Team concept on display in Eagles’ run to state duals

J. Patrick Eaken

        Wrestlers often tell you their sport is about facing another man on the mat and taking him down in front of hundreds of onlookers.
        Now in its eighth year, the dual team tournament has changed that — making it a team sport. Eastwood 12th-year head coach Joe Wyant, who saw his team qualify for Sunday’s Division III state tournament Sunday at St. John Arena in Columbus, loves the concept.
        “Everybody has always considered wrestling an individual sport. I, in all my years coaching, have always tried to make it a team sport. I think this tournament, the state duals, has drawn our kids to root for each other, pay more attention to each other, so I think it’s a great benefit that we have it,” Wyant said.
        “Sometimes you go to big tournaments and you can’t even see your kids wrestle, and they can’t see their friends wrestle, because they’ve got to wrestle in another gym or they are in a hallway because the tournaments are so big. So, this draws more unity as a team and I really enjoy that — guys rooting for everybody and the team concept of wrestling,” Wyant continued.
        “I tried to always make it a team sport — try to keep the individualism out of it until the last two weeks of the year. At district and state, it’s about the individual and it’s all about you. Until then, we are a team.”
        The wrestlers have accepted Wyant’s philosophy, knowing that at a dual match they may get bumped or moved to another weight class because coaches have to put a team strategy into play to maximize scoring. In a dual match, wrestlers sometimes don’t often have to wrestle if they win by forfeit because an opposing team cannot fill a weight class, which does not happen in a tournament.
        However, Eastwood has every weight class filled except one, although Wyant wishes he had a little more depth on his team.
        Junior Brandon Hahn was 43-7 and finished fourth at 120 pounds in the D-III state individual meet last year. This year, he was 37-2 wrestling at 126, heading into the state dual tournament Sunday. He can tell you how exciting it was for Eastwood to qualify as a team for the first time in school history.
        “It’s been a long dream. Making it to state my freshman and sophomore year as an individual has always been fun, but getting your team there is just a different feeling,” Hahn said.
        Eastwood represented the Northern Buckeye Conference at the D-III state meet Sunday, which was represented well by Genoa the previous two years. Genoa won back-to-back state championships, and last year Eastwood was the regional runner-up behind the Comets.
        This year, Eastwood and Genoa were in separate regional tournaments and Eastwood was the No. 1 seed at the Elmwood regional. Eastwood defeated two NBC teams and two Northwest Ohio Athletic League teams on its way to winning a regional championship.
        Eastwood defeated Evergreen, 59-18, Otsego, 42-24, Elmwood, 45-36, and perennial dual team powerhouse Delta, 48-28, in the regional final. Lake also made a run, defeating Northwood, 52-21, Liberty Center, 31-29, and then got beat by Delta, 33-30, in the semifinals.
        “We were seeded No. 1, even though we did lose the first week of the season to Lake (42-30), and Lake barely got beat by Delta on the other side, so the NBC was very well represented,” Wyant said. “We wrestled well the first one, although they were undermanned because of a few forfeits. We wrestled well against Otsego, really well against Elmwood and the kids stepped it up even more against a good Delta team.”
        Although it is Eastwood’s first time at the state dual tournament, an unofficial state dual meet was held before the OHSAA set up its sanctioned tournament. So, in a way, Eastwood has been here before, but that was a different group of wrestlers. Monday at practice, Wyant was working hard to get his guys focused.
        “We’re happy. It’s a good honor for us. I think they are really excited. I had to get on them, unwind a little bit, because it’s the first time to make the state duals. Back in 2007, we won it that year, but it was picked differently, so we were pretty good back then when we beat (St. Paris) Graham that year and we had a couple runners-up to Graham, too.”
        Eastwood’s season has been a success, too, and getting even better.
        “We’ve been doing very well. Went to a tournament at Waterloo, finished second there, and then we went to West Jefferson — we won that against mostly Division II and III schools. We went to Ashland Crestview for a dual meet tournament — we did lose two duals there and finished third. And then, we went to Lima Central Catholic’s Thunderbird Tournament and we finished third there among 47 teams, so we’ve done really well,” Wyant said.
        Besides Hahn, returning state qualifiers are sophomore Gavin Owens, who was 47-3 and finished second at 106 pounds, and junior Bryce Maynard, who was 39-13 a year ago at 113 pounds. This year, Owens is 37-4 at 120 and Maynard is 38-5 at 113.
        “Maynard qualified and was one match from placing and he’s back at 113 again. We’ve had some others kids step up. We have seven kids with over 30 wins and two more that have 28 wins, so we’ve had some pretty good success this year individually. And then, we’ve got some freshmen in the line-up who are hanging in there tough. We think we’ve got around five, six guys who have a good shot of qualifying for state when they have a good day at districts,” Wyant said.
        Other starters are freshman Cody Perkins (7-10) at 106 , sophomore Xavier Escobedo (31-12) at 132, senior Mason Glaze (33-11) at 138, freshman Bryce Hesselbart (28-6) at 145, junior Jimmy Recknagel (31-7) at 152, freshman Dalton Hesselbart (17-21) at 160, senior Ross Beaverson (31-10) at 170, freshman Joey Grzegorczyk (15-21) at 182, sophomore Tyler Bowman (22-12) at 220 and senior Austen Nissen (26-10) at 285.
        At the state duals, Eastwood was seeded fourth of eight teams and opened by taking on No. 5 seed Brookville. The top three seeds are, in order, Edison, Apple Creek Waynedale and Versailles. The bottom three seeds are Canfield South Range, Bellefountaine Benjamin Logan and Sarahsville Shenandoah. Edison was the state runner-up behind Genoa last year, and only Waynedale and Versailles had qualified for the state duals before.


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