EUCLID — Next weekend Elyria senior Matt Zuckerman will be starting his journey toward a fourth Division I state tournament qualification.
But first he needed to stop by the Greater Cleveland Conference tournament and earn his first league championship. He got the job done with an 18-3 technical fall over Strongsville’s Ben Blickle in the 145-pound final Friday night.
“We were joking about it last week. Being a three-time state qualifier is good, but I never won conference,” Zuckerman said. “That’s something you don’t see happen a lot and it feels good to finally get it.”
Zuckerman was one of eight champions for the Pioneers, who breezed to their fourth straight GCC title. All 14 Elyria wrestlers placed — the 2016 Elyria team set GCC records with eight champions and 14 placers — and the Pioneers bettered their margin of victory record by a landslide. The 2016 team won the inaugural title by 82.5 points over Brunswick. This year’s squad beat the runner-up Blue Devils 253-143.
“I thought the kids did a nice job today,” Elyria coach Erik Burnett said. “It was a short week, so we had some things we wanted to do, because you’re not just trying to get ready for this but you’re trying to get ready for the sectional tournament as well.
“I’m sure the kids are aware of some of the things. They’re just trying to make progress every week, and if they set some records why they do it, the kids will be really happy about that.”
The other Elyria champions were Peyton Fenton at 106 pounds, Colin Noel at 113, Dylan Shawver at 126, Mick Burnett at 132, Enrique Munguia at 152, Jake Evans at 170 and Drew Levis at 220.
It was the second GCC title for Noel, Shawver, Burnett, Evans and Levis — and Levis earned his 100th career victory with an 8-3 decision over Euclid’s La’Ron Parks in the final.
The premier matchup was between Shawver and Brunswick’s Logan Heil, a rematch of last season’s 120 final, which Heil won 10-4. Shawver is ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 7 in the nation, while Heil is No. 5 in Ohio.
Heil scored a pair of takedowns in the first two periods to build a 5-2 lead, but Shawver escaped, earned a takedown late in the third period to tie the match then won it after being awarded a takedown out of a scramble during overtime.
“I wrestled him a couple weeks ago at our dual and beat him, so I just wanted to do what I did last time — keep the pace up and not give anything up,” Shawver said. “He changed up his wrestling style from last time. He stayed on his knees and knew everything I was going for, so I had to switch up my style and change some things.”
Elyria freshman Peyton Fenton started the championship parade with a tight battle in the 106 final, coming away with a 4-2 win over Solon’s C.J. Bell. Fenton is ranked No. 5 in the state while Bell is No. 11.
“It builds me up confidence-wise,” said Fenton, who beat Bell by two points during a regular-season dual meet. “I feel good wrestling him. I just have to think that every kid is good, there’s no bad kids in high school.”
Noel’s match was tight for a period. The sophomore surrendered his first points in a GCC tournament match when Shaker Heights’ Toriano Houston Jr. scored a takedown in the first period. But Noel quickly erased the deficit, built a lead and finally pinned Houston midway through the third.
“I just wanted to come back and do what I did last year and not give up any points,” Noel said. “I knew once I got on top, where I was strong, that I could turn him. So it didn’t faze me that much. Once I got on top, I started doing my boots and my power halfs. I just got a lot of points scored.”
Another not-so-close match was Zuckerman’s manhandling of Blickle, which was a bit of a surprise to some as the two went to overtime during the regular-season dual meet.
“When I wrestled him last time I was sick,” Zuckerman said. “Coming out here I think people were thinking, ‘Oh, he went overtime with Ben, so it’s going to be a really close match.’ So I just wanted to go out there and try to make a statement.”
Blickle looked ready for the challenge for about a minute. Then the onslaught began and his hopes faded.
“He was probably shocked when I got the first takedown,” Zuckerman said. “He was thinking in that scramble he was going to get it — to be working that hard and then not get it is just devastating for a kid.
“You can tell from the first period to the third period if you break a kid by how much heart they have. If a kid’s getting up after every takedown, you know you didn’t break him. But if he’s laying there and you have to work to help him up, you know you broke him.”
With opponents’ broken spirits and another GCC broken record behind them, the Pioneers will now prepare for next weekend’s sectional at Westlake.
“They’ve got to work hard and they have to work smart,” Erik Burnett said. “Take care of themselves, get their rest … that’s the big thing about this time of the year. They have to do their best to stay sharp.”
