By Dan Gilles
Out of the four area teams competing at the 39th annual Columbia Wrestling Invitational Tournament this past Saturday, it was Westlake that shone above the rest.
Led by two-time tournament champion and Most Valuable Wrestler selection Logan Paul, a 170-pound senior, the Demons took second in the 12-team event with 152.5 team points. Only Collins Western Reserve (215, five individual champions, eight finalists) did better.
“Western Reserve has a really nice team,” Westlake head coach Mike Antonyzyn said. “All my kids were saying, ‘Can we get them here to practice with us?’ They were a tough challenge at every weight class.
“We came off a nice win (Friday over Southwestern Conference-rival Amherst), and the kids just kept on wrestling. We’re real young in the lightweights, but if you’ve seen our upper weights, we really came around and wrestled well.”
Paul improved to 20-0 on the season with three pinfalls, capped by a 5:39 finals pin over Lakewood’s Ralph Johnson.
“Last year, I set the goal to come in here and win this (MVW) trophy because I saw how nice it was,” he said. “I was kind of jealous of the kid who won it. It means a lot when your hard work pays off – the whole week of practice, cutting weight and them coming into a tournament and being able to win it. It’s a great feeling.”
Paul was one of three individual champions for the Demons, joining Josh Pappas (138) and Yousef Mustafa (182) atop the podium. Logan’s brother Jake Paul (132) and Ishmael Shafei (220) were runners-up, while Asam Zayed (195) and Ahmad Mustafa (285) finished third.
“I placed second here my sophomore year, and I think that was good for me,” Paul said. “It was kind of an igniting force because it made me want it more over these last two years. This is definitely something that I can take and be proud of tonight and celebrate. But then, I’ve got to put it in the past and work harder over the next couple of weeks toward the SWCs and then the road to states.
“I thought we did great as a team. I thought our wrestlers did really well. The team that beat us was good, and being able to compete with them was an honor.”
Westlake head coach Mike Antonyzyn was very proud of Logan Paul.
“It’s just hard to articulate how good this kid is,” he said. “His demeanor in meets is the same as it is in practice – just so positive. Our whole team was.
“(Longtime referee) Tom Bauer comes up to me and he says, ‘You know, Ant, I love reffing your kids because they don’t stop.’ And that was a great compliment, especially from someone who’s been doing this a long time like Tom. It really reflected well on our team, and it meant a lot.”
Pappas (16-8), a sophomore, got the championship train rolling first when he pinned Western Reserve’s Jake Ruppert in 4:21.
Last season, Pappas and Ruppert met in the third-place match at the exact same weight class. Pappas won by injury default.
“I thought all of our wrestlers did really well, especially Josh Pappas,” Paul said. “Pappas’ match was great at 138. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Following Paul’s win, Mustafa (5-2), a sophomore, scored a 12-3 major decision over Fairview junior Jihad Taye (12-9) at 182. Taye was Fairview’s lone finalist.
“I look at my staff with (Jake) Percival, Tom DeLuca and Jed Failor, I’ve got a great staff and they work hard,” Antonyzyn said. “Everybody works hard and it’s paying off. We’re young in the lower weights and experienced in the upper weights. That’s where it’s at right now.”
Taye was one of three placers in the top four for the Warriors, who finished eighth with 47 points. Tom Palisin (120), who won the fastest pin award with his first-round 13-second pin of Olmsted Falls’ Alec Sims, and Mitch Minnich (160) both finished fourth in their respective weight classes.
Lakewood was the next highest area finisher, placing sixth with 76 team points. The Rangers advanced two wrestlers to the championship bout, but both came up short, and wound up with six wrestlers placing in the top four.
Along with Johnson’s loss to Logan Paul, Roberto Sclimenti was pinned in 1:06 by Western Reserve’s Ian Ramos in the 285-pound final.
Olmsted Falls placed 10th out of 12 teams with 26 points, only placing one wrester in the top four. Brice Locklear took third at 138 with a 2-0 victory over Lakewood’s Roman Krizan.
Airren Robinson (third, 160), Zak Kulina (third, 182) and Emanuel Lewis (third, 220) also placed in the top four for Lakewood.