BOWLING GREEN - Hopewell-Loudon sophomore Damion Vitt was the lone area wrestler advancing to the Division III district semifinals, and after a tough morning for the local contingent, Vitt the last one standing with a chance at a trip to state. But after dropping a tough semifinal in the 145-pound weight class to Fremont St. Joe's Sean Vasquez, Vitt had the unenviable task of taking out a returning state runner-up in order to have a local D-III representative in Columbus.
It wasn't meant to be as Vitt fell to Archbold's Logan Day by technical fall, and the local area was shut out in terms of D-III state qualifiers.
"Damion's only a sophomore," said Hopewell-Loudon coach Travis Traxler. "He ends up with a senior in the semis, gets beat 5-0 in a tough match. Next match is a returning state runner up in the go-to match. That's just the draw, luck of the draw."
Vitt though was the lone local wrestler to earn a place, finishing sixth. He lost to Tony Rozzi of Woodmore, 14-1 in his last match.
Vitt gave Vasquez a battle in the championship semifinal. Vasquez held a 3-0 lead with two points coming off technical violations. Vasquez scored a late takedown for a 5-0 victory.
Traxler, though, said the earlier penalty points played a role in how the match played out.
"Some of the officiating in that match, I wouldn't say it was poor officiating, but a lot of it is interpretation," he said. "For a stalling call to go one way or another, or a fleeing call to one way or another, those things set up how you're going to approach the match from that point forward. It changed the pace, it put us into an attack position. Not that we're not always trying to score points, but it allowed the other kid to solely focus on defending our offense. That changes things.
"Those are things that chance the pace of a match. Not to take anything away from the St. Joe kid. But it absolutely changes the way he has to wrestle us. If that's a wide-open match and that kid has to wrestle with us, I think Damion's able to put some points up on the board. If he only has to defend us, that narrows his approach."
Twenty-five local wrestlers qualified for the district tournament at Bowling Green's Stroh's Center, 18 of which survived into Saturday. But one-by-one each fell by the wayside.
But even with no trips to Columbus, that didn't mean there wasn't a lot of success.
Carey coach Ryan Pratt was proud of the way his team wrestled over the weekend, including three seniors who he was having a hard time saying good-bye to.
"All in all, 10 kids qualified. Eight kids at least won one match. Had a couple of them win two, went 2-2," Pratt said. "Senior Zach Sauber, one of the hardest working kids on the team, never gives up, just wrestled his last match. It's tough as a coach, especially when you put in so much time and effort. You care about these kids like they're your own. I get emotional just thinking about it. Deryk Sammet went 1-2, another senior. DiIlon Pratt lost last night. Those three, they've been here since I've been here. Zach moved in his sophomore year from another school. Hats off. They all wrestled hard, never gave up the entire time."
Carey got consolation round wins from Sauber (220) and Zach Brodman (145). Brodman dropped Josh Summers of Western Reserve 4-1 and Sauber pinned Van Buren's Santos Miranda.
Brodman though ran into the same buzz-saw that ended Vitt's run in Day. Sauber had his run ended by Tinora's Derek Smith.
"Logan Day, he lost first round last night. We had to beat him to go through," Pratt said. "We lost our quarterfinal match 1-0 to Rozzi from Woodmore. We win that one and it's a completely different ballgame. John Racheter, a freshman, went 1-2, wrestled real good. Lost in overtime. I got him for three more years, got Brodman for one more year. Out of the 10 qualifiers I had, three were seniors, seven of them are returning. Eight kids got at least one win out of 10. At this level, that's an accomplishment on anybody's team."
Mohawk's Chet Margraf (126) and Kevin Lonsway (152) dropped their first consolation matches Saturday, while Cole Draper (182) scored an 11-3 win over Ricky Pratt of Cardinal Stritch. Draper then bowed out the next round.
"We did some nice things," Mohawk coach Bud Cook said. "It's important for at least three of them, they got a first round win. Things just didn't work out in the second round or even the (consolation) for that matter. It's good anytime you can get to this level and get a win.
"Chet lost a heartbreaker. It was tied with nine seconds left in the end of regulation. Those are just tough. Kevin again, he lost one that going in we knew it was going to be tough. Cole gets two wins at this level, then had to run into a really good kid. Once you start getting in, the later rounds you go the better the quality of kids."
Also making it to Saturday but falling in consolation matches were Calvert's John Brodman (120), who was pinned by Ayersville's Kyle Behringer, St. Wendelin's Cole Williams (132), who dropped a 3-0 decision to Genoa's Brandon Bates, and Lakota's Madison Jaso (160) who wrestled a back-and-forth match with Paul Frey of Riverdale, that ended with Jaso getting caught for a pin.
Also for Hopewell-Loudon, Dylan Hammond (120) and Tristan Myers (170) fell in their first matches Saturday. Myers, in what turned out to be the final match of his career, battled back from down 6-3 in the third round to tie Archbold's David Bell. But he gave up an escape point and couldn't get a takedown to get the win.
Alex Brock (138) opened Saturday with a 4-2 win over Brik Dauterman of Elmwood before falling 10-1 to Otsego's Austin Glosser.
"We had four guys into Day 2," Traxler said. "One was a freshman, Dylan Hammond. He goes out scores five points against a returning state qualifier that's a senior. We're really proud of his performance for a freshman. Alex Brock battled back, beat a tough kid from Elmwood.
"Tristan, that's a tough kid to lose We're predominately an underclassmen team. Tristan was a great leader. It's hard to see him go but the future's looking real bright. We've come a long way in two seasons. Our kids are already ready to hit the mats again. It's a culture change. Our kids are ready to wrestle now."
Cook echoed the sentiment that his team is poised for a bright future, with four district qualifiers who will bring back that experience next year.
"Especially with Mason (Hammond) and Chet and Cole, I can't express enough how valuable it is to have them, along with Lonsway," Cook said. "Because now they bring that, into our room. Things are looking up for us I think."