MANSFIELD — The droughts are over for the Amherst Comets. That’s right, droughts … plural.
Not only did Amherst pick up its first sectional champion since Cory Naro in 2005 by putting four wrestlers on top of the podium, the Comets won the first sectional team championship in program history.
“Individually, it was very satisfying,” Comets 126-pounder Bryan DeRuchie said of his major decision win over Elyria’s Darrion Overall in the final. “We haven’t had a sectional champion in awhile, so to come out and have four was pretty great. Coming out and winning as a team was phenomenal. We’ve never had a sectional team championship before, so doing it during my senior year was also really great.”
Joining DeRuchie as Division I sectional champions were Alex Funderburg, with a pin of Elyria’s Jesse Orantek in the 138-pound final; Mike Wearsch, with a sudden-victory overtime win over top-seeded Jesse Palser of Mansfield at 160; and Dennis Breeding, with a pin of Findlay junior Marcus Winkeljohn at 195.
Amherst advanced 11 of the 12 wrestlers it brought to Mansfield High, with Michael Falencki (fourth at 106), Christian Lough (runner-up at 113), Bryce Williams (third at 145), Austin Williams (third at 152), Mike Sliman (runner-up at 170), Derek Eibon (runner-up at 182) and Todd Hastings (runner-up at 220) also earning trips to the Cleveland State district next weekend.
“All year, that was the goal,” Funderburg said. “We wanted to go to sectionals with confidence and come out on top.
“It’s a big stepping stone for us. We felt like it was Amherst’s year. All week we were looking forward to it because we thought we had a good opportunity to win.”
The victory didn’t come easy. The Comets had to outlast an Elyria team that came with a full 14 wrestlers and came away with five champions. In the end, Amherst edged the Pioneers 237-230.
“It was a tight match right up until the end,” said Comets coach Brian Cesear, whose sectional titles in 2001 and ’02 were the last before Naro. “For the school, for the program … this means a lot. All the champs did a heckuva job and we had some other kids step up, too. Some of the freshmen … my 106-pounder Mike Falencki won us a few matches and Todd Hastings at 220 took second and almost won the finals match.
“Everyone stepped up across the board.”
The Pioneers’ champions were Nico O’Dor at 106 pounds, Armando Torres at 113, Ben Darmstadt at 120, Brandon Egnor at 132 and T.J. Halstead at 285. Elyria had 10 wrestlers advance to the district tournament.
“We came in with a goal and it was to try and get all the kids through,” Pioneers coach Erik Burnett said. “All the kids didn’t make it, so we didn’t really complete our goal. You want to win every tournament that you’re in and we didn’t win it, so we kind of fell short there.
“That being said, we got 10 through with a fighting shot next week and that’s a good thing.”
Joining the champions as district qualifiers for Elyria were Overall (runner-up at 126), Orantek (runner-up at 132), Justin Flanigan (fourth at 145), Alex Parker (runner-up at 152) and Taylor Workman (third at 160).
It was another good postseason showing from a team that has consistently placed wrestlers among the field in Columbus. To do that, the Pioneers know that a strong start at sectionals is key.
“I was trying to get first, to get as high as I can, so it would set me up well for districts,” O’Dor said. “It was good for me (to win the title) because now I get a No. 1 seed in my district, and my district is really tough.”
It’s the second straight season the two Lorain County programs have devastated a Northwest sectional. Amherst and Elyria were sent to Oregon Clay last season, with the Pioneers advancing 10 wrestlers and the Comets seven.
It’s a big change from the Lorain sectional the teams were a part of for the past two decades, when powerhouse St. Edward came in and swept up the title every season.
“It’s just good for the program to be able to send that many kids to the next level,” Cesear said. “There are pros and cons both ways. Being with St. Ed’s at sectionals, sometimes that’s good because you get bracketed away from them the next week. But if you go to a different sectional and you’re able to get first place, then you’re set up a little better at districts. It could go either way.”
Burnett agreed 100 percent.
“We love going to Lorain, it was just a lot of fun with the big crowds and having a lot of supporters there,” he said. “But any chance to get our kids more district experience is good, especially our young kids. There are pluses either way.”
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TEAM STANDINGS: Amherst 237, Elyria 230, Ashland 175, Findlay 159, Fremont Ross 138, Cloverleaf 104, Wooster 59.5, Mansfield 55, Lima 50, Marion Harding 34.
106 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Nico O’Dor (Elyria) defeated Dalton Eagle (Ashland).
113 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Armando Torres (Elyria) defeated Christian Lough (Amherst).
120 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Ben Darmstadt (Elyria) defeated Bailey Mezinger (Fremont Ross).
126 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Bryan DeRuchie (Amherst) defeated Darrion Overall (Elyria).
132 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Brandon Egnor (Elyria) defeated Mark Heidelman (Cloverleaf).
138 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Alex Funderburg (Amherst) defeated Jesse Orantek (Elyria).
145 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Wyatt Music (Ashland) defeated Trey Grine (Fremont Ross).
152 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Peyton Geary (Fremont Ross) defeated Alex Parker (Elyria).
160 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Mike Wearsch (Amherst) defeated Jesse Palser (Mansfield).
170 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Taylor Opp (Findlay) defeated Mike Sliman (Amherst).
182 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Traevon Dickerson (Mansfield) defeated Derek Eibon (Amherst).
195 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Dennis Breeding (Amherst) defeated Marcus Winkeljohn (Findlay).
220 — CHAMPIONSHIP: Marcus Molina (Findlay) defeated Todd Hastings (Amherst).
285 — CHAMPIONSHIP: T.J. Halstead (Elyria) defeated Zac Benner (Ashland).