INDEPENDENCE — Elyria Catholic freshman Stan Bleich has opened a lot of eyes this season, compiling a 31-1 record at 113 pounds.
His teammate, senior Jerot Schill (160), was seeking his first district tournament berth after failing to place in the top six last year at Brooklyn.
They have something in common after Saturday. They’re sectional champions.
The Panthers, along with Lutheran West junior Tim Mecklenburg (126) and senior Jake DeLorge (152), Wellington sophomore Jon Eschedor (145) and Black River senior Sebastian Vidika (106), won Division III sectional titles at Independence High School. In all, the area qualified 23 wrestlers to next weekend’s Garfield Heights district.
All six area schools competing at the 13-school event had at least two wrestlers finish in the top four and advance to districts.
Bleich, ranked 16th in his weight class by Intermatwrestling.com’s Josh Lowe, won an All-Lorain County championship match against fellow freshman Josh Newman of Columbia. Bleich dominated his old friend from the Erik Burnett wrestling school with a 21-6 technical fall.
“It’s been quite a season as a freshman,” Bleich said. “I think I’ve had a lot more success than I originally thought I’d have, but it feels really good. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I kind of flew through the tournament — winning both of my matches by tech fall. It was a pretty easy tournament, but I had expected to come out on top of the podium.
“I wrestled (Newman) in the room a bit last year, but I weighed more than he did, so the only time we really wrestled was just in drills. But we’ve become good friends and it’s good to see a couple of freshmen do so well.”
Schill didn’t have it as easy in his championship match against Lutheran West freshman James Handwerk, holding on by the skin of his teeth for a 5-4 victory.
Schill and Handwerk were tied at 4 through two periods. Schill got an escape for what turned out to be the winning point, but Handwerk — who battled through two injury stoppages — kept coming.
With time running out, Handwerk charged Schill and was able to take him down with one second left. However, the officials ruled the takedown occurred out of bounds and waved it off, giving Schill the dramatic victory.
Senior Mason Harsar gave EC (ninth, 63 points) three district qualifiers after finishing fourth at 126.
“It’s awesome that my buddies Jerot Schill and Mason Harsar could get out as well,” Bleich said. “Hopefully, all three of us can finish in the top four at Garfield Heights and get down to state together.”
Lutheran West edged Patriot Athletic Conference rival Wellington for fifth place, 103-102, going 2-for-3 in finals and advancing five to districts.
Mecklenburg repeated as sectional champion and gained a measure of revenge in the process, defeating Black River freshman Ian Maund, 2-0.
Maund defeated Mecklenburg in the semifinals of the PAC Tournament three weeks ago en route to a runner-up finish. This time, Mecklenburg got a second-period takedown and was able to keep from getting turned over from the down position in the third period.
“It feels a little bit better because you’re coming as the defending champion and you know everyone’s gunning for you,” Mecklenburg said. “To keep a hold of that when everyone’s gunning for you feels pretty good.
“In the regular season, I beat him 14-2, but he brought it to me at the tournament and I wasn’t ready for him. I was also a little under the weather at the time. I knew he was coming at me today and I knew what to expect, so I definitely wrestled him better this time.”
DeLorge, an Avon transfer, accomplished the unique feat of becoming a district qualifier in all three divisions during his high school career — Division II as a freshman and Division I as a junior. His pinfall in 2:37 over Wellington’s Alex Imhoff — a defending Brooklyn sectional champion — was DeLorge’s first sectional championship.
“It’s a pretty cool feat, although I wish I was a state qualifier in all three divisions,” DeLorge said. “This is my first sectional championship, and I’m glad to finally win one after coming up short the last couple times.
“I’m happy we had five district qualifiers, but I was hoping everyone on the team would make it out. We got more than half our team to Garfield Heights, and we’re hopeful all of us can advance to Columbus.”
In one of the most anticipated finals of the night, Vidika, ranked No. 3 in the state, handled Manchester sophomore Joey Bowen, ranked No. 5, for the 106-pound championship.
Though Vidika won 8-3, neither he nor his coach, Corey Kline, was happy about his performance.
“I’m disappointed in myself, honestly,” Vidika said. “I know I won, which was my goal, but I’m really disappointed in my performance in that match. My cardio was really bad. I didn’t have any pressure on my tilts and I was slow on my feet. It’s things like this I’ve got to fix going into next week.”
Black River had four district qualifiers in all, helping the Pirates finish seventh with 85 points.
Eschedor was one of five Duke district qualifiers and one of three sectional finalists along with Imhoff and Nick Amspaugh (120). However, he was the only one to claim a sectional crown after defeating Columbia’s Nick Jacobucci by major decision, 16-5.
“I’m just really tired, but it’s awesome to be a sectional champion,” Eschedor said. “I’m wrestling at a bit higher weight class and I’m not as strong as everybody else, so it’s been pretty rough. But I’m happy I got the job done and I’m looking forward to districts.”
