By Brad Bournival
GARFIELD HTS. — Don’t look now, but Elyria coach Erik Burnett is in the midst of assembling a team that could make another strong run in the state tournament.
If the Northeast Ohio Conference Tournament on Saturday is any indication, that run could come with a gaggle of state representatives. The Pioneers showed they’re peaking at the right time.
Armando Torres (120 pounds), Mikah Price (138), Ben Darmstadt (152) and Kevin Vough (285) were crowned champions, Elyria placed five other wrestlers and the team scored 214½ points to finish second behind two-time defending champion Brunswick.
The Pioneers’ point total was the most at the event in school history and second all time behind only the Blue Devils’ in the NOCT’s seven-year history.
“It’s really nice to see my teammates and friends do well,” said Vough, who closed out the scoring for Elyria with a pin in the finals. “It shows that we’ve come this far. When you see your teammates win, it gets you hyped, it gets you ready to go.”
The Pioneers, who had twice as many champions as anyone in the field, appeared ready to go from the opening whistle at the two-day event.
No one for Elyria — or probably any other squad, for that matter — was more ready than Torres. An overtime loser to Brunswick’s Josh Heil two weeks ago at the Bill Dies Memorial Tournament, the Pioneers senior got a second chance in the finals Saturday.
The returning state runner-up made it count in a thrilling 1-0 sudden victory win that came in criteria overtime.
After avoiding a few shots in the first period, Torres rode out Heil in the third period, third overtime and ultimate tiebreaker for the victory.
“It’s a step forward,” Torres said. “I plan on winning every match from now until the state tournament. I’m happy that I won, but it wasn’t my best performance.
“There’s a lot to work on. It feels good to win this tough tournament. Mentally, it was about getting my head ready for this match. Riding definitely takes some mental toughness. I can beat anybody. I think I’m the best in the state right now.”
Torres is certainly one of the best to ever come out of the NOCT after claiming his third league title. Only Solon’s Brandon Thompson and Anthony Collica and Twinsburg’s Mike Labry have also won three NOC crowns, and Thompson is the only four-time winner.
“If you think about the other champions, they’re really good,” Torres said. “To have my name up with them, that’s really cool. They’re great wrestlers. I’m really happy and excited about that.”
So, too, are wrestlers like Price and Vough, who came in as lower seeds, but walked out as champions.
With the four titles and slew of placers, Elyria proved once again it’s ready to take that next step toward the ultimate goal.
“We need to keep going,” Darmstadt said. “I want to take a lot of kids down to state with me. Based on what happened here, that’s realistic.
“We’ve been working all week, all month, all year and doing what Coach has been saying and it’s working. It’s good to be peaking now and not at the beginning.”
The next step for the Pioneers is the Lorain Division I sectional in two weeks, where Burnett hopes to make even more noise.
“If we can keep everyone healthy, you have to feel good about where they are,” Burnett said. “There were some teams coming in that had a shot to beat us, but finishing second, it’s not a bad weekend. We just have to get back in the room and keep improving.”
Team standings: 1. Brunswick 252.5; 2. Elyria 214.5; 3. Parma 156; 4. Solon 127; 5. Hudson 123; 6. Garfield Heights 122.5; 7. Cuyahoga Falls 114; 8. North Royalton 112.5; 9. Medina 86; 10. Mentor 82; 11. Strongsville, Stow 77; 13. Shaker Heights 73.5; 14. Twinsburg 71; 15. Mayfield 52; 16. Normandy 28; 17. Valley Forge 20; 18. Brush 16.
106: Harry Feuer (May) pin Luke Dimuzio (Twi), 3:12; Third: D.J. Skiba (Brun) dec. Aaron Cintron (Nor), 7-5; Fifth: Eric Smith (NR) maj. dec. Austin Morris (Sto), 15-4; 113: Daniel Clement (Sol) maj. dec. Ray Porter (Str); Third: Ethan Rivera (Brun) dec. Andre Herron (NR), 2-1, OT; Fifth: Austin Victor (Men) dec. Brandon Gandolf (Med), 1-0; 120: Armando Torres (Ely) dec. Josh Heil (Brun), 1-0, OT; Third: Mitch Hannan (CF) dec. Jeremy Rezabek (Str), 7-6; Fifth: Nathan Langston (Sol) dec. Nate Louis (GH), 5-0; 126: Brett Thomas (Brun) dec. David Erdelac (Stro), 7-6; Third: Tyler Workman (Par) by forfeit over Micah Shorts (SH); Fifth: Alex Defraine (Med) maj. dec. Mark Molder (Men), 11-2; 132: Nicky Kiussis (Brun) dec. Chayse Csongedi (Par), 12-10; Third: Chris Motter (Hud) dec. Chris Wymer (Sol), 4-2; Fifth: Jesse Orantek (Ely) pin Floyde Samidan (GH), 4:33; 138: Mikah Price (Ely) dec. Christian Camacho (Brun), 9-2; Third: Dane Moran (NR) dec. Billy Beuhl (Hud), 3-1; Fifth: Cole Oldham (CF) dec. Jesse Scarvelli (May), 10-4; 145: Kyle Workman (Par) dec. Austin Tomoletz (Men), 8-3; Third: Zach Defraine (Med) dec. Blake Dixon (Brus), 10-4; Fifth: Darrion Overall (Ely) by inj. default Austin Fallon (Brun); 152: Ben Darmstadt (Ely) pin Nick Planicka (Sto), 2:48; Third: Xavier Wasco (NR) dec. Ray Floyd (Brun), 10-3; Fifth: Noah Edwards (Twi) dec. Dave Docherty (Par), 5-3; 160: Michael Coleman (May) maj. dec. David Celinski (GH), 10-2; Third: Brandon Bryant (Brun) dec. Taylor Workman (Ely), 7-5; Fifth: Cam Mayell (NR) dec. Trevor Bruce (Twi), 2-0; 170: Craig Sloan (GH) dec. JT Brown (Ely), 3-2; Third: Shawn Sovocool (Sto) dec. Aaron Naples (Brun), 7-3; Fifth: Bucky Hendershot (CF) pin Alex Sadowsky (Med), 2:36; 182: Mike Lewis (Par) dec. Jeff Christian (Sol), 3-0; Third: Ben Krizman (Hud) dec. Mike Bekeny (Bru), 3-0; Fifth: Austin Peak (Med) dec. Elliott Simpson (GH), 6-5; 195: Austin Wilson (CF) dec. Matt Driver (Par), 5-4; Third: Michael Delsanter (Hud) dec. Dean Warchark (Brun), 5-1; Fifth: Jeron Gaskins (SH) by inj. default Aaron Wank (Men); 220: Rudy Ware (CF) dec. Garrett Snyder (NR), 3-1; Third: Connor Kamczyc (Ely) pin Matt Perdue (Brun), 2:05; Fifth: Anthony Katstelic (GH) dec. Dylan Halaska (Par), 9-5; 285: Kevin Vough (Ely) pin Staci Wilson (Sol), 1:38; Third: Samson Demand (CF) pin Aaron Crosby (VF), 2:07; Fifth: Rashaun Searless-Fowles (SH) dec. Luke Senko (NR), 1-0.