Clay looking to build on league dominance

J. Patrick Eaken

You talk about dominance in a league — Clay wrestling is the definition of dominance.
Out of nine Three Rivers Athletic Conference championships, Clay has won eight, including a performance this year that saw the Eagles win seven of 14 weight classes on their way to routing second place Whitmer 238-139½.
It’s what Clay coach Ralph Cubberly calls “the second half of the season,” and he knew Whitmer and Findlay would be the Eagles’ top contenders. Findlay was a distant third at 106½ points, followed by Fremont Ross (102), St. John’s (88½), Central Catholic (63), St. Francis (52) and Lima Senior (16).
Clay’s individual champions were Micah Medina (106 pound weight class), Nick Rodriguez (113), Jacob Moon (120), Gabe Walentowski (152), Tyler Weseman (170), Ty Cobb (195) and Jacob “J.T.” Meek (220),
“The league is always the first step,” Cubberly said. “Our first team goal is the TRAC — we want to win the TRAC. We lost it one year by one point (to Fremont Ross). That Fremont team was good and we had to do everything we could to keep it that close but we fell just a little bit short.”
Clay did not fall short this year, and the program also had the top two teams in the TRAC junior varsity meet, making this program established for years to come.
“This year, less than 50 percent of the kids in our lineup wrestled for the starting Gold team and we’re still wrestling tough,” Cubberly said, adding that many of those wrestlers won JV championships after wrestling varsity competition on the Clay Green team all season. It helps wrestling each other in practice, too.
“It’s tough to beat because those kids are seasoned,” Cubberly said. “When they (opponents) come to wrestle our Gold team they’ve got a lot of varsity experience under their belt — wrestling that Green team.”
Plus, if an injury unfortunately happens, the Eagles are prepared. Next man up, Cubberly says. There are 38 wrestlers on Clay’s varsity roster — not many Division I programs can say that, and 38 is actually down from years past.
“That’s an advantage to us is that we have a man we can plug right in there — someone who has experience,” Cubberly said.
At the Division I sectional, hosted by Clay, the Eagles were upended by a familiar nemesis — Perrysburg — a team that Clay had beaten in the regional duals. The Yellow Jackets scored 265 points to Clay’s 254, and each team had four first place finishes.
So far, all of Clay’s returning state qualifiers are on track to make it back to Columbus, including Moon (48-5 last year at 113), Tony Pendergraff (31-15 at 106), Meek (42-11 at 170) and Cobb (47-15 at 195).
This year, Moon (35-3) won a 113 pound sectional title, Cobb (35-9) won a 220 pound title, Meek (46-4) won a 220 pound championship and Pendergraff (32-13) finished fourth at 120. Two Clay wrestlers were runners-up, four finished third and two placed fourth — all hoping to make it through this past weekend’s district tourney and advance to state.
“The kids are doing great. I mean, they are hard working kids. They are down there working their butts off right now,” Cubberly said while he was in his room prior to teacher-parent conferences and his athletes were working out in the wrestling room.
Moon pinned Findlay’s Tyler Barnes (25-16) in 1:19, Cobb won 7-2 over Perrysburg’s Brayden Butzin (27-16) and Meek won 10-3 against Findlay’s Jake Noon (29-9). Clay’s Tyler Weseman (37-12) also won a sectional title at 170, defeating Sylvania Northview wrestler Andrew Liber by a 9-5 decision.
Cubberly says placing these kids in some competitive tournaments has prepared them well.
“Their records are good. We wrestle in some good tournaments, you know,” Cubberly said, adding that even the Maumee Bay Classic, hosted by Clay, has grown into one of the state’s best.
“When I got here (13 years ago) there were 24 teams,” Cubberly said. “Then, we ran it two years like that and then we decided we are just going to elevate this tournament and we elevated it ‘major’ — up to 50 teams. We’ve been told by the pundits, it’s actually the third best tournament in the state behind (Walsh Jesuit’s) Iron Man, which is a national tournament, and Brecksville, which is a tough tournament. So, we’re right behind them as far as how good it is. So, there are some good guys who come here.”


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