Cuyahoga Falls wrestling has taken some significant steps forward this winter.

However, the Black Tigers had to deal with a tough field to open the postseason, as Falls wrestled at the Division I sectional tournament at Wadsworth Feb. 25.

Results from sectionals show the Black Tigers have made progress, but still have a ways to go.

Falls finished seventh in the 11-team field at Wadsworth with 95 points. Wadsworth dominated the field with 317.5 points.

More importantly, Falls advanced three wrestlers onto the district tournament, as 113-pounder Charles Lyons, 138-pounder Riley Eastman and 220-pounder Caleb Puchajda all advanced. The top four finishers in each weight class reached districts.

Falls coach Jason Lara was happy with his team's effort.

"We had eight kids place in the top six and three kids got out," Lara said. "Last year, we had two kids left after the third round. It was definitely a difficult sectional, especially for a team with not of lot of experience."

Puchajda came the closest of any Black Tiger to reaching the finals at sectionals. He opened by pinning Barberton's Avery Speedy in 2:33, but in the semifinal, Puchajda lost 3-1 in the tie-breaker round to Akron Firestone's Dan Tilley.

"He had a tough match in the semis," Lara said. "He lost in the second overtime when he got ridden out. But he wrestled a great tournament."

Indeed, Puchajda rebounded by pinning Medina's Isaiah Helton in 2:36 and then took third place with a pin in 2:48 over Wooster's Brenden Holiday.

Eastman was Falls' lone returning district qualifier, but got stuck with a tough draw, as he was pinned in his opening match by Wadsworth's Zin Tittle.

Eastman rebounded by pinning Barberton's Dustin Fetter in 1:50 and then winning 8-5 over Highland's Brady Linder to book his place at districts.

In the third-place match, however, Eastman ran into Tittle again. He did a bit better, but lost a 10-0 major decision.

Meanwhile, Lyons was able to open with a 12-8 win over Brunswick's Ty Safko, but was pinned in the semifinals by Barberton's Kolbie Lange.

Needing a win to reach districts, Lyons left nothing to chance as he pinned Copley's Micah Vilavong in 2:13. In the third-place match, Lyons lost 8-2 to Medina's Brayden Potter.

"Charles has so little experience. This is only his second year wrestling," Lara said. "To have him step up and make it to this level already, it's pretty exciting. He's got a bright future. He's got the heart and he really loves the sport."

Falls had three wrestlers earn district alternate status as 126-pounder Brady Sparks, 152-pounder Jacob Sage and 285-pounder Oscar Figueroa each took fifth place. Falls also had 132-pounder Austin Rohrer and 195-pounder Dakota Page finish sixth.

The Division I district tournament at North Canton Hoover was set for March 3 and 4, but results were not available at press time. The top four placers in each weight class at Hoover advance to the state tournament.

"It has to be one of these most difficult districts in the state," Lara said. "It's going to be exciting to watch."

The Division I state tournament will take place March 9 to 11 at Value City Arena in Columbus.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

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