NAPOLEON - A loss turned into a victory for the Central Catholic wrestling team.
The Fighting Irish used last week's loss to Clay in the City League championship as motivation for a title in the Division II sectional hosted by Napoleon Saturday.
Central advanced nine wrestlers to the championship match and claimed five titles to win the sectional title, which coach Mitch Naufel said was his team's first since winning a Division I title six years ago. No other school had more than two champs or four qualifiers Saturday.
"Finishing second in the City League tournament really gave our guys a wake-up call," Naufel admitted. "There was a sense of urgency coming into this tournament.
"If there was any silver lining in taking second in the league event, it came here."
The Irish finished with 241.5 points, more than 70 ahead of second-place Maumee. The rest of the lead pack was tightly bunched, though; the Panthers' 170.5 points gave them a half-point more than Wauseon in third and just one point ahead of Eastwood in fourth.
The closeness of the event was expected, and the final matches went by the book in nearly every case as the top seeds won 13 of the 14 weight classes.
The only upset came at 135 pounds, where Bryan's Shayne Combs avenged a pair of in-season losses to David Eaton of Eastwood by claiming a 7-2 decision.
"In both matches I was leading going into the third period, and I would end up getting turned on my back," Combs said. "This was a good win for me. I bumped it up in conditioning this week so I could go three periods hard against him, and it worked."
The evening did not start out well for the Irish, who saw Brian Elden get pinned by B.J. Miller of Defiance in the 112-pound championship, and Michael Perez of Wauseon knock off Dan Cook in the final at 119.
Of course, there was no shame in those two losses: Miller was a state qualifier who had pinned his first two opponents in less than a minute, while Perez
(40-3) also qualified for state a year ago.
Perez joined teammate Cody Pontious at 103 on the podium after Pontious pinned Napoleon's Zach Walker in 5:48 in the final. Perez said it was important in seeding for the district meet.
"Close matches and tough matches help prepare you for districts and state," Perez said. "I was a nervous before the match, because I knew this was important for districts."
The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the district tournament at Fostoria next weekend.
Jordan Duckett got Central Catholic rolling by winning at 130, pinning Carson Frey of Wauseon at 5:29. He said afterward that he made sure his team's early losses didn't carry over into his match.
"I just worked on my own game and focused on what I needed to do," Duckett said. "I told our other guys to keep their confidence up, because they're fighters."
D.J. Beauch gave the Irish a champ at 140 when he decisioned Dylan Zedaker of Bryan by a 6-1 score. Then Central Catholic swept the final three weight classes with Jake Henderson getting the nod at 189, Dave Pickerel winning at 215 and Vincenzo Cardone finishing first at 285.
Henderson had the tightest match of the three, needing overtime to post a 3-1 decision over Ashton Brown of Eastwood.
"He took a shot at me, but I kept my hips back and didn't let him get any leverage on me," Henderson explained. "I ended up driving him over on his side."
Pickerel, a junior who is ranked among the top 215-pounders of the state, escaped with a 3-1 win over Cody Bloom of Napoleon. And Cardone completed the sweep of the top three weight classes with a 4-1 decision over Corey Norris of Wauseon.
Napoleon's Josh Lynch was impressive in winning the title at 125, collecting four pins - with the last coming in 2:30 against Bryan's Brett Carlin.
"I just was looking to go out there and wrestle solidly," Lynch said. "I just wanted to keep to the basics because one little mistake can cost you your season."
The Wildcats' other champ was Jason Brown at 171, who improved to 37-4 with a 5-0 decision over Luke Eschenbrenner of Eastwood, a wrestler Brown had beaten earlier in the season.
"[Eschenbrenner] has gotten a lot better, though, so I knew it was going to be a tough match," Brown said. "So I've been wrestling harder and trying to shoot more."
Maumee also had a pair of champs. The first was Mikkal Johnson at 145, who earned a 7-2 decision over Terry Wagenhauser of Defiance.
"I knew it was going to be a tough match," Johnson said. "It's everyone's goal to go down to state and place, and this is the first step. You have to wrestle your best whether it's sectionals, district, or state."
Graves followed by winning at 152 with a pin of Central's Brad Mossing at 3:03.
"I like to come out and get the first shot in," Graves admitted. "Brad is really tough - his upper body is really strong - and I had trouble breaking him down in the beginning. I caught him in a few tight situations, and I finally got him over."
Eastwood's Seth Hoffman improved to 46-6 this season by winning the 160-pound title with a 5-0 decision over Tony Martin of Central Catholic.
"[Martin] is a tough kid for a sophomore, and I knew he was going to come out hard because it's a finals match," Hoffman said. "This gets me pumped up and ready to go for districts."
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