Girard routs Liberty to win EOWL, AAC Blue titles
Girard routs Liberty to win
EOWL, AAC Blue championships
By Brian Dzenis
Liberty had the perfect stage. The lights were out with only a spotlight on the wrestling mat. A Liberty bell was on hand to ring in the victories and leading up to Wednesday night, the Leopards boasted a perfect league record.
But it was the Leopards who had their bell rung. Their bid for their first league title since 2012 was upended by a dominant Girard.
The Indians beat the Leopards, 52-18, to win both the Eastern Ohio Wrestling Division III championship and the All-American Conference Blue Tier title in one swoop to close out the regular season.
“It’s big. I like winning and the kids like winning and it’s something that you shoot for, but the main goal in wrestling is what you do in the postseason,” Girard coach Jim Cardiero said. “We want to get out of sectionals, get to districts and hopefully get to the state tournament.
“All this stuff is just practice for that as far as I’m concerned.”
After the Indians dropped the first bout as Jordan McFadden (106) pinned Nick Dibble, Girard won the next three matches by pin to take control early.
In quick succession, Alex DelGarbino (113) downed Tyler Wilson, Dakota McCloskey (120) pinned Ben Sattler and Matt Belcik (126) put Hamad Alhmeed on his back.
“We were prepared for that, McCloskey is a state qualifier and is state-ranked. DelGarbino is state-ranked,” Liberty coach Hadi Hadi said. “We know what they had with those two down low.”
McCloskey is continuing to have a good February. He won an individual EWOL title on Feb. 3.
“It’s been a pretty exciting year, honestly,” McCloskey said. “We’re all just trying to get to state. It’s what we’re picturing in our mind.”
Liberty was able to get the match within three points after back-to-back pins from Morgan Weinreber (138) and Mouad Elouaddi (145), but Girard’s Jamil Bannister (152) responded with a pin of his own.
“At the beginning of the match, my coach was telling me how important this match was to us and how bad we needed to get a win,” Bannister said. “He told me, ‘It’s time to grow up and wrestle like a man,’ and I did exactly that. I was proud of how I played.”
He handled James Zimbardi to the tune of a 12-6 heading into the third round. The sophomore started the final round in the down position, but as the whistle blew, he reversed the situation and pinned his senior opponent.
“He wrestles like a young guy. Sometimes he makes mistakes or he’s not 100-percent mentally into a match and he doesn’t do as well as I think he should,” Cardiero said. “He’s really improved. He’s coming along. It’s a good time of the year to get better.”
Girard’s lead was pushed to nine points and Liberty never scored again.
“We knew they were good — no doubt about that — but we’re just as good. This team you guys saw today is not us. It is what it is,” Hadi said. “We wrestled horribly and they were up for it and they knew what they were coming into. It’s tough to wrestle us at home.”
Michael Belcik (160) avenged a 6-3 loss to Zion Matlock with a 2-1 decision. Jack DelGarbino (220), the state’s No. 3 Division III wrestler, pinned Mohammad Yusuf in under a minute.
Liberty initially forfeited the 285-pound class, but then trotted out Simi Moananu. He lasted a round with Girard’s Connor Moore before getting pinned.