ELYRIA — After a “terrorist threat” caused Davison High — one of the top wrestling programs in Michigan — to cancel its dual meet Saturday night, Elyria High was scrambling to find a replacement.
The Pioneers were introducing their inaugural Hall of Fame class and needed an opponent quickly.
Brookside came to the rescue, but the young and inexperienced Cardinals were no match for the Pioneers, losing 74-6 with the lone victory coming by forfeit.
“I want to thank Brookside — their school, their athletic director, their coach, their kids — for allowing them to come over here and wrestle us,” Elyria coach Erik Burnett said. “We were in a jam. We had a ceremony tonight. It’s unfortunate what happened with the Davison team that we had scheduled to come in, but Brookside stepped up and we really appreciate that.”
Davison received a shooting threat Wednesday and the superintendent decided to shut down all school activities — the school itself was closed Thursday and Friday — through the weekend.
Brookside saw its dual meet Thursday night with Clearview canceled after some threatening messages were found written on the locker room walls.
Cardinals coach Brian Behrendt was asked by Pioneers assistant coach and Brookside teacher Chris Chidlaw if he’d be interested in pinch-hitting for Davison. Even though the odds were against his Cardinals, he immediately accepted.
“When I got the call from Coach Chidlaw via Coach Burnett, I knew we had to get each other’s back,” Behrendt said. “No matter if we’re Division I, II or III, or the best or worst program in the world, it doesn’t matter. We have to help each other out. They were in a huge bind, which I understood because Clearview canceled on us.
“The dilemma with us was that we needed this match before the Christmas break and I scheduled it as such so we could get the poundage. Luckily, we weighed in for Clearview and it counts (for Saturday). But they needed help, so, to help our sport, we had to help each other.”
Midway through the dual, Elyria announced its first Hall of Fame class, which included 14 members — the 12 individual Pioneers state champions, their first-ever state qualifier and their first-ever head coach.
The final inductee was the late Frank Fiore, the founder of the Elyria wrestling program and the godfather of Lorain County Wrestling. It was revealed that it will be known as the Elyria Frank Fiore Memorial Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Fiore, who brought wrestling to Lorain County when he founded Elyria’s program in 1959, coached six state qualifiers, two state placers and Elyria’s first-ever state champion — Walter Keith. Fiore’s teams went 55-7 in dual meets, with five of the losses coming in the first season.
“It’s been a great year for my dad,” said Chris Fiore, the former Elyria Catholic athletic director who represented his dad at the induction along with his mother, Joanne. “He was inducted in Ohio’s, Kent State’s and Garfield Heights’ Halls of Fame. Those were all special, and this one is obviously special because he started it here.
“You talk about the tree of wrestling — Dan Ternes, Howard Ferguson and Greg Urbas all got their start from my dad, and seeing Erik having success here and the overall success (Lorain) County has had in wrestling is tremendous. I’d have to say wrestling is (Lorain County’s) most successful sport, based off of all the individual state champions we’ve had. I’m really proud of this.
“I can’t speak enough about what Elyria did here for us. This is great, and I think the sport will continue to flourish.”
Other members of the inaugural class were Willie Watters — Elyria’s first state qualifier — Keith, Wilbur Lewis, Tim Sweigard, Ricky Lewis, John McNulty, Darren Cannon, Doug Foor, Greg Saxton, Jeff Lyons, Dan Mitcheff, Steve Mitcheff and John Pycraft. McNulty, Lyons and the Mitcheffs were part of the ceremony, while Watters, Foor, Saxton and Pycraft were represented by members of their families.
Burnett was proud of being a part of the Hall of Fame ceremony.
“Mr. Fiore ran a camp that was actually outside here in Elyria when I was 8 years old, and it was my very first wrestling camp,” Burnett said. “Mr. Fiore was there, the Ternes brothers (Dan and Tom) were there. When you start talking about what wrestling means to me, and you talk about the people that helped get me into it, it’s almost surreal.
“Just to talk with Mr. Fiore’s wife and son now, they’ve had a big impact on my life. McNulty coached my brother (Scott), but he helped me when I was in high school. Mrs. (Cheryl) Saxton, Greg Saxton’s mother, was writing wrestling articles for the Chronicle when I was coming up. All these people have impacted Elyria sports and Elyria wrestling, but they’ve also impacted several other people’s lives. And that’s what I think is really cool.”
With the distinguished alumni watching on, the current crop of Elyria wrestlers didn’t disappoint. Of the Pioneers’ 13 victories, 11 came by pinfall and one came by technical fall. Seven pins came in the first period, the quickest being Alex Parker’s 15-second pin of Lucas Nail at 145 pounds.
“It would have been nice if Davison would have come in because it would have been good competition for us,” said 132-pound senior Brandon Egnor, who defeated David Petrucci by a 15-0 technical fall. “But it was good that Brookside was able to fill in and keep this event going. I’m sure we both needed the work.
“To be a part of the Hall of Fame ceremony was amazing. To see those guys and hear what their accomplishments were, it was amazing. My goal is to one day be in it. I hope that can happen.”
Added senior heavyweight T.J. Halstead, who ended the dual with a 51-second pin of Casey Huhn: “It was a great honor to wrestle in front of the alumni. I’m so happy I was able to wrestle tonight. After seeing those guys, I’m going to work as hard as I can to try to become a state champion and become part of the tradition like all the others from Elyria.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria 74, Brookside 6
106 — Nico O’Dor (E) pinned Austin Knowlton, 3:37. 113 — Armando Torres (E) pinned Aidan Wonder, 1:05. 120 — Ben Darmstad (E) won by forfeit. 126 — Darrion Overall (E) won by forfeit. 132 — Brandon Egnor (E) tech. fall David Petrucci, 15-0. 138 — Chad Shaffer (E) pinned Cory Mills, :48. 145 — Alex Parker (E) pinned Lucas Nail, :15. 152 — Kevin Villa (E) dec. Ian Standen, 9-4. 160 — Walker Snowden (E) pinned Dan Mize, 3:09. 170 — Taylor Workman (E) pinned Cullen Wolford, 1:28. 182 — Mitchell O’Connor (B) won by forfeit. 195 — Connor Kamczyc (E) pinned Zach Fries, :45. 220 — Tyler Giorgini (E) pinned Justin Wojciechowski, :56. 285 — T.J. Halstead (E) dec. Casey Huhn, :51.