Cardinal’s wrestling team kicked off the New Year with a third place finish at the Jackson-Milton Invitational on Saturday.
Brandon Neikirk won an individual championship and four other Huskies placed among the top four.
“I was pleased,” said Cardinal coach Jeff Zeigler. “Going into the semifinals we had seven kids still alive. We’re right there. We’re not really young but we’re inexperienced and the (lack of) mat time showed when they got to that level but we’re improving every week.”
Earlier in the week the Huskies split a tri-meet at Girard. They lost to Girard and beat Waterloo on criteria.
Both schools, along with Division III powerhouse Rootstown, competed at Jackson-Milton.
“Going into the tournament we talked about our team goal and what I expect out of them,” Zeigler said. “I knew Rootstown would be a powerhouse and Girard already beat us in a dual, so I told them I wanted them to be in the top three and they didn’t let me down.”
Rootstown won the tournament with 224 ½ points while Girard was second with 182 and Cardinal scored 103 points.
“I love this team because they’re team players and they do what they have to so the team has a good showing,” Zeigler said. “They support each other and work hard together. I’m real pleased. It’s a great team to coach.”
Neikirk pinned his first two opponents then beat Girard’s Dominic Gainey, 10-3, to win the 145 pound championship.
“He wrestled well all weekend,” Zeigler said. “He was outstanding. He pinned everybody and is approaching 100 career wins. He was very dominating and put on a good show. He was going hard to get the major (decision) or pin. He’s that type of kid. He just wants to dominate and help the team by getting extra points.”
Neikirk now has 87 pins in his four-year career at Cardinal.
Trent Mast dropped an 8-0 decision to Rootstown’s Seth Hayes in the 120 pound title bout. Hayes finished fifth in the state last season at 126 pounds.
Brandon Nevison bumped up to 126 pounds and finished third.
“Nevison had a good day,” Zeigler said. “He bumped up to 126 and we figured he’d have a tough day in a tough weight class but he did a nice job and stayed focused. He got beat by a Rootstown kid in the championship semis then beat a Girard kid,11-0, in the consolations.”
Mason Lustig pinned South Range’s Ron Boyer in the 132 pound third place match. He finished the tournament with two pins.
“My surprise of the week was my 132 pounder, Mason Lustig,” Zeigler said. “He’s come a long way. He’s really starting to come into his own. He’s been behind Trent and (Nevison) and Ian (Mast) the last couple of years and hasn’t gotten the mat time he deserved, but every week he just surprises me. He looked outstanding this week.”
Bryn Havel had two pins in finishing fourth at 195.
“He improves every week,” Zeigler said. “I like his work ethic in the practice room. He had a tough weight class. The two kids he lost to are caliber kids and placed above him.”