ALLIANCE — Having wrestled at the Walsh Ironman and Brecksville Invitational Holiday Tournament this season, Aurora already had plenty of experience dealing with out-of-state competition.
As they headed to the Top Gun Tournament at Alliance, the Greenmen faced another out-of-state challenger as they looked to defend their title: Defending West Virginia AA state champion Point Pleasant.
It was a dogfight atop the standings all weekend, but when the dust cleared Saturday night, three champions led the Greenmen to a repeat Top Gun title.
Aurora 145-pounder David Cumberledge, 152-pounder Ty Lillard and 160-pounder Dylan Fishback each won their weight classes, leading the Greenmen to 230 points and the title. Point Pleasant was second with 224.5 points.
Also at the Top Gun, Nordonia finished 16th with 73 points, as 182-pounder Sal Perrine won his weight class.
Aurora coach Johnny Papesh said the win was more satisfying than last year’s win.
"It always is when it’s a dogfight," Papesh said. "They are a good team. After Evan Anderson got hurt, I was nervous. It’s hard to fight back when you’re in the wrestle backs.
"Just three champions isn’t enough to win it," he added. "We had just about everyone step up tonight."
Fishback played the part of favorite well, as he earned his second straight Top Gun title.
In the semifinal, Fishback dominated Delaware Hayes’ Emmett Cain before Cain was disqualified for committing four penalty points in the third period.
The 160-pound final turned into a rematch from the Suburban League Tournament, as Fishback faced Highland’s Brady Linder, who nearly pinned him at Copley.
This time, Fishback left no doubt. He got a pair of takedowns and tilted Linder onto his back five times on his way to a 16-0 technical fall.
"I just focused on scoring," Fishback said. "Conference meet wasn’t me. He caught me that time; he wasn’t going to catch me now. It wasn’t really a strategic match. I just wanted to stay on offense."
In his semifinal, Lillard showed off his gymnastics background.
In order to fend off a single-leg attempt from Granville’s Douglas Terry, Lillard did the splits for the last 25 seconds of the match and held on for a 2-1 win.
In the final, Lillard had another big challenge vs. Owings Mills’ Phil Smith, who was a two-time Maryland state champion.
In what may have been the match of the tournament, Lillard and Smith pulled high-level counters on each other for the first two periods. With Smith trailing late, Lillard rolled through a throw attempt and pinned Smith in 5:44.
"He’s pretty good with his hips. He made me really work hard to get where I need to put my hips," Lillard said. "Midway through, I felt like I was getting it. I knew he had to go big, so I was ready for it."
Meanwhile at 145 pounds, Cumberledge fell behind 4-2 midway through his semifinal match with Highland’s James Scavuzzo before scoring seven unanswered points to win 9-4.
In the final vs. Huber Heights Wayne’s Austin Mullins, Cumberledge gave up the first takedown but took over from there, as he scored an 8-4 win to score his first title as a Greenman.
"I feel great. I couldn’t be in better shape. I’m getting pushed in the room everyday," Cumberledge said. "Once I felt his power and speed, I just stayed in the center. I made him come to me and wrestled my match."
The Greenmen had six other wrestlers reach the podium at the Top Gun.
Aurora got a third-place finish from 138-pounder Nic Willingham and fourth-place finishes from 106-pounder Codie Cuerbo, 113-pounder Rob Sagaris and 126-pounder Bo DiJulius. The Greenmen also had 120-pounder Antwan Sargaris and 170-pounder Ethan Anderson finish in sixth place.
For Nordonia, it was a bit of a feast or famine weekend, as the young Knights often struggled against the field at Top Gun.
"I’ve got a lot of youth," said Nordonia coach Jason Walters. "Once you get the excuses out of the way, the kids have got to learn that you get out what you put in in practice. Sal Perrine is willing to put in everything at practice."
Perrine put out a dominant weekend as the top seed at 182 pounds, as he pinned his way to the final. That included a stick in 5:25 over Alliance’s Warren Gentile in the semifinal.
In the final vs. Hayes’ Mason Sutander, Perrine used his speed to get a pair of takedowns and secure a 5-2 win.
"He was blocking me the whole time," Perrine said of Sutander. "He didn’t really have any offense. My speed outpowered his power and hips. This is a great start to the rest of the season."
"Sal’s not even showing what we’re wanting him to do in March yet," Walters said.
Nordonia had one other placer at Top Gun, as junior 138-pounder Tyler Angus took seventh place with a 2-1 win.
"Tyler has had a lot of issues he’s had to deal with this year," Walters said. "In one week, he looks like a different person. We’re going to take this as a positive and move forward."