By MATT PEASLEE
Over the summer, West Branch’s Logan Sharp traded the sodas for the shakes.
The junior lost over 80 pounds to drop from the heavyweight rank, where he was placed behind his brother, Connor, to the 220-pound division where he could start placing, himself.
“I had to cut back on everything,” he said. “I drank a lot of Slim-Fast.”
So on Saturday, after clinching his first Eastern Ohio Wrestling League title and helping the Warriors win the team title, he enjoyed a Mountain Dew.
“A little reward,” he said. “I feel a lot healthier [after dropping the weight]. This is a much better look for me.”
West Branch earned 236 points for first place, edging out Canfield (204) and back-to-back champion Howland (170).
It capped off a week that started with the hardest practice coach Jason Smith has seen in his 16 years with the program.
“On Monday,” he said, “that was the wettest the wrestling room has ever been. We went after it for two and a half hours.”
The Warriors wrestled at Perry and Minerva on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, before the two-day league tournament that began on Friday. They clinched the Northeastern Buckeye Conference title with a 35-30 win over Minerva.
“I woke up at 4:30 everyday this week and started scouting the next team,” Smith said. “I’ll rest when I’m dead.”
He is a 1992 graduate of West Branch and assumed the head coaching duties from Mike Helm this past year. Through that foundation and the addition of Shane Blommel, the Warriors have made their mark across the state.
“With his conditioning we’re all doing well right now,” Connor Sharp said.
Logan pinned Canfield’s Jacob Esarco just two minutes into the match and Connor followed by outlasting Fitch’s Tyler Bell in the heavyweight division with a 3-2 decision.
“I’ve committed to Air Force for football,” Connor said. “And I’ve committed myself to wrestling over the past 12 years. I want to finish my senior year down at Columbus [for the state championships].
Alec Shopfer, at the 106-pound division, beat Mitch Tokkanen of Jackson-Milton to start the finals.
“It was a nice spark for us,” Smith said.
Canfield’s Johnny Poullas and Sam Conner are two of eight seniors. They each won first place at the 170 and 195-pound divisions, respectively.
“They were awesome,” said Canfield coach Dean Connolly. “That’s the best I’ve seen Sam wrestle since I’ve known him.He’s starting to wrestle with more confidence now. He’s really poured it on in the past couple of weeks.”
Being in the conversation with programs like Howland and West Branch is an honor, Connolly said.
“They’re great schools and our kids want to start being thought of as one of the best in the area,” he said. “We want to be be a team that consistently contends. It’s a great time to be a Cardinal, I’m so proud of our kids.”
At 145 pounds, Gabe Stark started off a three-match win streak for Howland. He beat Mason Hughes of West Branch. Then, David-Brian Whisler defeated Grand Valley’s Sean Szitas and Jordan Radich followed by escaping with a win over Poland’s Anthony Audi.
For the fourth-straight year, Boardman’s Nick Mancini placed first in the 120-pound division at the 120-pound mark. He came from behind to beat West Branch’s Tyler Pidgeon, 6-4.
Mancini is a two-time state qualifier and over the past four years, has only allowed one takedown during the league matches. He won his second-straight EOWL MVP award.
“I’m just having fun,” he said. “That’s all I can do.”