Is it now a two-team race for Division I state title?

Aaron LaBattLots of rumors and speculation get spread around the Internet and I’ve read most of it. However, after the holiday tournaments one of those rumors might have some stock in it.

Heading into the 2008-09 season there was the belief that Lakewood St. Edward, the 13- time defending Division I state champion, might be in danger of losing its title to Massillon Perry, the runner-up five out of the last six years. That possibility looks stronger after what took place Tuesday at the Medina Invitational. Perry beat St. Edward in the team race 275-212. Perry had four champions and St. Edward had three.

I’ve learned a lot of things during my years in wrestling and one of those things is not to bet against perennial powers in the postseason. They don’t always win, but they usually do. Now the MIT is not the state tournament by any means, but if St. Edward can’t beat Perry there it would seem even more difficult to beat them in Columbus.

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Both squads have around the same amount of projected and probable champions for the state meet. It is considered a “down year” for St. Edward, which means winning most of its matches instead of all of its matches, so many believe Perry will break the Eagles’ streak.

I’m all for a Perry upset, but I believe St. Edward will pull it out again. Why? Because, in not so many words, the Eagles compete in an easier district than the Panthers and thus will qualify more to the state meet. That gives St. Ed’s more opportunities to place wrestlers and rack up points.

Brecksville does not disappoint

The numerous marquee matchups at the Brecksville Invitational did not disappoint this holiday season as several weight classes were absolutely brutal.

Seven weight classes had seven or more state qualifiers and an average of five state placers. The 160-pound weight class had eight state qualifiers, seven of which were placers and three of those were state finalists.

Troy Christian’s Zach Toal (160) won the tourney in a rematch over Brecksville’s Kyle Lang by a 9-8 score. Toal had beaten Lang 5-3 at Ironman earlier this season. Lang also had an impressive win in the semis by beating Division I state runner-up J.T. Rice of Hilliard Davidson by a 10-0 major decision.

 Marysville standout Jake McCombs (125) won his weight class after upsetting the top seed. He then beat freshman standout Nate Skonieczny of Walsh Jesuit 4-3 in the finals.

Wadsworth won the Brecksville Invitational with 188 points despite not having a tournament champion. The host Bees were second with 160.5 points and Union Grove (of Georgia) took third with 131.

Impressive showing at Vandalia

Graham made another statement at the Greater Miami Valley Wrestling Association Holiday Tournament in Vandalia. The Falcons broke their own scoring mark at the meet with a 269-point difference between themselves and second-place Clay.

The showing was even better than last year as Graham crowned 12 champions and lost just three matches the entire tournament.

I was particularly impressed with freshman standout Houston Evans (152), who is a two-time junior high state champ. Wrestling followers knew he was good, but his 6-4 overtime win against Division I state runner-up T.J. Rigel of Tecumseh in the semifinals reveals he is even better than previously thought. And yes, Evans went on to win the tournament.

Harmon leaves mark at GMVWA

Indian Lake’s Kerstin Harmon (119) went 1-2 at the GMVWA, but that one win is not to be overlooked. Harmon’s victory made her the second female wrestler to ever win a match at the tournament.

Wilmington’s Danni Hodge won a first-round match at 130 pounds earlier the same day to become the meet’s first female winner. While Hodge pinned a freshman in her match, I feel Harmon’s win has more value.

Because of a tough draw, Harmon had to wrestle a state qualifier and the second seed from Carlisle in her first-round match. She then beat Chris Delaney, a returning letterwinner from Delta, who is not a pushover by any means. He is even ranked high on some preseason state polls. The Laker then lost to a state placer from Greeneview in her next match.

So while Hodge had a better draw in the bracket, Harmon’s win had more substance and I think that counts for something.