By Dan Gilles
Lutheran West has had a fine dual meet season this year.
With an unbeaten record in the Patriot Athletic Conference (as of Jan. 23) and a 13-2 mark overall, the Longhorns felt good about their chances heading into last Wednesday’s Division III, Region 19A Dual Meet Tournament at Beachwood High School – especially since the fourth-seeded Longhorns were wrestling the fifth-seeded Keystone Wildcats, a team Lutheran West had beaten earlier this season.
Wednesday was a different story, however.
Back at full strength, the fifth-seeded Wildcats avenged that PAC loss to the Longhorns, picking up eight straight victories en route to a 44-21 win.
Keystone advanced to the regional semifinals, which will be today at 6 p.m., again at Beachwood High School, against its top-seeded host, the Beachwood Bison. Beachwood defeated No. 8-seeded Wellington, 53-20, in another quarterfinal match last Wednesday night.
“They had a few guys back, so we didn’t benefit from any of the forfeits that we got the last time we wrestled them,” Lutheran West coach Dave Ressler said. “We also had the flu going through us, so I’m missing guys that would have allowed us to avoid some of the forfeits we took. We would have been able to get the forfeit at 182 instead of double-forfeiting, but our backup 182 is sitting at home with the stomach flu.”
Ressler loves the concept of the state dual meet tournament, which the Ohio High School Athletic Association sanctioned for the first time this season.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “A school like us, since we’re so small, would never get invited to the Ohio Coaches Tournament. This is nice, since we at least have a chance to wrestle in it. I got a great upcoming junior high class, and I’m planning on winning a couple rounds next year and maybe be a No. 1 seed or something like that. Hopefully, that will generate more interest in the sport.
“There’s still some things they’ve got to work out, but I think, overall, this is a good thing.”
Keystone coach Jim Pycraft admitted that being back at full strength was a big reason for the reversal.
“We’ve got most of our guys back in the lineup, so that’s a good thing,” Pycraft said. “We’ve been waiting for that all year. Everybody did a good job in what they were looking to do. Once we got a couple of pins, we were able to keep the momentum on our side.
“We tied Lutheran West earlier, and by criteria, we lost. But we had a lot of guys out of the lineup then. We were hoping to get everybody back by then. We finally got some people back. They’re not quite 100 percent, yet, but at this time of the year, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Lutheran West led, 18-6, following two pins and a forfeit in the first four weight classes. The biggest pin of them was at 120, where defending state qualifier Tim Mecklenburg stuck Keystone’s Dillon Stiner in 1:41.
“I’m glad they wrestled Dillon against Tim Mecklenburg,” Ressler said. “Them having to report (to the scorer’s table) first, was a big factor in that. Tim came through for us. I hope Dillon’s going to be all right. I know he’s coming back from a serious injury, and I wish nothing but the best for him.
“We’d like to see Dillon at the sectionals and beyond. Hats off to Tim for coming through with that big win.”
Jacob Ressler began the dual with a pinfall in 3:45 at 106, while Bryce Deblock picked up a forfeit victory at 126.
“We lost matches we won last time,” Ressler said. “We beat that kid at 138 last time, and this time, we got pinned. That’s a nine-point swing, and that really sucked the sails right out of us.
“We did get one match back. Our heavyweight (Ian Long) beat their heavyweight (Jason Bustance) after losing to them the last time, so that was nice.”
Ressler said Wednesday’s loss doesn’t take away what his team has accomplished this season.
“We beat Clearview last week to give us a chance at the dual meet title,” he said. “Hopefully, we can finish undefeated in the conference with Senior Night against Fairview and become outright conference champs.
“Fairview’s 3-1, so if we don’t beat them, it will be a three-way tie for first place. But we don’t want to be co-champs. We want to be outright champs.”
Lutheran West is off this week, with the PAC tournament on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Wellington High School next on tap.