Canfield wrestlers feeling disrespected

Cards have something to prove at state

By Brian Dzenis

Stephen Pitts thinks his Canfield Cardinals are under-appreciated heading into Sunday’s Division II State Wrestling Dual Team Tournament. It’s the school’s first trip to the state duals.

The undefeated Cardinals were given a No. 4-seed for the tournament at Ohio State’s St. John Arena. Pitts views it as a slight.

“We were disrespected in the seeding. We’ve built a resume in the last three years across the state of Ohio that is on par with anyone in the state in any high-level tournament. We put guys on the podium,” Pitts said following the EOWL tournament last Saturday.

“The three teams ahead of us do things differently. Our kids are home grown and sometimes that’s frowned upon state-wide, but we’re proud of our kids. We’re proud of our community and we’re going to go down there and scrap.”

The three teams ahead of Canfield are No. 3 Akron St. Vincent-Saint Mary, No. 2. Lakewood St. Edward and No. 1 Wauseon.

Wauseon — last year’s runner up — is an open-enrollment public school while the other aforementioned schools are private. Canfield is closed enrollment.

The snub has real implications for the Cardinals’ state title hopes. This year’s field is more open with five-time duals champ and state powerhouse St. Paris Graham being allowed to compete in the D-I bracket despite having D-II enrollment. A four-seed puts Canfield in the firing line of Wauseon in the semifinals, should it get past No. 5 Claymont. Wauseon is a heavy favorite against No. 8 Washington Court House Miami Trace, which has no returning state qualifiers on its roster.

Canfield has put together a strong resume this season. In addition to the 18-0 duals record, it owns a win against Pennsylvania duals champ Reynolds, which is currently in the PIAA dual wrestling quarterfinals. The Cardinals have eight state-ranked wrestlers, six of whom are considered among the top 10 in their respective weight classes and includes reigning state champ David Crawford (182) and Tyler Stein (220). Both grapplers are No. 1 in the state. Canfield has also been the D-II team runner up in the past two individual state tournaments.

Seeding snafu aside, going to a Columbus as a team is still a big development.

“Honestly, it was one of the happiest moments of my life,” said Eric El-Hayek, a team captain with the Cardinals. “It’s one of the things I wanted the most.”

Canfield faces off with Claymont at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Some of the critical bouts for the include No. 6-ranked David Reinhart (152) against No. 8 Briar Cadle, No. 3 Anthony D’Alesio (170) against No. 2 Ashton Eyler and No. 6 Dan Kapalko (285) against No. 7 Lyle Clark.

“The kids are a mature enough group to understand what’s going on. Ultimately, you have to go down there and beat good teams. Where you put us in a bracket doesn’t matter,” Pitts said. “The selection process, I’m not sure how it works since this is my first year. When they publish it, I’d love to see it.”

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