CUYAHOGA FALLS — Elyria’s Redemption Weekend went even better than hoped.
The Pioneers came to the 25th annual Walsh Ironman Tournament looking for a better showing at the event after not having a wrestler place last year.
Saturday they headed home from the toughest tournament in the nation with three placers and a tie for 10th as a team. And if there were any doubts about the talent of the competition at the tournament, it featured four of the top five teams in the nation, as well as seven of the top-ranked wrestlers and 25 of the top 50 and 93 who are ranked.
It was the second-best finish at the tournament by the Pioneers, trailing only the 2014 team, which finished eighth.
“It was a statement not only for me, but for Elyria,” Mick Burnett said. “We’re good enough to be here and be a top-15, top-10 team. It’s a statement that we’re still relevant.
“It’s huge, especially with what we’ve been through the last couple of weeks. It’s crazy that we’ve really come together as a team. That’s been a big factor in our success. It’s working together and striving to make each other better.”
It must have worked as Dylan Shawver (fifth, 126 pounds), Burnett (sixth, 132) and Jake Evans (seventh, 170) all placed.
For Shawver, it was the last piece of an already impressive resume. The state runner-up had placed at least once at every tournament he’s entered at the high school level, except the Ironman.
“This means a lot because freshman and sophomore year I came here and it didn’t go as planned,” Shawver said. “There were some bad memories I exorcised this weekend.”
Shawver wasn’t the only one getting rid of a few gremlins.
A sixth-place finisher as a freshman at the Ironman, Burnett came up short last season. This time, he earned every bit of his sixth-place finish. It came with four wins in the consolation bracket, including a huge victory over St. Paris Graham’s Nick Moore.
That it took three-time national champion Jordan Decatur of CVCA to put him in the fifth-place match spoke volumes of her performance Saturday.
“It sucks because you always want to win your last match, but I’m sure in a couple days or maybe tomorrow when I look back and reflect on the weekend, it’s a positive weekend,” Burnett said. “I beat some of the best in the country, had real close matches with some of the other guys. Right now, it’s bittersweet.”
Evans found his satisfaction in a seventh-place finish after going two-and-out last year. A state qualifier last season, the sophomore missed placing at the state tournament by a match.
Fast forward eight months and he was on a tear by reaching the quarterfinals and went 5-2 overall.
“These two days have been great,” Evans said. “From going 0-2 last year to placing seventh this year, it’s an amazing feeling.
“It’s a huge tournament and all the great top kids are here. Some very good kids aren’t going to place. I’ve been pushing really hard and I was ranked only 10th (in the state last season), and I think I’ve proved that I’m not 10th and should be higher. I’m trying to get to the top. This for me is just the beginning and I want to keep going to the top.”
TEAM STANDINGS (TOP 30): 1. Blair Academy (N.J.) 276.5; 2. Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 176.5; 3. Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.), LaSalle 90; 5. Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 82.5; 6. St. Edward 81; 7. Parkersburg South (W.V.) 73.5; 8. Montini Catholic (Ill.), St. John Bosco (Calif.) 73, 10. Elyria, Gilroy (Calif.), Selma (Calif.) 71; 13. Liberty 69.5; 14. Allen (Texas) 67; 15. Poway (Calif.) 65; 16. South Dade (Fla.) 59; 17. Marmion Academy (Ill.) 55.5; 18. Mt. Carmel (Ill.), Notre Dame (Pa.) 55; 20. Park Hill (Mo.) 52; 21. Brecksville, Christian Brothers College (N.Y.), Mt. St. Joseph, Reynolds (Pa.) 47; 25. Aurora 45; 26. St. Paris Graham, McDonogh (Md.), Wadsworth 44.5; 29. St. Christopher’s (VA.) 44; 30. Seneca Valley (Pa.) 43