ELYRIA — The matchup against Strongsville on Saturday night served more as a celebration of the Pioneers seniors and coach Erik Burnett than a Greater Cleveland Conference dual meet.
All four seniors that saw action — including an exhibition heavyweight match — earned victories during Elyria’s 77-0 win over the Mustangs, and Burnett was presented with a plaque for earning his 250th career victory last week.
“For us to have a 250-match representation of what our program has been doing in the last 22 years, I just think it’s phenomenal and it’s a credit to our school district, our community and our family of wrestling,” Burnett said. “It’s all about family. Twenty-two years and it’s always been an extension of my family. My wife jumped into the mix. Even before we had sons that were involved in wrestling, Janet has been the glue in our house and oftentimes for our wrestling program.
“To see all the people up in the stands — former wrestlers, families of former wrestlers, people in our community — I’m so proud to live in Elyria. I love this town, this school district … throughout all the years, the support that we’ve been given. It’s a community effort, it’s all family and it’s all about the kids.”
Burnett has a dual meet record of 251-88, has won 10 conference titles — including eight straight — and has four Division I state runner-up trophies in the school’s trophy case.
He has coached 72 state qualifiers, 47 state placers, 20 state finalists and 10 state champions during his time at Elyria.
While the bulk of Saturday night’s matches resulted in Elyria squash wins, Matt Zuckerman gave the crowd a thrill thanks to a tight battle with Strongsville’s Ben Blickle, who is ranked No. 16 in the state per Borofanohio.net.
Blickle came out on top during a late scramble in the first period, taking a 5-0 lead when the referee awarded him a takedown and a five-second nearfall. Zuckerman scored two points in the second period, then had several takedowns in the third — including one awarded in the final second to tie the match at 9.
Another scramble in the sudden victory overtime resulted in a Zuckerman takedown that ended the match.
“The kid I wrestled, I wrestled him last time and he’s no joke,” said Zuckerman, who bumped up to 145 pounds from his usual 138 spot. “If it was in his gym on his Senior Night with him going up 5-0 in the first period, I don’t know if I wrestle back and win that. But I looked at Bernie as soon as that happened and he said, ‘You’ve got it. You’re Superman.’ I believed him and it gave me confidence.”
Zuckerman, as well as fellow seniors Lewis Aguilar, Drew Levis and Jason Holmes, saw their final action on the mats in Elyria High’s gymnasium.
“It’s crazy now that it’s finally over,” Zuckerman said. “I wasn’t even thinking about it … it’s just now kind of hitting me. I’ll never put on another singlet in this gym again. It’s kind of sad.”
Holmes got to participate in a special exhibition match for Senior Night. He was over the 285-pound limit and wasn’t able to legally enter the lineup, but earned a first-period pin of Lorain’s Santana Sanchez, who had been awarded the Cy Pinter tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler award at Elyria High earlier in the day.
“It was very cool of Lorain for them to come over and allow that to happen,” Burnett said. “Santana had a great day today. He looked great all day, and for him to do a solid for us and for Jason I thought was very cool.”
Elyria wrapped up the GCC dual meet season with a 7-0 record, improving to 9-0 overall.
“They’re tough year in and year out,” Strongsville assistant coach Albert Madsen said. “All we ask of our kids is to come in and give the best they can. We got some improvement from our young kids and we just have to keep building from here.”
The Pioneers are hoping to keep building, too. Elyria is looking to earn its fifth straight trip to the Division I state duals next weekend when it competes in the regional tournament at Oregon Clay. Then it will attempt to defend its GCC tournament title before the postseason begins.
“This is the time to show what we’ve been working for,” Zuckerman said. “I’m so ready and excited for this group of guys that we have. I think it’s going to be a bigger shock in March than what people think.”
Elyria 77, Strongsville 0
106 — Peyton Fenton (E) pinned Giovanni Mucurio, 3:11. 113 — Colin Noel (E) pinned Mitch Shuba, 3:21. 120 — Bryce Allison (E) dec. Kenneth Lambert, 5-3. 126 — Nate Burnett (E) won by forfeit. 132 — Dylan Shawver (E) won by forfeit. 138 — Mick Burnett (E) tech. fall Anthony Grecol, 17-2. 145 — Matt Zuckerman (E) dec. Ben Blickle, 11-9 (SV). 152 — Dillon Hendricks (E) pinned Josh Stevens, 3:21. 160 — Enrique Munguia (E) pinned David Grecol, 3:34. 170 — Jake Evans (E) pinned Sebastian Karim, :28. 182 — Ben Doehr (E) pinned Chris Miller, :27. 195 — Lewis Aguilar (E) pinned Tyler Bickhart, :45. 220 — Drew Levis (E) pinned Wesley Jones, 4:20. 285 — Alexander Lowery (E) pinned Chris Minnick, :30.