TEAM STANDINGS: Elyria 253, Brunswick 143, Solon 142, Mentor 126.5, Strongsville 120.5, Shaker Heights 87, Medina 82, Euclid 65.
106 — FIRST: Peyton Fenton (Elyria) dec. C.J. Bell (Solon), 4-2. THIRD: Giovanni Mucurio (Strongsville) pinned Michael Main (Brunswick), :29.
113 — FIRST: Colin Noel (Elyria) pinned Toriano Houston Jr. (Shaker Hts.), 5:02. THIRD: Dominic Ricco (Mentor) dec. Nick Molchak (Solon), 4-3. FIFTH: Mitch Shuba (Strongsville) by default.
120 — FIRST: Jake Canitano (Solon) maj. dec. Bryce Allison (Elyria), 10-1. THIRD: Kenneth Lambert (Strongsville) dec. Brandon Tarnai (Brunswick), 10-8 (SV). FIFTH: Nick Sabin (Mentor) by default.
126 — FIRST: Dylan Shawver (Elyria) dec. Logan Heil (Brunswick), 7-5 (SV). THIRD: Dylan Ward (Mentor) pinned Nick Gerome (Solon), 3:55. FIFTH: Will Faust (Shaker Heights) be default.
132 — FIRST: Mick Burnett (Elyria) maj. dec. Nate DeBoe (Mentor), 15-4. THIRD: Quentin Whitehill (Medina) pinned Mico Miloradovic (Brunswick), 2:12. FIFTH: Todd Reeves (Shaker Heights) by default.
138 — FIRST: Derek Fields (Brunswick) pinned Trysten Zahoransky (Solon), 1:17. THIRD: Anthony Grecol (Strongsville) pinned Travis Petkovich (Medina), 3:37. FIFTH: Izzak Pedrazza (Elyria) pinned Jacob Pawlaczyk (Mentor), 1:48.
145 — FIRST: Matt Zuckerman (Elyria) tech. fall Ben Blickle (Strongsville), 18-3. THIRD: Lincoln Splete (Mentor) tech. fall Tyler Skiba (Brunswick), 16-0. FIFTH: Michael Fadel (Shaker Heights) def. Andrew Bican (Solon) by forfeit.
152 — FIRST: Enrique Munguia (Elyria) pinned Elijah Meinhard (Shaker Heights), 3:08. THIRD: Tyler Renick (Mentor) pinned Jacob Kraker (Brunswick), 2:10. FIFTH: Ryan Mulvaney (Solon) pinned Josh Stevens (Strongsville), 1:58.
160 — FIRST: David Grecol (Strongsville) dec. Jake Mack (Solon), 5-2. THIRD: Joey Ricco (Mentor) dec. Dillon Hendricks (Elyria), 6-3. FIFTH: Bennett Smith (Shaker Heights) pinned James Stubbs (Euclid), 4:08.
170 — FIRST: Jake Evans (Elyria) pinned Kevin Kiussis (Brunswick), 1:26. THIRD: Liam Brock (Medina) dec. Danny Morlani (Solon), 3-1. FIFTH: Dom Holleran (Mentor) pinned Sebastian Karim (Strongsville), 1:25.
182 — FIRST: Najee Lockett (Shaker Heights) maj. dec. Seth DiCola (Medina), 15-6. THIRD: Freddy Lisy (Euclid) pinned Chris Miller (Strongsville), :56. FIFTH: Nick Shuster (Mentor) def. Ben Doehr (Elyria) by forfeit.
195 — FIRST: Blake Chrisman (Medina) dec. Lewis Aguilar (Elyria), 10-6. THIRD: Reese Worship (Euclid) def. Curtis Helman (Brunswick) by forfeit. FIFTH: Tyler Bickhart (Strongsville) by default.
220 — FIRST: Drew Levis (Elyria) dec. La’Ron Parks (Euclid), 8-3. THIRD: Eddie Sevastos (Brunswick) pinned Wes Jones (Strongsville), 5:20 (SV). FIFTH: Jonathan Hubbard (Solon) by default.
285 — FIRST: Devan Welch (Mentor) dec. Yusef Russell (Solon), 3-2 (TB). THIRD: Phillip Patterson (Euclid) dec. Evan Sevastos (Brunswick), 11-6. FIFTH: Alexander Lowery (Elyria) pinned Chris Minnick (Strongsville), :30.