.”