By Dan Gilles
Giving up two weight classes and 12 points before Saturday night’s non-conference dual meet at Elyria High School was already a tough task for Olmsted Falls.
While the Bulldogs pulled off a few victories, the host Pioneers showed why they are one of the tougher wrestling programs in Northeast Ohio with a 46-22 victory in their final home match of the season.
Olmsted Falls first-year coach Bryce Burkhard, whose team fell to 11-11 in duals, was pleased by what he saw from his young team.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match going in,” Burkhard said. “That’s why we want to see this tough competition now since we’ll see them again at districts. It’s always good to rate yourself against one of the better teams in the area. It was a good match and I believe their kids benefitted from it as well.
“I’d like to wrestle Elyria again. My parents graduated from Elyria. I’ve known (Elyria head coach) Erik Burnett my whole life – his dad was a coach of mine. It’s a great experience going up against them, especially in a dual meet setting. It was a good crowd here, which always makes it fun.”
Prior to the dual meet, Elyria’s wrestling program honored its seniors.
Ironically, it was the sophomores and juniors who stole the show for the Pioneers, who improved to 12-4 in dual meets.
Of the five seniors who wrestled in their final matches in the home gym, only two were victorious – 132-pounder Brandon Egnor and 145-pounder Alex Parker. Both were by major decision.
Burnett singled out sophomore 126-pounder Darrion Overall for his performance Saturday. Against a former state qualifier who was only in his second match back following knee surgery in Chase DuPratt, Overall’s escape to start the third period was the only point he needed in a big 1-0 victory.
“Overall did a great job and he’s been doing a great job all year,” Burnett said. “That kid he wrestled was very good kid, a former state qualifier. It’s a great win for Darrion. He just keeps making progress. That’s all you can ask for. We have to keep making progress, and it’s nice to see a kid rewarded when he makes that kind of progress that you ask for.”
Burkhard singled out DuPratt for his effort.
“Chase lost today, but this is just his second match back after some significant knee surgery,” he said. “We’re just glad to have him back out there on the mat and just trying to gear him up two weeks from now, when it really counts (at sectionals). It’s good to have him back in action.”
“We saw a lot of positives that we can take away from this match,” Burkhard said. “We’ll look at both the negatives and the positives and work on correcting what we see and gearing toward the ultimate goal, which is a couple of weeks from now.”
Egnor’s 15-4 major decision over Adam Salti capped a five-win streak for the Pioneers that extended their lead to 30-3.
But the Bulldogs got some momentum back when 132-pounder Mitchell Dailey pinned Elyria senior Chad Shaffer in 3:34 to make it 30-9.
Following a short intermission, Parker started the second half of the dual with a 10-1 major decision over L.J. Yurick, which increased Elyria’s lead to 34-9.
“Adam Salti and L.J. Yurick came away with losses, but we can pull positives away from their matches as well,”Burkhard said. “Even in losses, we’re still getting good things from them.”
The Bulldogs answered with a pin in 3:48 by Austin Balnius (152) and an 8-6 decision by Mike Hansinger (160) to cut the lead to 34-18 and keep them mathematically alive.
However, Workman’s pin in 1:02 over Mike Iller clinched the dual meet for the Pioneers.
Parker was impressed by what he saw out of the Bulldogs.
“I think they wrestled well as a team,” he said. “They just came up short. It’s kind of hard to outwork us, to be honest with you. We work so hard as a team and we come together so well as a unit, it’s hard to beat that.”
Noel Caraballo earned a 12-3 major decision win at 182 to cut the lead to 40-22. But, it was the last points Falls scored.
“We’re a really young team with two seniors in the lineup,” Burkhard said. “We look at ourselves from the beginning of the year until now and see that we’re a completely different team. We’re happy with the way that we’re going.”
Olmsted Falls, which advanced to the Division I, Region 3 semifinals by default when Westlake withdrew from the tournament, will travel to St. Edward tonight in the semifinal round at 6 p.m. to meet the host Eagles. On Saturday, it will host the Southwestern Conference Wrestling Tournament.