By Dan Gilles
For the three area schools competing at last weekend’s 31st annual Avon Lake Knights of Columbus Wrestling Tournament, the bright spots were few and far between.
Rocky River, Bay and Lakewood all finished one after the other in the team race, with the Pirates (12th, 106) edging the Rockets (13th, 102.5) and the Rangers (14th, 101) for the area lead in the 15-team event.
But, individually, it was Lakewood that excelled.
The Rangers advanced three wrestlers to the championship match in Yassir Abdel-Salam (126), William Abdel-Salam (132) and Adam Feckley (145).
“We’re really young, so I was happy with our young guys who competed in the ‘B’ bracket,” Lakewood coach Vinnie Curiale said. “We got some good varsity experience with them. With our older guys, I thought we wrestled well, but don’t think we wrestled our best. I’m a little disappointed by that.
“Eventually, we’ll get there. But with our veteran guys, we should definitely be better than what we showed. It’s early, so that’s a good thing.”
Of the three, only Yassir Abdel-Salam, a sophomore, emerged victorious to claim a K of C championship. Abdel-Salam, who edged out defending state placer William Spangler of Keystone, 3-2, in the semifinals, knocked off defending state qualifier Mark Matos of Amherst, 7-5, to win his first career K of C title. Spangler wound up finishing third after a 13-2 major decision win over Normandy’s Marco Lugo.
“To come out here and face two state qualifiers back to back really pumped me up,” Abdel-Salam said. “Those are some good kids and that motivated me. If it wasn’t for my coaches inspiring me, I wouldn’t be here right now, in first place.
“I told myself, ‘I can’t lose both matches. I’ve got to work hard. I didn’t do all of this sucking weight for nothing. I didn’t come out here to lose.’ They were both really good matches, and it felt good to do what I did.”
The Abdel-Salams couldn’t make it a clean sweep of the Spanglers at the K of C. William, who won the K of C title last season, lost to Brian Spangler, 5-2, in the championship.
Yousef Abdel-Salam defeated Brian Spangler in the finals last season, which not only gave the elder Abdel-Salam three K of C titles, but also prevented Spangler from becoming just the third four-time K of C champion ever.
“Last year, (Matos) beat me,” Yassir Abdel-Salam said. “So it was good to have my revenge and get one back. But, he’s a really good kid.
“He got me on my back, but I had to get off my back and get right back at him. I like competing against good kids – it makes me push harder.”
Curiale was proud of Yassir for winning the championship.
“Yassir is a good wrestler, but I didn’t think he was mature enough on the mat yet to beat a guy like Matos,” he said. “But he stepped it up today. He beat two state qualifiers today, and that’s pretty well. We’re just hoping he doesn’t get a big head. We’ll make sure he’s still level-headed and carries that attitude with him.
“That’s the biggest thing. He had a great attitude and he had the drive to win today. That was the difference against those good kids. He’s a sophomore, so he’s only going to get better and better.”
Spangler admitted there was some revenge on his mind.
“I lost to (Abdel-Salam’s) brother last year in the finals, so there was a little bit of redemption there,” he said. “Plus, I wanted to win this for my brother, since he lost to his brother in the semifinals. We didn’t want to get swept by them.”
Feckley ran into the buzzsaw that was defending state runner-up Zane Zeman of Avon. Zeman, who wound up winning the tournament’s Most Valuable Wrestler award, handed Feckley a 21-4 technical fall loss in the finals – Zeman’s third technical fall in as many matches Saturday.
“The last kid I had was pretty good – strong (and) quick,” Zeman said. “My major weakness has been working on top, so I tried to do a lot of work there this weekend.”
Those were the only wrestlers Lakewood had that placed in the top six.
“We’ll go back and work on some things in practice and get after it a little bit more,” he said. “I thought we could have put up a better showing against Zeman than we did. But he’s that good, on the other hand. He’s the real deal, and our kid was two points from making it to the state tournament last season.
“That’s where we got to be, to be where he is right now. It’s good to run into guys like that early on, so you can find out where you’re at. We’ve got some things to work on with him, too.”
Bay’s Adam Tepper (113) also reached the championship match. Tepper, however, fell to two-time K of C champion Drew Dickson of North Ridgeville, 10-3.
Tepper was one of four wrestlers for the Rockets who placed in the top six. Other placers included Joe Kubinski (fourth, 160), Steve Burns (sixth, 182) and Matt Spies (fifth, 195).
Rocky River didn’t have anyone advance to the championship match. However, the Pirates were somehow able to outpoint their West Shore Conference rivals by having three wrestlers place in the top six.
Dan Mahoney (sixth, 106), Austin Suarez (sixth, 126) and Enli Hamzai (fifth, 182) were the three high-placing Pirates.