Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Hornets have momentum heading into state duals

Kirtland’s wrestling team turned in a strong performance in winning a pair of dual meets on Thursday and now the Hornets have a lot of momentum on their side for Wednesday’s Division III, Region 20 quarterfinals at Massillon Tuslaw.

The Hornets, who drew the No. 8 seed, will wrestle No. 9 Sandy Valley with the winner advancing to face the top seeded Tuslaw Mustangs.

“We were really happy,” said Kirtland coach Scott Francis of his team’s performance on Thursday. “Our guys came out and wrestled and that's what we're looking for from a younger team like we have. They're going out there hitting moves and stuff we're going over in practice. It makes it a lot easier to be able to make adjustments and get better that way.”

Kirtland defeated Hawken, 48-18, and Beachwood, 37-36, on a most matches won tiebreaker.

Konnor Duncan, Brandon Hepper, Brayden Adkins, Gus Mormino, Jonathan Miller and Kevin Dages all went 2-0 for the Hornets while Carter Williamson, Jeff Kusar and Spencer McClelland all were 1-1 on the night.

Duncan pinned both of his opponents, including Hawken standout JP Hlifka in 5:08.

“We knew that kid was a quality wrestler,” Francis said. “We saw him last year and knew it would be a good match. Konnor went out and wrestled a really tough match.”

Hepper and Adkins flattened both of their opponents as well.

“Probably more than anyone else those two really went out there and were hitting their moves,” Francis said. “We were able to see what they were able to do. We told them after the match that it really wasn't so much that they went out there and won but they went out there and really wrestled. They were hitting moves and initiating the action and attacking. It paid off for them.”

Mormino won one match by decision and received a forfeit while Miller and Dages each recorded a pin and a forfeit.

“Gus has been wrestling well all year, he just gets in situations sometimes where he forces stuff in the match and that's what has cost him more than anything but as the year goes on he's doing less and less of that,” Francis said. “Jon Miller, last year was his first year wrestling as a junior and he's almost .500 this year in his second year of wrestling so he's doing an outstanding job for us. Kevin has been off the mat for a couple years and against Beachwood we bumped him yup to wrestle heavyweight. He got the win and that's why we won the match because he went out and got the win.”

Williamson’s 8-4 decision against Beachwood helped the Hornets pull out the dual win.

“Carter Williamson is an undersized 106-pounder but he went out and got a win against Beachwood,” Francis said. “We keep telling the guys that even though a guy is stronger than you everyone knows technique beats strength and that's what he did. He's a good wrestler but he gets beat because he wrestles guys that are so much bigger than him but he was able to go out and use his technique and get the victory.”

Following the state duals, Kirtland will host a quadrangular on Friday.

The Hornets have spent less time traveling to the area tournaments in favor of a dual-heavy schedule.

“This year I dropped out of a tournament and added more duals to my schedule,” Francis said. “That's what kids want to do nowadays. They don't want to go spend two days at a tournament, so why are we trying to do that with the sport. I don't understand it.”

The concept of returning to a dual meet schedule isn’t new, in fact the Chagrin Valley Conference last year added more dual meets to its formula in determining the individual league champions and the trend is catching on in the sport.

“All coaches know it,” Francis said. “They know that more tournaments is not what is attracting newer kids to the sport. Why are we still trying to do stuff that is not going to work? I added more duals and I think that helped me recruit more kids to come out for the team this year and I think that's going to help me going forward.”

Kirtland 37, Beachwood 36
106: Carter Williamson (K) dec. Hriday Dutt, 8-4; 113: Jelani Byrd (B) by forfeit; 120: Konnor Duncan (K) pinned Paul Jacobs, 2:33; 126: Brandon Hepper (K) pinned William Henry, 1:11; 132: Eli Goldman (B) by forfeit; 138: Brayden Adkins (K) pinned Ryo Okamoto, 0:17; 145: Gus Mormino (K) dec. Taylor Balazs, 12-6; 152: William Henry (B) by forfeit; 160: James Flowers (B) by forfeit; 170: Jonathan Miller (K) pinned Dayan Gray, 3:51; 182: Matt Henry (B) pinned Jeff Kusar, 1:05; 195: Josh Bialosky (B) pinned Spencer McLelland, 1:36; 220: Double Forfeit; 285: Kevin Dages (K) pinned Zachery Zhang, 2:55.

Kirtland 48, Hawken 18
106: Jackson Reineke (H) pinned Carter Williamson, 1:31; 113: Double Forfeit; 120: Konnor Duncan (K) pinned JP Hlifka, 5:08; 126: Brandon Hepper (K) pinned Andrew Wagenberg, 3:00; 132: Mills Moosbrugger (H) by forfeit; 138: Brayden Adkins (K) pinned Kurtay Ozuner, 1:46; 145: Gus Mormino (K) by forfeit; 152: Double Forfeit; 160: Double Forfeit; 170: Jonathan Miller (K) by forfeit; 182: Jeff Kusar (K) by forfeit; 195: Spencer McLelland (K) by forfeit; 220: Kevin Dages (K) by forfeit; 285: William Lindsey (H) pinned Noah Grassie, 0:27.


Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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