Even the bright spotlight of the PIT couldn't dim the Rockets' red glare.
In fact, the Perrysburg Invitational Tournament, with its single-mat championship match, focused the spotlight on how strong the Oak Harbor program remains.
The Rockets steamrolled the rest of the 16-team field in the PIT, collecting its third consecutive title with five champions and 433 points, 104 more than second-place Wauseon.
Delta (290), Springfield (247) and Perrysburg (239) rounded out the top five teams.
How dominant were the Rockets? They had nine wrestlers reach the championship spotlight, more than double the four from Springfield, the team with the next-highest total.
Not bad for a program that last year graduated nine senior starters, including three state champions, and doesn't have a senior in the starting lineup.
"No, I'm not surprised [with their success]," Oak Harbor coach George Bergman said. "They put in the time, they put in the effort. They're coachable and they work hard in practice. They make our job as coaches easy.
"It was time for other people to step up and perform, and they have."
One of Bergman's sons, freshman Alex, got the Rockets rolling with a pin just 58 seconds into his 103-pound match with Delta's C.J. Reyes. Alex Bergman won all four of his matches at the PIT by pin in a combined time of 3:24.
At 119 the Rockets' Drew Stone avenged a loss to B.J. Miller of Defiance in last year's 112-pound championship here by posting a 3-1 win over Miller in the first round of the tournament.
In his championship bout, Stone posted an 11-3 major decision over Waite's Jacob Conine.
"After I lost to [Miller], it really drove me to work really hard in the offseason," Stone admitted. "I wanted another shot at him because he placed at state last year, and I didn't.
"I wanted to beat him, wrestle solid and win the title."
Miller, a junior, eventually pinned Mike Stentz of Ashland in 3:18 of his third-place match to claim his 100th career victory.
After losing final matches at 125 and 130, Ian Miller claimed the Rockets' third individual title with a 3-2 victory over Yohe Rojas in the final. This highly anticipated match featured Miller, the MVP of this tournament after winning the 119-pound title last year, against Rojas, who won here at 135 a season ago.
"I knew [Rojas] was tough, because I had wrestled him earlier in the year and beat him 6-1," Miller said. "But coming in here I knew there was a lot of pressure [on me] because I was the outstanding wrestler last year.
"I knew he would rush hard so I just used his momentum against him and wrestled hard for the whole match."
Miller was named the tournament's MVP for a second straight year for his efforts.
Konner Witt, who took first at 125 here last year, claimed a narrow 1-0 decision over Terry Wagenhauser of Defiance to win at 145. And Mike Mallernee used a pin to beat Northview's Eric Brown at 160 and claim Oak Harbor's fifth championship.
Other champions at the PIT included Jonny Tolson of Delta, who scored a takedown in the final seconds of a 3-1 win over Springfield's Garrett Manley in a match between two state place-winners.
"I came in knowing I needed to have a strong defense. I had to watch to make sure he didn't get off to a fast start," Tolson said.
"This is the first tournament, besides a league meet or
sectional, that I've ever won. And beating a good wrestler like [Manley] makes it even bigger."
Wauseon's Michael Perez used a takedown in the final 30 seconds to claim a 3-2 win over Oak Harbor's Tyler Hackworth at 125, and said afterwards that close, tough matches like that are the best way to prepare for the grueling road to the state meet.
"You know you're probably going to see matches like this - close, tough matches - at the district and at state," said Perez, a state qualifier last year. "You have to learn how to deal with it, how to handle the nerves and stay in your game plan for the match."
Other winners included a pair of Napoleon wrestlers in Jason Brown at 171 and Cody Bloom at 215; Joey Bodenbender of Tinora at 130; Waite's Tyler Derr at 152; Southview's Greg Isley at 189; and a pair of Springfield wrestlers in 285-pounder Gary Times and Aaron Ferguson, who pinned Max Pennington of Delta to win at 140.
"I knew [Pennington] threw a lot of headlocks so I just tried to stay solid, duck under and counterattack," Ferguson said. "I love to wrestle here under the spotlight and I had never won here before.
"Everybody's watching you when you're under the spotlight here. And you can't lose when everybody's watching."
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