By BRIAN DZENIS
The State Wrestling Dual Team Tournament is a welcome addition to Canfield’s growing list of major tournaments to attend and shoot for places on the podium.
The Cardinals are the first Mahoning Valley team to make it to the State Duals tournament at Ohio State University’s St. John Arena.
The OHSAA began sponsoring team play in 2013. Sunday, the No. 4-seed
Cardinals made it to the Division II state semifinals before bowing out with a 38-33 loss to top-seeded Wauseon.
Canfield coach Stephen Pitts didn’t view the trip as an interlude between the regular season and the start of individual competition.
“Most people don’t understand how big of an atmosphere this is where you have communities cheering on teams and that’s what this is about,” Pitts said. “We’ve put so much emphasis on the individual tournament and you can have one or two kids do really well and maybe their parents follow them.
“Here we had a huge crowd — with people from all over — it’s something that’s going to build our sport.”
Senior David Crawford (182 pounds) has wrestled in big individual tournaments and won a state title last year. He valued the duals tournament just the same.
“It’s up there. This has been one of our goals throughout my high school career. We’ve talked about how we wanted to compete for a title,” Crawford said. “It was awesome. We had the whole team down here.
“For the individual state tournament, we might have six, seven or eight guys and some guys just hanging out.
“We had the whole team here supporting us and it was awesome having everyone down here.”
Having the whole team get a chance to wrestle in Columbus offers a few advantages going through the rest of the season. For someone like sophomore Anthony D’Alesio (170), he had the opportunity to wrestle someone he could run into a again if he comes back to Columbus in March, Uhrichsville Claymont’s Ashton Eyler.
They are ranked No. 3 and No. 2 in the state for their weight classes in Division II and while D’Alesio took and 8-3 loss, the experience could help later.
Another example is freshman Ethan Fletcher, a promising 106-pounder who now has practical experience in a state tournament environment.
“It was great. It was a good atmosphere and it was a lot of fun,” Fletcher said. “Canfield travels well — as usual. We had a lot of fans cheering.”
He was the lone Cardinals wrestler to win both of his matches on Sunday without the aid of a forfeit. In his first year of varsity competition, he’s already considered the No. 12 wrestler in the state.
“Ethan has wrestled so many matches and has a lot of experience. We’re excited about his future in the program,” Pitts said. “He does everything right puts in the hard work.”
The lack of tournament experience was a factor against Wauseon. Fletcher won a major decision against Damon Molina, 10-1. But Canfield dropped every bout afterwards.
Of the eight matches that weren’t a forfeit, five were won by an Indians upper clansman. After the Indians’ No. 1-ranked Sandro Ramirez (160) pinned Ben Cutrer, Wauseon had a 38-4 lead and had mathematically knocked out Canfield.
The top seed forfeited all the remaining matches to set the final score. The Ramirez pin left Canfield’s elite wrestlers like D’Alesio, Crawford, Nick Crawford (195), Tyler Stein (220) and Dan Kapalko (285) with no chance to make up the deficit.
Pitts wasn’t disappointed with his team, but he is with the people who decided his team should be a four-seed.
“They were deeper down below. It was one or two matches here or there and if we had some points, we could have made it interesting,” Pitts said. “We had some guys that I thought would give up more bonus points and they didn’t. They fought their butts off.
“I think that match should have been in the finals, but it is what it is.”
In the finals, Wauseon defeated Mentor Lake Catholic, 48-12.
Canfield (19-1) had a strong resume this year that was headlined with a win against Reynolds (Pa.), the reigning duals champions in the Keystone State. That win looks a lot better now than it did before the field in Ohio was put together.
While an Ohio state title is out of the question, Canfield may have a case to be a the Pennsylvania duals champion. On Saturday in Hershey, Reynolds won the PIAA 2A team title, its fifth and most in state history regardless of division. The Cardinals defeated the Raiders, 34-33, in November at the Canfield Duals. It’s unlikely that Canfield will make like Central Florida’s college football team and try to claim the title without having a chance to wrestle for it.
“Maybe we’ll make a t-shirt of it,” Crawford joked.
Canfield gave a more balanced effort in its 46-22 quarterfinal win against Claymont as seven pins and a major decision were scattered up and down the roster.
Fletcher and McCoy Watkins (126), put their respective opponents on their back and Nick Barber (120) had a 14-3 major decision against the Mustangs’ Tucker Zurcher.
The two sides were tied 19-19 going into the 160-pound bout, but Cutrer’s sudden-victory pin of Kaden Bunting allowed the Cardinals to regain the lead.
Back-to-back first periods from David Crawford and Nick Crawford punched the team’s ticket to the next round.
Stein added a 7-1 decision against Kole Aubiel and Dan Kapalko pinned Lyle Clark.