by Michael Leonard

Sports Editor

Wrestling week in and week out in the cauldron that is Northeast Ohio wrestling can wear on a team.

For that reason, Stow-Munroe Falls wrestling coach Randy Jenkins likes for his team to get outside the area a bit and take on some different competition. Such competition was found Jan. 26 and 27 at the Josh Hephner Memorial Tournament at Austintown-Fitch.

If the results are any indication, the Mahoning Valley is just as a rugged as the rest of Northeast Ohio.

Stow finished ninth in the 25-team field at the Hephner Tournament with 148.5 team points. Austintown Fitch's Blue squad won the tournament with 313 points, well ahead of runner-up Ravenna (270).

According to Jenkins, the Hephner tournament was a good experience for the Bulldogs.

"I thought it was a good week with the tough competition," Jenkins said. "That's the beauty of wrestling. If you go someplace else, you get a chance to wrestle someone out of the ordinary. It showed us where we're at and what we have to do for the rest of the season."

What does Jenkins plan to do to prepare his team for the stretch run?

"We're going to individualize part of practice toward each wrestler and see what each one of them needs to progress on," Jenkins said. "We'll try to fine tune each wrestler and work on their strengths. They're in shape for it; now it's just mental preparation and fine tuning some of their moves."

One wrestler who likely only needs fine tuning for the stretch run is senior 125-pounder Tyler Lambert. For the second straight week, Lambert was the lone Bulldog to reach the championship match in his weight class. In the title match, however, Lambert faced one of his toughest bouts of the season against Brookfield's Tristan Thompson.

"He was a very tough kid," Jenkins said of Thompson. "He was state runner-up last year at Division III [at 119 pounds]. We didn't get a chance to see him before that tournament."

Lambert wrestled a very tight match against Thompson, but ended up losing a 4-3 match, suffering only his third loss of the season. Jenkins said Lambert had "a great tournament" despite the loss.

Jenkins was equally high on junior 160-pounder Frank Saraniti, who Jenkins said had "had an awesome tournament."

"Frank is right where we need him to be," Jenkins said. "He's improved so much and he's ready for the postseason."

Only a run-in with Ravenna state placer Phil Dukes kept Saraniti out of the title match. Jenkins said a one-point loss to Dukes ended Saraniti's title hopes, but he would rebound and take third place with 1-0 win over Fitch's J.J, Pankewicz.

At 130 pounds, sophomore Ben Welsh earned a top-four place despite a loaded weight class. Welsh had a chance to wrestle for third place, but ended up losing 6-3 to Uniontown Lake's Zack Cline.

If Welsh had a loaded weight class, senior Drew Alboreo faced a nightmare at 135 pounds. In fact, Alboreo's draw led him to face Fitch's Tony Jamieson, the defending state champion at 119 pounds.

"He ran into Jamieson and he just got it taken to him," Jenkins said. "Drew actually took him down and had him for a two-point nearfall, but, from there it was all Jamieson."

Alboreo ended up taking fifth place in his weight class, defeating Massillon Jackson's Jeremy Gruber 4-3 in the fifth-place match. Jenkins said Alboreo is the perfect "darkhorse" wrestler come postseason time.

"You never know how it's going to turn out if a big name wrestles Drew," Jenkins said. "He's a kid that you cannot have a bad match against and he proved it last year."

Stow also got a pair of eighth-place finishes from 112-pounder Eddie Stewart and 119-pounder Nate Pisarski.

After the trip to the Mahoning Valley, Stow gets back to Western Reserve Conference business this week. On Thursday, the Bulldogs travel to Twinsburg for a tough tri-meet with the Tigers and Mayfield. First match is set for 7 p.m.

E-mail: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3113