Elder Hadi wins EOWL for Liberty
By Matthew Peaslee
Hadi Hadi always dreamt of coming back to his hometown of Liberty to lead the high school’s wrestling program.
Now, he’s living that dream.
In his first year coaching the Leopards, Hadi clinched the school’s first Eastern Ohio Wrestling League Division III title in 14 years with a 42-35 win over Girard on Wednesday.
“I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “Everybody knew what they had to do to win.”
Hadi graduated from Liberty in 1990 and wrestled at the 189-pound weight class. He coached the Leopard’s junior high team for five years before moving to Atlanta where he was a football coach at the collegiate level.
Last year, he was an assistant for Fitch and at the beginning of this season he took over for Jim Hideg. Hideg was the head coach since 1994.
“I always felt in my heart that I wanted to come back if the opportunity ever arose,” Hadi said. “It did and I’m back. I’m there now and I’m just happy.”
When Liberty last won an EOWL title in 1998, Hadi’s younger brother, Ashraf, was the only senior on the team. For the past four years he’s been an assistant coach — at Girard.
“Our bickering back-and-forth was, ‘It’s not your time to get [a league title] and I’m going to be the only sibling that has one,’” Hadi said laughing. “I’m excited and he’s not too happy.”
Ashraf especially wasn’t during the 145-pound bout between Girard’s Nick Cardiero and Liberty’s Brandon Jefferson.
The official stopped the match when Cardiero was questioned for using illegal moves. The official just offered a warning. Points were deducted from Girard’s side when Ashraf had one too many ill words for the referee.
Cardiero still won by major decision.
“Coaches are not always going to agree with officials,” said Girard head coach Jim Cardiero, Nick’s uncle. “We thought some things could’ve been called a little differently and [Ashraf] lost his control a little bit. We made some mistakes and it won’t happen again.”
The match started at the 160-pound weight class and James Cupan of the Indians pinned Liberty’s Daryl McClendon.
But the Leopards wouldn’t be behind long.
With three straight pins and two bouts won by forfeit, Liberty found itself up 36-6. The Leopards did have their backs against the wall in protecting their lead when Girard earned its own pin streak of three.
Girard’s Matt Deal faced Ty Deal of the Leopards at the 152-pound class and picked up two points in the final 15 seconds. But Banks avoided the pin to secure their victory.
“The most important thing today was to control opponents’ hands and not get pinned,” Hadi said. “It’s a good, old-fashioned rivalry and we knew it was going to come down to the end.”
Joining as an assistant on Liberty’s bench was Don Lott. He started the school’s wrestling team in the fall of 1975 and Hadi wrestled under Lott for three years.
“I do a lot of what I do for that guy,” Hadi said pointing at his former coach. “For him to be on the bench with us is a huge honor.”
Tyrelle Jethrow, Nick Kratsas, C.J. Edmonds and Bobby Stanovac all earned the Leopards’ pins.
Also picking up pins for Girard were Ed Sigurani, Dan Johntony and Jacob Carpenter.