COLUMBUS — A painful defeat can linger in the mind for a long time, but Friday night Black River coach Corey Kline put a limit on how long senior Sebastian Vidika could think about last season’s semifinal loss.
“My speech when we were walking out (to the mat)? I told him to take one second to think about last year,” Kline said. “Then I said, ‘That’s enough.’”
Vidika took down Johnstown Northridge’s Jake Adkins within the first few moments of their 106-pound match, then methodically built his lead and breezed to a 6-2 victory to reach the Division III state championship match.
“I knew going into this one that I wasn’t going to let anything stop me,” Vidika said. “It means a lot, but it would mean even more if I got the win (tonight).”
Vidika kicked off a perfect night for area semifinalists, as Elyria sophomore Ben Darmstadt and Vermilion senior Mike Repko also won — both at 152 pounds.
Darmstadt’s win came in dominating fashion. He earned an 8-0 major decision over Pickerington Central senior Aaron Yarger in the quarterfinals, then captured an 11-2 major decision over Uniontown Lake sophomore Andrew McNally in the semifinals. He will face Massillon Perry senior Casey Sparkman in tonight’s Division I title match.
“He was trying to scramble with me and that’s kind of my territory,” Darmstadt said of McNally. “That got me fired up. Then I got on top and just kept working.”
Darmstadt’s big Friday performance was a welcome sight for the Pioneers, who lost senior Armando Torres — last season’s 113-pound state runner-up — to a shoulder injury during his consolation second-round match, and saw freshman heavyweight Kevin Vough get dominated for most of his quarterfinal against an opponent he beat earlier this season.
“He’s always been a hard worker, but this year he’s working smarter, too,” Pioneers coach Erik Burnett said of Darmstadt. “He puts the time in. He hits all the things that you need to make you better — the camps, the open gyms, whatever. He puts in the time and the effort.”
Darmstadt said it’s a night-and-day difference between the wrestler he is now and the wrestler he was a year ago.
“I didn’t have too much confidence my freshman year,” he said. “It was my first time in the show. This year I’ve been highly ranked all season and I’ve been beating guys I hadn’t beaten before.
“It feels amazing.”
The most surprising of the three finalists is Repko, who beat the projected state champion in the quarterfinals, then the No. 4-ranked wrestler in the state in the semifinals.
“I don’t like to listen to what the predictions are supposed to be,” he said. “I came in here with one goal — it’s the same goal that everyone comes in with, but it all comes down to who shows up on this day.”
All three showed up Friday night.
Vidika said his strategy came from Kline’s father, Tim, during the Pirates’ daily practices.
“He’s always saying you need to get a takedown in the first 30 seconds of the match,” Vidika said.
It took Vidika about half that time, and he added a two-second nearfall to take a 4-0 lead after one period. After Vidika took the down position to start the second, he earned a reversal for a 6-0 lead and rode the junior out. Vidika surrendered a late takedown in the third period, but the match was in hand by that point.
“(The first takedown) was huge — in this type of match 2-0 could be the difference,” Kline said. “In my opinion, if (Vidika) gets a 2-0 lead nobody’s going to beat him.”
But Vidika kept scoring — at least enough so that he never felt out of control in the match. He said the goal was to erase the bad taste left by the semifinal loss last year, not to pick up a pin or technical fall.
“At state, you don’t need to dominate your guy by 15 points,” he said. “You only need to win by one.”
The finalists will be looking to prove that point one more time tonight.