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Published: Sunday, 2/23/2003

District wrestling: Archbold wins title with depth

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Archbold sent 10 wrestlers into the Division III district wrestling tournament at Waite High School Friday afternoon and, when last night's competition concluded, it turned out the Blue Streaks needed something from all 10.

With each Streak competitor scoring at least two tourney victories, Archbold edged Northwest Ohio Athletic League rival Delta by the narrowest of margins for the team title, 131.5 points to 131.

“There's so many ups and downs because you're so happy for kids that qualify and so disappointed for others that don't,” first-year Archbold coach Brian Becher said. “Getting a team award makes those people that didn't qualify [for state tourney] still feel like they were a winner for the team. Everybody won at least two matches, so we couldn't have done it without everybody.”

The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to Thursday's state tournament in Columbus

Mohawk, which got titles from Steve Studer at 189 and Chad Sowers at 215, placed third with 110 points.

Archbold sent only two wrestlers to the championship finals and one of them - 112-pounder Chris Starr - was forced by injury to default his match to Edgerton's Josh Karnes. The Blue Streaks' lone title came at 152, with senior Logan Merillat (44-2) taking an 8-4 win in the finals over Ayersville's Brian Lichty.

“I think we had a really good overall effort, coming in with 10 people and having everybody win their first match,” Merillat said. “Being 10-0 in the first round really helped.”

A deduction of one team point from Delta's score proved costly. That was taken by the referee when Panther sophomore Jared Evans was heard swearing after his loss to Elmwood's Trevor Lee in the 103 third-place match.

Delta still had a chance at winning the team title with senior Mark Nagel going against Ayersville's Josh Hanenkrath in the 275 final. The Panthers trailed by 4.5 points and needed at least a major decision (between 8 and 12 points) for 5.0 team points to overtake Archbold.

But Nagel (29-0) won 5-4 to earn just 4.0 points, although a second-period slam of Hanenkrath could've led to a pin. Instead, the referee awarded Hanenkrath a point and brought the wrestlers back to a standing start.

“I was just trying to win the match,” Nagel said. “The coaches told me not to even worry about that. It would've been nice to have a team championship, but it's really not that big of a deal.”

Nagel - who lost in overtime in the 189 state final as a sophomore and again in the 215 state final last year while wrestling with broken ribs - competed at 215 this year through the NWOAL tourney, then decided to enter sectionals at 275.

“It looked more promising,” Nagel said of bumping up, “especially as close as I've been two years in a row.

“Sowers and [Sandusky St. Mary's defending 215 state champion Matt] Stookey are both great wrestlers, and it would've been a great weight class [for fans] to watch.

“If I was a junior and had a state championship already, I'd just stay there [at 215]. But this is my last chance and I wanted to go for the more [probable] thing.”

Delta got earlier titles from two sophomores - at 119 from Ryan Gombash (30-5), who pinned Fremont St. Joe's Robbie LeJeune in 3:44, and at 135 from Jamison Moss (33-4), who pinned Northwood's Josh Grigson in 2:59.

“It was a double under to a front head,” Moss said of his pin setup. “I've been working on it. I was determined to pin him.”

The most dramatic battles in the finals came at 145 and 189.

At 145, Lakota senior Brandon Racheter (21-12) scored a two-point reversal with just four seconds remaining to edge Northwood's Brandon McGaharan, who had beaten Racheter 3-2 at last week's sectional.

“The coaches kept telling me I had to do something, so I tried what I could,” Racheter said. “I did a butt drag and I just got a leg over his right at the last second.”

At 189, Studer (39-5), a senior, trailed 1-0 against Liberty Center's Wade VanSickle after two periods, and was ridden the entire third period until earning a reversal with just 1.6 seconds remaining.

“I could've gotten him a couple times,” Studer said. “But I couldn't keep him down, so I waited until the end. I thought I had it earlier before [the referee] gave it at 1.6.”

Senior teammate Sowers didn't need any heroics. He pushed his season record to 48-0 and his career mark to 168-18 by pinning all four opponents in a total of 9:00, including a 2:25 fall in the finals against Swanton's Matt Taynor.

“I just wanted to go out there and get as many takedowns as I could to get a little workout in before next week,” said defending state champion Sowers. “That's all I really wanted to do. Next week's going to be tougher. At state, they'll all be tough. You can't look by anyone.”

The lone freshman district champion was Liberty Center's Marc Hoff (36-3), who pinned Bluffton's Dan Gratz in 3:20 in the 140 final.

“I used a spladle,” Hoff said of his set-up move. “I've been working on that in practice, seeing if I could get it to work or not. It finally came into use.”

Other individual champions from the area included sophomore AJ Coleman (35-7) of Fremont St. Joe, who won 8-3 in the 119 final against McComb's Justin Hill; senior Ryan Mack (37-2) of Tinora, who pinned Woodmore's Dustin Bedford in the 160 final; and senior Paul Weaver (42-5) of Seneca East, who won by injury default over Mohawk's Dustin Sowers at 171.



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