The Raiders advanced three to the sectional finals and will have four district qualifiers. All three — Jacobucci, Newman and Jose Caraballo (190) — took second.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
TEAM STANDINGS: 1. Akron Manchester 172, 2. Cuyahoga Heights 147.5, 3. Mogadore 131.5, 4. Independence 125.5, 5. Lutheran West 103, 6. Wellington 102, 7. Black River 85, 8. Columbia 83, 9. Elyria Catholic 63, 10. VASJ 54.5, T11. Oberlin 53, Trinity 53, 13. Warrensville Heights 45.5.
(Top four qualify for Garfield Heights district; fifth place is alternate)
106: FIRST — Sebastian Vidika (Black River) dec. Joey Bowen (Manchester), 8-3; THIRD — Trey Combs (Cuyahoga Heights) pinned Zack Shaffer (Columbia), 2:23; FIFTH — Abe Downs (Wellington) wins by default.
113: FIRST — Stan Bleich (Elyria Catholic) tech. fall Josh Newman (Columbia), 21-6; THIRD — Jacob Ressler (Lutheran West) dec. Jimmy Bowen (Manchester), 4-0; FIFTH — Pierre Savage (Warrensville Heights) wins by default.
120: FIRST — Joe Tromba (VASJ) dec. Nick Amspaugh (Wellington), 8-2; THIRD — Brayden Kirk (Manchester) pinned Robby Cobb (Oberlin), 4:48; FIFTH — Drew Benos (Independence) def. Cory Pucci (Cuyahoga Heights) by default.
126: FIRST — Tim Mecklenburg (Lutheran West) dec. Ian Maund (Black River), 2-0; THIRD — Gavin Chew (Mogadore) maj. dec. Josh Wenhold (Manchester), 12-3; FIFTH — Trevor Boose (Wellington) wins by default.
132: FIRST — Bobby Bowen (Manchester) dec. Nate Frye (Cuyahoga Heights), 11-6 OT; THIRD — Josh Tompkins (Mogadore) pinned Mason Harsar (Elyria Catholic), 5:41 OT; FIFTH — Kevin Naim (Lutheran West) maj. dec. Laszlo Szabados (Columbia), 9-0.
138: FIRST — Jacob Spino (Independence) dec. Justin Chew (Mogadore), 4-3; THIRD — W.D. Hudson (VASJ) dec. Nick Frye (Cuyahoga Heights), 10-4; FIFTH — Anthony Scurry (Warrensville Heights) def. Mike Jacobucci (Columbia) by default.
145: FIRST — Jon Eschedor (Wellington) maj. dec. Nick Jacobucci (Columbia), 16-5; THIRD — Justin Corsi (Independence) dec. Ross Harmon (Mogadore), 7-2; FIFTH — Trevor Ulman (Manchester) maj. dec. Jesse Woodall (Cuyahoga Heights), 12-4.
152: FIRST — Jake DeLorge (Lutheran West) pinned Alex Imhoff (Wellington), 2:37; THIRD — Ben Huff (Cuyahoga Heights) dec. Paul Dies (Manchester), 8-6; FIFTH — Andrew Graska (Mogadore) def. Tyler Thomas (Oberlin) by default.
160: FIRST — Jerot Schill (Elyria Catholic) dec. James Handwerk (Lutheran West), 5-4; THIRD — Drew Brassail (Manchester) dec. Josh Kitko (Wellington), 4-2; FIFTH — Antonio Lonero (Trinity) pinned Joey Tatum (Oberlin), 1:40.
170: FIRST — Bryce Huth (Mogadore) maj. dec. Will Hopkins (Cuyahoga Heights), 10-2; THIRD — Larry Verhovec (Oberlin) def. Ollie Moorer (Warrensville Heights) by default; FIFTH — Nick Sia (Independence) dec. Seth Aryes (Manchester), 5-4.
182: FIRST — Chris Weck (Trinity) dec. A.J. Senick (Independence), 8-2; THIRD — Collin Kelly (Mogadore) pinned Aaron Ferguson (Wellington), 1:19; FIFTH — : Chandler Holesovsky (Cuyahoga Heights) dec. Kevin Mullin (VASJ), 4-2.
195: FIRST — Chris Galaska (Cuyahoga Heights) dec. Jose Caraballo (Columbia), 6-3; THIRD — John Beavers (Manchester) pinned Duncan Ramsey (Black River), 2:56; FIFTH — Tyler Watson (VASJ) def. Morality Anderson (Oberlin) by default.
220: FIRST — Alex Scotton (Independence) maj. dec. Bryan Jones (Cuyahoga Heights), 11-1; THIRD — Ryan Slone (Black River) def. Donald Wade (Warrensville Heights) by default; FIFTH — Daniel Whetstone (Mogadore) pinned Issac Highman (Manchester), :38.
285: FIRST — Jacob Hanzel (Manchester) pinned Paul Deely (Independence), 1:13; THIRD — Charlie Draucker (Trinity) dec. Kristian Bremer (Lutheran West), 4-2; FIFTH — Cody McKean (Black River) def. Zack States (Mogadore) by default.