There was high drama as northwest Ohio’s top two Division I wrestling teams faced off in the regional semifinals of the first state team tournament Wednesday night at at Clay High School.
The host Eagles, Ohio’s fifth-ranked D-I team, got a scare from Northern Lakes League power Perrysburg before taking pivotal wins in the upper weights to secure a 34-25 victory.
The Region I-A title sends Clay to the regional final, where it will host the Region I-B winner (Sidney or Beavercreek) next Wednesday at 7 p.m. The winner of that dual match advances to the eight-team state tournament Feb. 9 at St. John Arena in Columbus.
The Yellow Jackets were within 24-22 with three weight classes remaining against favored Clay, but that was as close as they got.
Eagles senior 195-pounder Eddie Silva dominated Kadin Llewellyn to take a 13-0 major decision, giving Clay a 28-22 advantage and setting the stage for the night’s pivotal match.
The 220-pound battle featured Perrysburg junior Mark Delas, who returned to the sport this year after a two-year absence, and Eagles senior Jarred Gray, a 2012 state qualifier who had not wrestled since aggravating a right knee injury on Dec. 16.
Gray took a quick 5-0 lead before his lack of conditioning caught up with him. Delas rallied to an 8-5 lead early in the second period, and Gray answered to go up 11-9 before needing an injury timeout midway in that period.
Had Gray been unable to continue, Perrysburg would have gained six points to tie the score with only the 285-pound match remaining.
As it was, Gray continued, and proceeded to pin Delas at 3 minutes, 45 seconds to clinch the team victory for Clay.
“There were two matches left, and we had to win one,” Clay coach Ralph Cubberly said. “We were just hoping for a win. Getting the fall was nice.
“Jarred really sucked it up and went hard with that hurt knee. He got tired, but he gutted it out and got it done for the team. Perrysburg is tough.”
The 12-point swing — not forfeiting and instead getting the pin — proved especially big when Perrysburg’s Cale Bonner subsequently edged Clay’s Antonio Zapata 1-0 at 285.
“It was tender because I haven’t worked on it,” Gray said of the knee. “But most of that match [when Delas rallied] was just being out of shape from not wrestling for five weeks.
“I’ve been back to practice for two days, and this was my first match. I knew he was a very athletic kid. I played football against him. I knew I was going to have a battle on my hands, especially fighting back and not having my same energy from before.”
The Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 6-0 lead with a pair of hard-fought decisions, with Brock Jones besting Clay’s Aaron Henneman 6-4, and Mario Guillen rallying from a 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 win on a takedown with 45 seconds remaining in the third period.
The Eagles responded by recording three falls in the next four matches.
First, Colixtro Mondragon pinned Nathan Meyers in 50 seconds at 120 pounds, then teammate Richie Screptock needed just 28 seconds to pin Leo Romp at 126.
After Brian Henneman scored a 7-3 decision over Perrybsurg’s Alec Herhold at 132, Clay’s Gavin Nelson pinned the Yellow Jackets’ Adam Shue at 1:33 of their 138-pound match.
Ryan Roth broke the Eagles’ momentum, coming back from an early 3-0 deficit to ultimately take a 5-4 overtime decision at 145 over Damon Dominique.
When the Jackets’ Dan Waltermeyer followed that up by pinning Clay’s Darrin Todd at 1:28 of their 152-pound match, Perrysburg was back within striking range down 21-15.
J.P. Newton got the Yellow Jackets even closer, taking an 8-2 decision over Clay’s Nick Stencel at 160, a win that cut the Eagles’ lead to just 21-18.
Just when it appeared that Perrysburg might forge a tie in the match, Eagles senior Charlie Amenta came to the rescue. He scored a takedown with 13 seconds left in overtime to gain a 3-1 decision at 170 pounds, keeping Clay ahead 24-18.
But when Jackets 182-pounder Rocco Caywood took an 8-0 major decision over Clay’s Matt Stencel, Perrysburg was within 24-22 with three matches remaining.
“It’s what we expected,” Perrysburg coach Sam Cotterman said of the tight battle. “We knew it was going to be a barn-burner. We saw some things we didn’t know were going to happen, and we saw some things we expected. “It shows how tough wrestling is getting in northwest Ohio. I wish Clay the best of luck next week. My kids wrestled hard. If a few things go a different way, this is a totally different match.”
Perrysburg had advanced earlier in the evening with an easy 61-12 victory over Findlay in the I-A semifinals, while Clay was toppling Southview 51-21 in the other semifinal.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.