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Delta claimed its second straight Division III wrestling district championship last night.
But the road to the title at Owens Community College was a little trickier this season for the Panthers.
One difference was the emergence of a third competitor, a Monroeville team that pushed both first-place Delta and second-place Sandusky St. Mary.
The second difference was the razor-thin margin Delta used to earn the title.
There was a little bit of pressure on us, and our kids really gutted it out and wrestled well, Delta coach Jeff Wolford said. The pressure was so intense you could cut it with a knife. Our kids got a big knife and started cutting.
When the cutting was done the Panthers had posted 138.5 points, four more than Sandusky St. Mary and 10.5 more than Monroeville.
Handling that pressure is going to set us up well for the state meet next week, Wolford said.
The team [title] is just gravy. I d gladly lose the team title to get 10 kids to state.
The state title is nice and is good for the team. But the mark of a good wrestler is to get to state, so I d gladly take that.
Delta and St. Mary led the way with six state qualifiers each. Monroeville had four individual winners but no other qualifiers; St. Mary was second with three champs, and Delta had two, Tyler Gombash at 140 pounds and Derrick Yant at 160.
Gombash, who had finished third at district each of the last two seasons, slipped a half-nelson on Arcadia s Lee Schumaker a two-time district champ and powered him over for a pin with 12 seconds left in the second period.
It felt good getting into the championship match because I ve been on the outside mats the past two years, Gombash said.
My semifinal match kind of slipped away from me last year.
Hopefully I can take the momentum I ve got here now and ride it at state. And this is a giant momentum builder.
Yant won his second straight district title at 160, but it was far from easy.
He fell behind Tiffin Calvert s Kyle Kwiat 2-0 early, had to rally in the third period to force overtime, then score a takedown to win 8-6.
He kind of shocked me with the quick take-down, Yant admitted.
He s a good scrambler, and I have to watch for kids like that.
I m going to have to wrestle better if I want to do well next week.
Other local wrestlers who won district crowns last night included a pair from Otsego, Andrew Johnson at 135 and Jacob Southwick at 285, as well as Liberty Center s Chad McClory at 189.
McClory moved down from 215 after placing in the top six in that weight class the last two seasons.
He earned his title with a 6-2 decision over Brock Kirian of Mohawk.
The first time I wrestled [Kirian], the high crotch to a drop double was there twice or three times, and he blocked it off pretty well, McClory said.
I kind of had to switch my style a little bit, looking for stuff that wasn t there [before] but was there today.
[189-pounders] are quicker than the 215-pounders. They re stronger too at 189, they re all muscle, but the kids at 215 have a little fat on them.
Otsego s Johnson won his title with a 3-1 decision over Josh Reindel of Cardinal Stritch, the defending champ at that weight. That match included a crucial takedown in the final minute.
It was a defensive move; he came in on a single-leg, and I switched.
I used his weight to knock him off balance, then used a double-leg to earn the two points, Johnson said of his winning combination.
I thought being the underdog gave me a little advantage.
It gives the person who s predicted to win a sense that it s going to be a cakewalk.
And the underdog always seems to be the crowd favorite.
Southwick pinned his way to a second district title, finishing his efforts by sticking Nick Hamilton of South Central at 4:26.
I knew he would be fast, and I knew he would come out strong, Southwick said.
I just tried to match his speed with my strength. One time he shot, and I caught him, and it was over.
Southwick said he understood Johnson s underdog motivational tactic, but after finishing fourth at state at 285 last year the senior said he used a different approach.
Last year [defending Division III state champ] Cameron Wade and [Elmwood s] Toby Tahy were the two people I aspired to face, and the two people I wanted to beat, Southwick said.
I put a target on their backs and aimed for them the entire season. This year I m sure there s some young gun who put the same target on my back.
They re going to come out shooting and I m going to have to knock them down.
Contact John Wagner at:email@example.com 419-724-6481.