By Dan Gilles
Avon Lake wrestling coach Nick Mayer had to bump several of his wrestlers up a weight class at Saturday’s 40th annual Columbia Wrestling Invitational Tournament due to some weight gain over the holiday break.
Four of those wrestlers reached the championship match in their respective weight classes, and all four of them won. It was the most champions out of any of the 12 schools competing at the one-day tournament, and it allowed the Shoremen to finish third with 132 team points.
Nick Mayer (113), Joey Bernosky (138), Tyler Mayer (152) and Jason Barnicle (170) capped off Avon Lake’s 4-for-4 finals performance. Zack Klima (120), Chris Chakirelis (126) and Jordan Akers (182) all finished third to cap off a 7-0 final round performance.
The championship run closed the gap between the Shoremen and the top two teams, but wasn’t enough to overtake repeat champion Western Reserve (148.5) and runner-up Cuyahoga Heights (138.5).
“Everyone that placed for us really did a good job,” Coach Mayer said. “Over the holidays, we’ve been struggling with the numbers and keeping the guys motivated. (Assistant coach Anthony) Coleman does a good job working with the kids in the room, and we’ve got a lot of good things going on. It’s just keeping them focused and staying committed.
“It’s been very difficult. But getting back to a schedule will be helpful. It’s been hard because (us coaches) all have jobs and we’re hustling to get there. Weight has been a big issue this year, and we’ve got some guys at the wrong weight class, maybe. So we’re starting to evaluate who’s going to go what weight.”
Both sophomore Bernosky and junior Tyler Mayer wrestled up a weight class on Saturday. Both put on commanding performances en route to their tournament championships, despite the extra weight.
Bernosky, who suffered his first loss of the season at last week’s Lorain Holiday Tournament, went 2-0 Saturday with two pinfalls. He pinned Cuyahoga Heights’ Nick Frye in 5:19 in the semifinals, and pinned Fairview’s Jake Taylor in 3:14 in the finals.
“Bumping up a weight class, I didn’t know how well it would go,” said Bernosky, now 17-1. “Seeing new kids, you don’t really know what will happen. But it went good, winning the championship and pinning my way through.
“We just keep on pushing and pushing. I thought we did a fantastic job today. We have a couple of kids out, but we still finished in the top three here because everyone who wrestled today performed very well.”
Tyler Mayer went 3-0 with three pins to win the championship. He pinned Oberlin’s Joey Tatum in 53 seconds in the first round, Cuyahoga Heights’ Ben Huff in 1:48 in the semifinals and Westlake’s Jake Paul in 3:29 in the championship.
“I’m normally a 145-pounder, but I had to bump up to 152 and I had to cut a bit just to make it there,” Mayer said. “But, it all worked out pretty good here. I was working hard all tournament long, but it’s always good to get a pin in the finals.
“Going 4-for-4 in the finals has never happened to Avon Lake as long as I’ve been here. It’s really good to see the team getting better. We’ve got some good coaches here, and it’s all starting to come together.”
Coach Mayer hinted that those wrestlers may stay at the higher class.
“You wonder, why do we keep torturing the guys to keep them at a lower weight,” he said. “What happens when you cut too much weight and you cut it wrong, you’re not practicing, you’re not learning, you’re not growing. That’s a big issue. You’re not focused on improving; you’re focused on the wrong thing.
“I’m a new head coach, and I’ve definitely made some errors with the weight stuff. Knowing what I know today, I’m going to bump everybody up. Why torture them? If they’re committed to cutting the weight and doing it right, then I’ll support it. But I’m not going to force anybody to cut weight.”
Mayer singled out Barnicle (15-9), a junior, for his performance Saturday. Barnicle went 3-0 with two pins and a 10-7 decision over Western Reserve’s Kenny Bement in the finals.
“Jason Barnicle has really done an outstanding job,” he said. “He works hard. He does an outstanding job. He’s really done very well this year and it was nice to see his hard work rewarded (Saturday) with this kind of performance.”
Nick Mayer (16-1) had two pins and a 3-1 win over Cuyahoga Heights’ Noah Kadas in the 113-pound championship bout, getting the ball rolling for the Shoremen’s dominating performance.
Sixth-place Westlake, with 75.5 points, went 2-1 in the championship finals. Cousins Yousef (195) and Ahmad Mustafa (285) each won their respective weight classes to give the Demons a pair of champions.
Yousef Mustafa (17-1) went 3-0 with a pin and two major decisions, the latter a 15-2 win over Columbia’s Jose Caraballo in the finals. Ahmad Mustafa (19-6) had to go through overtime, but scored a pinfall in 7:46 over Cleveland Central Catholic’s Isiah Pope in the final match of the tournament.
“It was a good tournament,” Yousef Mustafa said. “I know what I need to work on – just some little things like finishing faster. It was a good day. This is kind of like a mid-term (tournament), so it’s always good to do good at these and boost your confidence up for the final stretch.
“I was happier that he won than I was that I won. It’s great to hear the name ‘Mustafa’ over and over again at the top of the podium. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Fairview’s Quinn Gullette gave the fifth-place Warriors (79.5 points) their lone champion. Gullette defeated Midview’s Sam Taylor, 6-1, in the finals.
Allen Tin reached the 106-pound finals for the Warriors. However, he was pinned in 5:08 by Cuyahoga Heights’ Trey Combs.
Lakewood finished fourth with 91 points, thanks to a 5-1 performance in the third-place matches. The Rangers did not have any wrestlers reach the championship bouts, but their performance in the consolation round helped them leapfrog Fairview.
Donovan Williams (106), Muhammed Sulieman (113), Clarence Norris (132), Airren Robinson (170) and Grange Alves (220) each finished in third in their respective weight classes. Mahmoud Abdelhaq was pinned in 2:35 by Akers in the third-place match at 182.
Olmsted Falls finished eighth with 54 points and had four wrestlers place in the top four. Eisa Khaleel reached the 182-pound finals, but was pinned in 1:24 by Western Reserve’s Tim Hunkley.