Wadsworth ends 33 years of public school frustration; Grizzlies are D-I Champs

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Wadsworth’s Loudon Gordon celebrates his pin of St. Ed sophomore Mark Martin. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)

By the time you read this, the party in Wadsworth might
still be going on.
And for good reason. The last time a school did what the Grizzlies accomplished,
Star Wars was two months away from making its debut at the box office.
Saturday,
Wadsworth defeated a comparable Empire.







By the time you read this, the party in Wadsworth might
still be going on. And for good reason.

The last time a school did what the Grizzlies accomplished,
Star Wars was two months away from making its debut at the box office. Saturday,
Wadsworth defeated a comparable Empire.

Before a crowd of 14,886 at Ohio State’s Schottenstein
Center, the Grizzlies removed the Division I state championship trophy from the
parochial stranglehold it had been under for 33 years. Not since 1977 had a
public school won the D-I state wrestling title. Not since 1996 – a
state-record span in all sports of 13 straight years – had anyone but Lakewood
St. Edward won it period.

Not anymore.

The Final? Wadsworth 172, St. Edward 167.5. It was that
close. And memorable.

“We had to fight for it,” Wadsworth head coach John
Gramuglia said. “Eds didn’t give it up easy. And it wasn’t an off year for
them. They have some outstanding people and it wasn’t that we were that much
better than them. It was even. It was even in duals and it was even in the
tournament. I mean it was six (finalists) and six (finalists) and four
(champions) and four (champions). It was nip and tuck.”

Last year Wadsworth had St. Ed in its sights and let the
Eagles go with a horrendous 0-4 showing in the semifinal round. This year the
Grizzlies made amends – barely.

Winning its first state title since 1942, Wadsworth finally
conquered the mountain. The Grizzlies had beaten St. Ed in the state dual
championships the last two years and owned three victories over the Eagles in
the last 24 months. None, though, had come at the sport’s pinnacle until now.

Last year’s meltdown was a sizeable reminder.

“Last year kind of upset us,” senior Loudon Gordon said.
“Every tournament – no matter what it was – there was a picture of the score
from last year’s semis that showed us winning. Before every semifinal of every
tournament this year they pulled that out and made us think about it. This year
we were ready.”

Said fellow senior Brad Squire: “Coach G always told us
‘There will be a next time, and we will be ready.’ And we lived by that.”

Wadsworth held a 154-149.5 edge over St. Ed heading into the
finals and two key wins in head-to-head meetings propelled the Grizzlies to the
trophy. Not surprisingly, Gordon and Squire supplied them.

At 135, Gordon battled back from a 3-2 deficit after two
periods to pin St. Ed sophomore Mark Martin with one second to go in the match.
The extra two points for the pin were crucial.

“I knew I could win,” Gordon said. “I knew I was in his head
a little bit. I just wanted to stay focused, stay solid and do what I usually
do. With about 30 seconds left I was up by one and I said ‘I got this.’ I just
stayed in my position and he locked up and tried to throw me and that’s where I
feel comfortable – with scrambles and throws – and I just used his leverage
against him. I caught him on his back.

“One thing coach said was if we wanted to win this thing we
had to get pins when it counts. I looked at my bracket and it said 5:59. I just
held him there. I wanted that pin and I got it.”

At 145, Squire scored a 3-2 decision over St. Ed senior
Anthony Salupo. The state title was the second for Squire who started his high
school career with a championship as a freshman.

The actual match that gave the Grizzlies the win was
sophomore Nick Tavanello’s 6-4 victory in the 215 final – the second to last
weight class. An overtime victory by Ben Buzzeli at 285 was insurance.

“Last year we had basically the same team and in the semis
we dropped the ball,” Gordon said. “All year our main goal was to win it and we
knew we could. We beat them twice last year and once this year and we knew we
could beat them. That’s what we came out here to do.”

St. Ed had just as many individual champions as Wadsworth,
but needed one more. Dean Heil (fr., 103), Gus Sako (sr., 112), Jamie Clark
(sr. 130) and Nick Sulzer (sr., 160) all won titles. Clark’s was his third.

Sixty-some days before Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star
in 1977, Macedonia Nordonia edged Maple Heights 58.5-56 for the Big School team
title. Since then St. Ed (25), Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit (five), Cleveland
St. Ignatius and Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph are the only teams to take
home the D-I hardware.

Not anymore.

Said Gramuglia: “Obviously it’s trite to say, but words
don’t express it.”

 

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