by Michael LeonardSports EditorIn its first meet of the season, the Cuyahoga Falls wrestling team was routed by archrival Stow-Munroe Falls 49-12.So, when the Black Tigers traveled to Stow Jan. 11, the result would be a clear indication of how much progress Falls had made during the season.As Stow coach Randy Jenkins said, Falls has been improving by the day -- and they almost have improved enough to upset the strongest Bulldogs team in years.Falls fell just short of the upset, losing a 35-34 decision to Stow. Two days later, Falls finished a strong second place at Woodridge's Janet Stammen Invitational with 130.5 points. Cuyahoga Heights won the tournament with 141.5.Falls coach Craig Wilson said the improvement in the score versus Stow was emblematic of Falls' season."Our kids are maturing now," Wilson said. "We still have four freshman and seven sophomores in our lineup, but they're starting to gel as a team. We had kids who didn't get pinned in this match."Falls got a lift in the match when Stow 103-pounder Joey King failed to make weight. Falls 103-pounder JR Wiezbiski capitalized with a 13-3 win over replacement Matt Block. Then, Falls 112-pounder Jay Arbaugh avenged an earlier defeat by pinning Stow's Eddie Stewart in 5:10."The biggest win for us was at 112," Wilson said. "That kid pinned Jay at the Hudson tournament, so it was great to see Jay get back at him."At 119 pounds, Stow's Nate Piskarski restored order as he pinned Stephon Brown in 3:30.Falls got its biggest upset at 125 pounds as David Criss upset state qualifier Tyler Lambert 4-3. Criss got the match's only takedown in the second period, as Lambert was dealing with leg cramps. Criss surrendered a stalling point in the match's final seconds, but held on for the upset win."He wrestled smart," Wilson said of Criss. "Tyler's beat him by only two or three points the last few times they've wrestled. We told him the biggest thing was 'You can't give up that first-period takedown.' Dave wrestled an almost perfect match."Stow's strength in the middle weights allowed the Bulldogs to take control. At 130 pounds, Ben Welsh pinned Dylan King at 1:40, while 135-pounder Drew Alboreo needed just 1:10 to stick Zack Eastman. At 140 pounds, Ben Ramskugle scored a tight 2-0 win over Falls' Frank Humbert, followed by 145-pounder Dan Jacobs pinning Tony Repaski in 2:23.At 152 pounds, Falls' Ethan Taylor stopped the rally by scoring an 18-3 technical fall. At 160 pounds, Stow's Frank Saraniti scored a 15-3 win over Falls' Chris Port, but Falls 171-pounder Dustin Lees would then score the quickest pin of the night, sticking Kyle Hartwig in 57 seconds. Junior 189-pounder Tim Darlington nearly put the match out of reach, but could only score a 20-7 major decision against Falls' Tom Gemmell.Trailing 35-24, Falls 215-pounder Curt Lemmon gave the Bulldogs hope for the upset as he pinned Stow's Kris Muruna in 2:30, cutting Stow's lead to 35-30.Falls needed Todd Goff to score the pin at heavyweight to complete the upset, but Stow's Ben Ewing wrestled a smart match and lost a 10-1 major decision. The four points weren't enough to give Falls the team win, but Wilson said the match was a huge moral victory."It's just a positive," Wilson said. "Our team has taken a positive attitude. By this time next year, we should be able to compete with anyone in the league."Falls takes second at StammenFalls co-head coach John Dix said the Stow match provided a huge psychological boost heading into the Stammen Invitational, and it showed as Falls finished with eight wrestlers on the podium.Criss, Taylor and Lemmon led the charge for Falls as each won their respective weight classes. At 125 pounds, Criss had an easy run to the title, scoring a 16-2 win over Streetsboro's Blake Moore, pinning Independence's Jason Taylor in 1:23 and beating Cuyahoga Heights' Mike Galaska 14-8.Taylor was dominant at 152 pounds, pinning Akron Garfield's Derrick Jackson in 39 seconds, scoring a 19-3 technical fall over Streetsboro's Mike Ocktavec and pinning Heights' Sal Paratore in 2:54.Lemmon make quick work of his two opponents, pinning Bloom-Carroll's Bubba Charles in 56 seconds and Garfield's Kevin Isbell in 4:44.Falls also got podium finishes from Goff (second), Arbaugh (third), Lees (third), Wiezbieski (fourth) and Brown.Falls will host a tri-meet with Brush and Twinsburg Friday at 6 p.m. E-mail: mleonard@recordpub.comPhone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3113