This weekend the wrestlers from Stow Munroe Falls High School joined all the high school wrestlers across the state in their quest to conclude their season with a trip to Columbus for a shot at the state title. The first step in that journey begins with the sectional tournaments, followed by four regional district tournaments and then the state tournament. For the Bulldogs, Austintown Fitch High School was the site for their sectional competition and included local rivals from Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Solon and Twinsburg. The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the district tournament to be held at Mentor High School next week.
After two days of tough competition the Bulldogs had one champion in Senior Dan Garner at 220 pounds. Garner had a bye in the first round. In the quarterfinals he jumped out to a dominant 13-0 lead before getting a pin in the 2nd period. The semi final match would see him face a familiar foe from Hudson, but at the last moment Hudson decided to default the match giving Garner an easy entry to the championship match. The final match would not be so simple as Garner faced another familiar opponent in Cuyahoga Fall's Rudy Ware. Ware has over 30 wins on the year and is known for getting quick pins with a very aggressive style. However in this contest, Ware laid back and played defense. After a scoreless first period, Garner scored an escape in the 2nd period to take a 1-0 lead into the final period. Ware then earned a quick escape to tie the match. After going out of bounds the wrestlers started again in the center of the mat. Garner then drove hard for a double leg take down that was followed by a flurry that ended with Garner trapping Ware on his back for a pin and the sectional title.
Senior Connor McMahon also wrestled for the sectional championship. McMahon, 160 pounds, also started the competition with a bye. In his quarterfinal match he made quick work of his opponent for a pin in 48 seconds. The semi final match would have McMahon also face an opponent from Cuyahoga Falls - Austyn Wilson. The two know eachother well and this contest ended with McMahon working for a 13-3 major decision. McMahon had to face a tough Solon opponent in the NOC tournament two weeks ago and in the title match he would face Nico Graziani from Boardman who defeated the Solon wrestler in his semi final to earn the title shot. As in McMahon's only other loss on the season, he was the aggressor in the title match and his opponent waited and countered to score takedowns. Trailing 5-0 in the 2nd period, McMahon mounted a comeback, though. Driving hard all through the final period he came up short, though, as the Boardman wrestler, who at one point was granted a rather vague time out to collect himself, held on to a 6-4 score that gave McMahon a 2nd place finish.
Another Senior Bulldog placing in the tournament was J.J. McCaffrey at 132 pounds. McCaffrey advanced from the first round with a bye. He then faced an opponent from Boardman in the quarterfinals. McCaffrey is a high energy wrestler and he used that aggressive style to earn a 7-6 decision to advance to the semi finals. However, in the semi finals he had to face the top seeded wrestler in the bracket from Twinsburg and lost by a pin. Advancing to sectionals meant a victory had to be earned in the next match against an opponent from Cuyahoga Falls. McCaffrey then used that same tough style to win a close 3-2 match. In the finals, he then defeated a Chardon opponent by a 7-3 score to take 3rd place in the tournament.
Junior stand out Gage Finegan started his tournament with a bye in the first round and then displayed his wide variety of moves as he ran up the score in his quarterfinal match for a 17-1 technical fall. In the semi finals he would face a tough opponent in Myles Campbell from Twinsburg. Finegan defeated Campbell two weeks ago for the NOC title, but this contest went in favor of the Twinsburg wrestler this time as he won a 7- 4 decision. This meant that Finegan would have to win the next match to advance to districts and he did with a pin over a Hudson opponent. He then took fourth place and after dropping a tough, 6-3 contest, in the finals.
Sophomore, Hunter Massey at 152 pounds rounded out the group for Stow that will wrestle next week in Mentor. Massey advanced to the quarterfinals with a bye and won his next match 7-0 to earn a spot in the semi finals. That semi final match was a hard fought contest as Massey trailed 4-3 late and appeared to have the winning takedown at the whistle, but was not given the points. He followed that with a 6-2 consolation win to get in for 3rd and 4th. In the finals he got caught and pinned by an opponent he actually had beaten earlier in the tournament.
In addition to the five wrestler that will advance to the districts, Stow had a strong showing form the rest of the team.
Senior Mike Edwards at 126 pounds lost his quarterfinal match, but then mounted a charge through the consolation bracket. He scored a pin at 1:40 and followed that with a 11-2 major decision to get a shot to advance to the finals for 3rd and 4th. However, he met a tough opponent from Twinsburg and got caught for a pin. He bounced back, though, in his last match and took 5th place with a second period pin.
Junior Dylan Hartwig, 120 pounds, dropped a tough quarterfinal match 8-6 in the first day. Always resilient, though, he came back in the consolation round with a 8-0 major decision. In the match to get in for 3rd and 4th Hartwig wrestled hard, but came up just short as he lost 4-2. He then had strong finals match, winning by a 7-0 score to take 5th place.
Freshman Justin George had a good tournament at 113 pounds. George lost in the quarterfinals to the top seed in the bracket. He followed in the consolation round with a 13-0 major decision. In his next match he dropped a 9-3 decision that put him in the finals round for 5th place and he won it with a tough 2-0 victory.
Senior Troy Steiger at 170 pounds, has wrestled well for Stow all season entering the tournament with 19 wins, but had a tough draw in his bracket as he had to wrestle the top seed in the first round. He dropped that match, which meant he would have to work back through the consolations for a chance to advance to districts. And he did get that chance as he got a victory with a second period pin and then won again with a 6-1 decision. In the consolation semi final he faced a strong Kent opponent. After falling behind early, Steiger came on strong and worked to a pinning combination in the second period. But with the pin call seemingly imminent, the action was stopped and penalty point was awarded to Kent for a questionable illegal move call. Steiger then worked hard for the final two minutes and came up just that one point short as he lost a tough 11-10 decision. Steiger then placed sixth after dropping a decision in the final round.
Also wrestling for Stow were Sophomore Adam Hunt at 106 pounds. Hunt earned a win by pin on the second day of the tournament before his day ended. Senior heavyweight, Zach Milush, who missed the middle part of the season due to illness, did not get a win, but showed a lot of heart as he did battle with the big boys.
The five wrestlers that advanced to districts will begin competition Friday afternoon at Mentor High School.
In the Tournament team scores the Bulldogs placed sixth. Solon won the sectional followed by Twinsburg, Kenston, Hudson and Cuyahoga Falls.