Clay wrestling poised with depth, plenty of talent

J. Patrick Eaken

When Clay senior Ben Richmond pinned Perrysburg senior Ethan Morley with one minute remaining in their Division I 285-pound regional semifinal match, it created an uproar.
        As Richmond closed the deal, the Clay coaching staff was jumping up and down in hysteria. The win secured a 32-29 Clay victory over a cross town team that has become their rival.
        It was the second straight year Clay performed that trick —  last year the Yellow Jackets defeated the Eagles at Defiance’s Frickers Duals but Clay got them back in the regional dual tournament semifinals in similar fashion.
        Clay coach Ralph Cubberly calls the Clay-Perrysburg rivalry “a good thing,” making Richmond’s win that much more important.
        “It was big. It was a battle. It was a slugfest,” Cubberly said. “They are good — they have good guys, we have good guys. We punched them, they punched us and we punched them back. It came down to the very end.”
        That sent Clay to the regional final against state powerhouse Elyria, which is ranked 11th in the nation. In six of eight years of the regional dual meet, Clay and Elyria have wrestled for a regional dual championship but Elyria seems to have the edge. Only the first year Clay defeated Elyria and advanced to state, and the other two years Perrysburg defeated Clay on the way to the finals.
        This year, Elyria once again defeated the Eagles, 56-15, despite Clay winning the first two matches. Elyria went on to become state runner-up, losing in the championship to Lakewood St. Edward, 36-30.
        Entering the Three Rivers Athletic Conference championships, Clay might not have needed so much fanfare in their final match to win a championship. Clay had won seven of eight TRAC championships entering last weekend’s wrestling and was in good shape to add another title to their résumé.
        Clay was already stacked with depth heading into the TRAC championships with eight wrestlers already having 30 or more wins and another seven on the verge of getting there. Not all of them are on the varsity Gold team. Some are on the Green team, but all wrestle varsity competition, not junior varsity.
        Gold wrestlers with 30-plus wins are Jacob Meek (39-4) at 220, Mike Daly (30-9) at 132, Tyler Weseman (30-12) at 160, Jacob Moon (30-3) at 113 and Micah Medina (30-11) at 106. Poised are Ty Cobb (195) at 29-9, Nick Rodriguez (113) at 29-4, Dominico Migliori (28-10) at 145 and Tony Pendergraff (120) at 27-10. Moon, Pendergraff, Meek and Cobb are returning state qualifiers.
        Meek leads the team in pins (26) and Daly and Migliori have 20 each. Moon, who placed third at state as a sophomore last year, leads the team in technical falls with six and Weseman follows with five and Weseman has the most match points (262) followed by Meek (233).
        Other Gold starters include Austin Thompson (126) at 22-13, Deakon Rivera (21-10) at 138, Kameron Miller (18-11) at 132, Richmond (17-15) and Isaac Sevra (14-7) at 170.
        They already have team wins in the Dublin Scioto Tournament, Tiffin Calvert’s Gene Kimmet Memorial and the Elmwood Duals two weeks ago. Cubberly says it’s been about building his wrestlers confidence.
        In Dublin, finishing first were Medina, Daly, Rodriguez, Thompson, Migliori and Meek. Cobb was runner-up, Pendergraff placed third and placing fifth were Miller and Weseman.
        At the Elmwood Duals, Clay rolled through the competition, defeating Bryan (71-9), Rossford (64-18), Bowling Green (56-22), Bellevue (59-18), St. Marys (63-18), Northwood (60-15) and Woodward (70-12).
‘Second half of the season’
        At the Kimmet Memorial, placing first was Rodriguez, Moon and Thompson, Weseman and Migliori were runner-up, and Logan Werner (170) and Richmond placed third. There were some nationally prominent events where the numbers don’t look as good, but if you look who they are wrestling, you’d think otherwise.
        “We wrestle in big tournaments like the Maumee Bay (Classic), Brecksville and Solon — those are some big, tough tournaments. They are hard to win. But, you know, we’re doing fine. We’re peaking at the right time. We’re wrestling really well right now,” Cubberly said.
        At the Maumee Bay Classic, hosted by Clay, the Eagles finished seventh out of 48 teams with 133 points. Moon placed second, Meek was third, Cobb placed fifth and Daly placed eighth.
        At the Brecksville Holiday Tournament, Clay finished 23rd, scoring 63 points. Medina and Meek finished fifth and Cobb placed eighth.
        “We’ve kind of got our wrestlers set up to where we really test our kids in the first half at the Maumee Bay, and then we kind of back off a little bit the last couple weeks to get our kids in some tournaments they can actually do well in so we can build their confidence going into the league tournaments, the state duals, the sectionals and districts — our kids are not beat up, they’ve been battle-tested in the other big tournaments, and we get our kids healthy and ready to roll for what we call ‘the second half of the season.’”
        At the Solon Invitational, Moon, Meek and Cobb placed first. Moon also wrestled at Walsh Jesuit’s prestigious Iron Man Tournament, finishing fourth against some of the best in the nation.
        At this year’s Frickers Duals, Clay went 9-1, losing only to Division III state dual champion Edison, 39-24. Wins were over Avon, Richmond (Ind.), Hudson (Mich.), Elmwood, Uniontown Lake, Archbold, Romeo (Mich.), Miami Trace and Tinora.
No forfeits here
        This is a team that has 36 wrestlers on its roster, and three Green team wrestlers have also reached 30 wins going against varsity competition. They include Lucas Fraiser (36-8), Ashtin Latta (33-10), and Austin Smith (30-8).
        These are guys Cubberly says are always in position to take over a starting role or can step right in if someone gets hurt. There will be no weight class forfeits when Clay is on the mat—it’s more like, if you are a wrestler, where do you fit in on the depth chart?
        Other top Green wrestlers include Zach Krause (28-8), Avery Varner (27-2), Daniel Cooper (26-12), Robert Mendoza (23-10), Werner (21-11), Gabe Walentowski (20-13) and Zach Tolles (18-10).
        Just to display the strength of the Green Team, out of 25 teams at Northwood’s Jim Derr Memorial Invitational, they placed fourth as a team with 159 points. Walentowski was first at 152, Cole Watson second at 126, Pendergraff third at 120, Werner fourth at 170, Latta fifth at 132 and Daniel Cooper sixth at 285.
        They also placed fifth at St. John’s Jesuit’s Bill Urban Memorial Tournament, scoring 127 points. Varner and Latta won championships, Krause and Watson were runners-up. At the Fremont St. Joseph Invitational, the Green team placed second out of 12 teams with 168 points as Candio DeLuna (113) and Varner won championships.


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