All of the heavyweights of the Division III district wrestling tournament held at Owens Community College yesterday performed like, well, heavyweights.
On the team side, Sandusky St. Mary swamped the field to claim the title with 183.5 points, almost 80 more than its nearest competitor. The Panthers had six wrestlers advance to the championship and won four; in fact, entering last night's championship, they had 164.5 points.
"In every tournament you always want one or two matches back, and this is no different, but I'm really happy for the team," St. Mary coach Jude Roth said. "I feel sad for a couple of guys because we had a couple of tough breaks, but all in all it went pretty well."
The interesting team battle was for second, with Liberty Center narrowly edging Northwest Ohio Athletic League rival Archbold. The Tigers finished with 106 points to 102 for the Blue Streaks, but Liberty Center coach Mel Rentschler said the second-place finish was bittersweet.
"This was really disappointing - we probably should have had four-to-six wrestlers advance, but we only pulled two through," he said. "Justin Biddle came in here with nearly a losing record but lost only to the number one kid in the state [and finished third at 112], and Marc Hoff was spectacular.
"We probably had some seniors drop down that probably shouldn't have, but we did walk out of here as the district runner-up so I won't complain too much."
Individually, two wrestlers entered the tournament with undefeated records and both left with those spotless marks intact.
Arcadia's Lee Schumaker improved to 28-0 at 125 pounds with a 17-7 major decision over Ricky Headrick of Tiffin Calvert, and Ayersville's Nick Girlie moved his record to 36-0 at 215 pounds by posting a 19-3 technical fall over Bryan Shinaver of Genoa.
"I was just trying to constantly stay on the attack," said Girlie, who posted two technical falls and a pin in four victories. "That's how you win matches like these. I really didn't think about the record. I just went out and wrestled like I always wrestle."
Much of the attention at this district was focused on the 275-pound division, which the Brakeman Report said included four of the top eight Division III wrestlers in that weight class.
Swanton's Xavier Taylor won the title by pinning Tony Gonzales of Paulding at 5:40, but even that victory highlighted the competitive nature of the division. Gonzales nearly had Taylor on his back before Taylor took control and eventually earned the pin.
"I went to bring him back to the mat, but I hit on my hip first and he almost got a roll-through," Taylor said of the move that decided the match. "I was able to pop my hips up on top."
The other 275-pounders who will advance to the state meet besides Taylor, who is ranked second in the Brakeman Report, and Gonzalez (sixth) are Archbold's Cody Ruffer (third) and Elmwood's Toby Tahy (15th).
"The district meet is the point where you have the most pressure on you," Taylor admitted. "In sectionals, if you're good you know you're going to get through. But districts is where it's at."
Another highly regarded wrestler who won a title yesterday was 145-pounder Marc Hoff of Liberty Center. Hoff, who has finished third in each of the past two seasons, advanced to state for the fourth straight year with a major decision over St. Mary's Christian Ortolani.
Hoff led just 2-0 heading into the final period before getting an escape and takedown to get rolling early in the final period.
"Guys tend to wrestle defensively - and it works great for them, although it's not my personal style," Hoff said. "It takes me a little while to find that chink in their armor that lets me get through their defense."
Otsego's Sli Bostleman scored three points in the final 20 seconds to win his 152-pound championship match against Andrew Welfle of Norwalk St. Paul. Trailing 2-0, Bostleman got a stalling point, then used a switch with 10 seconds left to claim a 3-2 win.
"I was nervous - he's a tough wrestler," Bostleman said of Welfle. "He countered [the switch] two times before, but he gave it to me one more time. That third period I was a little nervous, but I had to do it."
At 171 pounds fellow Suburban Lakes League wrestler Nick Purdue of Genoa, the projected champ, posted a 21-9 major decision over Hunter Reed of Crestview.
"My main thing through the tournament was to stay solid, stay off my back and not give up any big moves," said Purdue, who also posted one technical fall and a pin in four wins. "I've got my count down: coming in here I had to win eight matches in a row to win state.
"I'm down to four, and I'm really excited about next week."
The top four finishers in each weight class yesterday advance to the state tournament, which begins Thursday at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.