ELYRIA, Ohio — Clay reached the first state tournament for Ohio’s dual team wrestling championships last season. It was an experience the Eagles hoped to repeat, and now they will.
Clay claimed the Division I Region I regional title Wedneday night for the second straight year to advance to the eight-team state tournament.
The Eagles defeated Elyria 36-30 in the regional final after edging Perrysburg in the semifinal.
The Eagles and Yellow Jackets actually tied at 30 following Antonio Zapata’s 4-3 upset of Andre Shepherd in the 285-pound final. Clay won based on recording more falls in the match.
“It’s great,” Clay coach Ralph Cubberly said. “Perrysburg is a really good team. They were probably the best team on paper coming in. For us to beat those guys was pretty awesome.”
Nick Henneman (106) opened the finals for Clay by pinning Elyria’s DeVontae Bowens in 23 seconds. Evan True then pinned Brandon Lang in 2 minutes, 41 seconds for a 12-0 lead.
“I just did it to help the team because it’s team what matters most,” Henneman said. “I tried to get as many points as I can.”
Elyria’s Armando Torres halted the Eagles’ early run when he pinned Chad Berning at 120.
Aaron Henneman then won 5-4 over Brendan Price at 126. At 132, Clay’s Richie Screptock scored a 14-0 major decision.
Elyria’s Mikah Price won at 138 by pinning Mondragon Calixtro in 1:19.
Gavin Nelson helped the Eagles with a 4-2 win against Darrion Overall at 145.
Elyria’s Ben Darmstadt pinned Darren Todd with one second left in the first period. Then Clay’s Nick Stencel won 9-3 against Taylor Workman at 160.
Elyria’s J.T. Brown edged Andy Howard 3-0 to win at 170- to make it a 25-21. The Eagles then pulled away.
Kevin Witt gave the Eagles a 30-21 lead with an 18-1 technical-fall victory against Cameron King.
Matt Stencil clinched the match for Clay, pinning Tyler Giorgini in the second period at 195, making it 36-21 with two matches left.
“I had wrestled him in our duals,” Stencil said, “and I felt pretty confident.”
Elyria’s Connor Kamczyc pinned Tyler Koester at 220, and Kevin Vough beat Zapata 8-2 in the final match.
Clay reached the regional finals match by literally escaping Perrysburg.
It came down to the final match.
Zapata escaped Cale Bonner’s grasp to win 4-3.
“I just had to get it done for the team,” said Zapata, now 1-2 against Bonner this season. “Everybody got up for me, so I had to show up.”
Perrysburg coach Sam Cotterman wasn’t surprised the semifinal match went down to the wire. The Yellow Jackets competed without top 220-pounder Mark Delas in the lineup because of injury.
“We knew it was going to be close,” he said. “It’s team duals, so it’s a point here or there. You give up a point, you gain a point. It's nobody's fault and we're not going to frown about it because we've still got a lot of goals ahead.”
Nick Henneman, Bryce Dunn, Gavin Nelson, Nick Stencel, and Andy Howard were also winners in the semifinal match for Clay.
Mario Guillen, Moises Guillen, Brock Jones, Leo Romp, J.P. Chase Newton, Rocco Caywood, and Kadin Llewellyn produced victories for the Yellow Jackets in the semifinal against Clay.
Elyria advanced to the final by disposing of Mount Vernon 54-21 in the semifinals.