By Tony Maluso
If you put 18 wrestling coaches in a room, it's unlikely you'd get much of a consensus on anything. Following the first day of competition at the Reineke Family Dealerships Holiday Wrestling Classic at Columbian, some coaches saw the need for improvement in their teams, some classified the day as up and down, and some were pleased with what they saw from their teams.
Columbian coach Chad Long fits in the last category. The Tornadoes have three wrestlers coming back today in the championship semifinals - Derik Kopp (138), Mason Correll (145) and Seth Williams (152) - and five more alive in the consolation round. Kyler Lange (113), Aaron Fuhrer (120), Roman Williams (126), Tyler Mesnard (160) and Blaze Hoffman (182) can all finish as high as third if they can make it through the consolation bracket.
Columbian sits sixth in the team standings with 53 1/2 points.
"We got some wins out of a couple kids, a couple pins and I thought it was good. I didn't expect it," Long said. "They wrestled OK. The kids that won, that are in the semifinals, are the three kids we thought would be in the semifinals and we're getting a lot of bonus points, keeping us closer to the top. Not at the top, but around the top. They're wrestling better than what I thought they would at this point.
"Derik Kopp is wrestling dominant. I thought Seth looked dominant. Mason Correll looked good as well, and all three of them are in the semifinals. I think Tyler Mesnard wrestled pretty good. He lost to a good kid then came back and beat another good kid in the consolation round. We're doing as good as we can right now."
As a team, Columbian recorded 10 pins. Kopp and Seth Williams each recorded two on their way to the semis, with neither having a match extend into the second period. Kopp had pins in 1:57 against Upper Sandusky's Troy Landrum and 1:21 against Tony McCullough of Maumee.
Kopp is looking to make his last Holiday Classic one to remember, as he wants to claim a title before graduating.
"I think I wrestled well, but I'm a senior this year and I haven't won it yet," he said. "I've been real close every year. Tomorrow I want to go get another big win and get it done in the finals. There's always things to improve on, but I think I'm wrestling well."
Williams opened his tournament by pinning Newark's Austin Hollingshead in 1:16, then pinned Port Clinton's Isaac Akins in 1:28. Correll had one of the quicker matches of the day in the opening round, pinning Aaron Smith of Port Clinton in 27 seconds. He followed that up with a 10-4 victory over Riley Tercha of Otsego to advance to the semifinals.
Roman Williams also recorded a pair of pins. In the opening round he pinned Port Clinton's Nick Pope in 2:56, but fell to Colten Datkun of Woodmore 2-0 in the quarterfinals. Williams bounced back to pin Cade Kanderski of Toledo St. Francis DeSales in 2:45 in the consolation bracket. Also for Columbian, Fuhrer pinned Elida's Dakota Rolfe in 2:59, Mesnard pinned Stefan Johnson of Fremont Ross in 2:43 in a consolation match while also scoring a 16-0 technical fall in his opening match, and Hoffman pinned Otsego's Trevor Toney in a first-round match.
Lange stayed alive in the consolation round with a 13-7 win over Austin Corey of Van Buren.
A number of other area wrestlers are still alive in the quest for titles.
Four of them come from Upper Sandusky as Thurston Dyer (106), Carson Mengerink (113), Corey Frey (170) and Ian Baker (220) seek crowns.
Frey highlighted the Rams day with a pair of pins, first in 3:59 over Otsego's Zach Zuhlsdolf, then in 3:32 over Bryce Moreno of Ross.
Calvert's Dan Kwiat (195) is the lone Seneca still alive in the tournament. The returning fifth place state placer looked strong in his only match, scoring a 16-1 technical fall against Tristan Mallory of Port Clinton.
"The kid was pretty strong. I just went out there and tried to work on my technique that I've been going over this year," Kwiat said. "I was just working on different techniques, small things that will just make my offense a little bit better. Just working on their reactions and everything like that."
"He was trying different things, going with some different takedowns, trying to help his technique, help him get further along as the season progresses here instead of being one-dimensional, have more attacks," said Calvert coach Keven Rinaman. "He was opening up his offense, trying new things and I think it paid off in the end."
Hopewell-Loudon has three wrestlers in today's semifinals and two more still alive in the consolation bracket. Tristan Meyers (145) scored a pair of victories, first topping Oregon Clay's Darrin Todd 10-3, then pinning Anthony Arroyo of Maumee in 4:27.
"I'm doing pretty good. It's a pretty tough meet, but I'm hanging in there," Meyers said. "First guy was about even with me and I won by points. My second match, I pinned the guy in the second period. He slipped up and I caught him."
Damion Vitt (120) and Colton Hossler (285) each had first round byes, then pinned their second round opponent. Vitt beat Woodmore's Josh Cowell in 1:44 and Hossler stopped Sean Todd of Oregon Clay in 2:17.
Chieftain coach Travis Traxler was pleased with the win Hossler got against good competition, and the level at which his freshman Vitt performed.
"Colton got a pin in the second period. We got a big day tomorrow, there are some decent heavyweights here," Traxler said. "It's a decent win for him. That was a decent kid from Oregon Clay so it'll be nice to move on to tomorrow and wrestle a couple tough kids.
"Damion, he really produces in competition. We got a group of young guys that all work really, really hard. Damion's one that thrives in the competition setting. He had a really nice match. We're happy for Damion and tomorrow will be a telling day for a freshman."
Chet Swartzmiller (106) and Zak Hrabak (160) will compete in the consolation bracket today. Swartzmiller opened the day in the tournament's first match by pinning Austin Jacobs of Otsego in 25 seconds. He then fell in the second round, getting pinned in 3:24 by Dyer.
Hrabak won his opening match dramatically against Dan Pastorius of Newark. Hrabak trailed 8-7 with 30 seconds remaining, before scoring a reversal and near pin to win 11-8. He had another close one in the second round, but this time found himself on the wrong end of a 6-2 decision to Steve Welling of DeSales. Hrabak rebounded in the consolation bracket pinning Zack Nirode of Sandusky in 1:16.
The most dramatic win of the day, though, might belong to Mohawk's Grant Price (170). Price was down while trailing Van Buren's Chance Sonnenberg in the closing seconds. With two seconds left, Price scored a reversal to claim a 9-8 win.
"That one was a little closer than I thought it should've been, but he was wrestling a tough kid and a good kid," said Mohawk coach Buddy Cook. "Sometimes coming right out of the gate and having to wrestle someone like that, you're not quite prepared. He stuck with it and got the points at the end when it mattered.
"It says a lot about his character. He wasn't quitting in the match and continued to fight 'til the very end, and that's what it's going to take from here on out."
Joining Price in the semifinals is teammate Austin Kelbley (160). Kelbley's match with Toney Uberroth of Clay was scoreless heading into the third period. Kelbley started on top and turned Uberroth a couple times to earn a 5-0 victory.
Mohawk will also have Alex Hoerig (152) and Aaron Cook (182) competing in the consolation bracket.
Sandusky has a comfortable lead in the team standings, 90-71 1/2 over Clay. Ross (69), Upper Sandusky (64) and Maumee (54) round out the top five.
Hopewell-Loudon (40) sits 10th, Mohawk (24) is 15th and Calvert (10) is 17th.
Wrestling resumes today at 10 a.m.