ALLIANCE — Because it does not field a full team, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy wrestling has no option but to field a "quality over quantity" approach.
The good news is CVCA’s quality showed through March 1 and 2 at the Division II district tournament at Alliance. However, for Woodridge wrestling, Alliance proved to be a meat grinder.
CVCA finished sixth in the team race with 130 points, which included five state qualifiers and two state alternates. Meanwhile, Woodridge finished 19th with 29.5 points, but did not have a state qualifier. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to states.
Aurora won the district team title with 181.5 points.
CVCA coach Dave Bergen said, while he would have liked to have seen all his district qualifiers advance, the Royals had a solid weekend.
"We fell a few short, but we got the guys though that we knew got get there," Bergen said. "We’ve got five guys going again and we might score more point his year at states. I think we’ll be fine going forward."
CVCA’s Decatur twins finished in their customary spots at districts. In fact, senior 113-pounder Jacob Decatur became a four-time district champion at Alliance.
However, Decatur clearly not his normal self, as he said he had battled the flu for the week preceding districts. Thus, Decatur had to squeeze out a 3-2 win in the semifinals over Canfield’s Ethan Fletcher and followed that with an equally tight 3-2 win in the final over Chardon’s Jake Hamulak.
‘It’s just nerves and not having much practice this week," Decatur said of his close wins. "I was out for the entire week. I’m not 100 percent. It’s just about getting healthy now and preparing.
By contrast, senior 132-pounder Jordan Decatur was his normal, dominant self. The larger Decatur twin earned his second district title by scoring a 17-2 technical fall over Lake Catholic’s Nick Coreno and beating Coventry’s Miles Knuckles 10-0.
"I know he was a big Greco guy and likes to throw people," Decatur said of Knuckles. "I just tried to stay on my offense. Things opened up in the third period."
CVCA also got a district title rom 126-pounder Matt Williams. Williams secured his first state berth by pinning St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Sam VanSickle in 5:47 in the semifinals.
By contrast, Williams’ title match with Louisville’s Davin Rhoads was a dogfight. Tied 3-3 after regulation and after the sudden victory period, Williams scored a 4-3 win by escaping in the tie-breaker round and riding Rhoads out.
After finishing fifth at districts at last year, Williams was all smiles after winning the final.
"I knew I was better than him," Williams said. "The coaches told me to keep circling and keep the pressure on.
"I've not got any expectations for states. I'm keeping an open mind and just going for it."
For CVCA 220-pounder Breslin Walker, he had to earn his third straight state berth the hard way. After losing in the quarterfinals 7-6 to defending state champion Tyler Stein of Canfield, Walker rattled off four straight wins in the consolation bracket to finish third.
Walker brooked his place at states with a 9-3 win over Revere’s Ethan Depp in the consolation semifinals and then took third place by pinning Geneva’s Charles Taylor in 4:57.
"I just feel I want to show what I can do down there," Walker said. "I want to show everyone this [knee injury] isn’t going to define me."
At 145 pounds, sophomore Austin Pownall earned his first state berth. After losing in the semifinal 4-2 to Aurora’s Andy Garr, Pownall booked his ticket to Coiumbus with a tight 1-0 decision over Louisville’s Daniel Kennedy.
Pownall settled for fourth place, as he was beaten 13-0 by Southeast’s Kaleb Dohse in the third-place match.
Bergern said he wished he could have advanced senior 138-pounder Danny Sinchok though to states, but Sinchok had to settle for a state alternate spot. He pinned University School’s Joe Averill in 4:04 in the fifth-place match.
Sophomore 120-pounder Caden Scarbrough also earned a state alternate spot, as he rallied through the consolation bracket. Scarbrough scored a 2-1 win over St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Elliot Alessia in his fifth place.
CVCA 152-pounder Dalton Duvall went 0-2 at districts.
Heartbreak for the Bulldogs
Meanwhile, Woodridge coach Mike Massey couldn’t hide his disappointment at the outcome at Alliance, as Woodridge was shutout of the state meet for the first time in years.
"I feel horrible for my guys," Massey said. "I think that we did the best we could, with one exception. For a lot of these young guys, it’s their first time at districts. They’re going to learn what they need to do."
The biggest heartbreak for Woodridge came from senior 132-pounder Brandon Reeves. Reeves had two chances to earn his first state berth, but had to settle for a state alternate spot.
In the semifinal, Reeves faced Knuckles — who eliminated him at last year’s district tournament. Reeves had beaten Knuckles earlier this season, but Knuckles got four takedowns and a nearfall on his way to a 10-6 win.
With a trip to Columbus on the line, Reeves was unable to get his offense going against Revere’s Cooper Krauth and lost 3-2.
"The Revere kid wrestled a really good match," Massey said.
Reeves salvaged a state alternate spot with a 9-2 win over Marlington’s Mason McCarty in the fifth-place match.
Woodridge had one other wrestler reach the podium at Alliance in sophomore 113-pounder Nate Demangeont. In the quarterfinals, Demangeont ran into Jacob Decatur and was pinned in 3:46.
Needing three wins in the consolation bracket, Demangeont got two, pinning Southeast’s Michael Coleman in 1:36 and sticking Edgewood’s Jare Biller in 1:32. In the consolation semifinals, however, Demangeont ran into his nemesis: Canton South’s Hunter Miller. Miller won a 13-4 major decision.
Demangeont had to settle for sixth place, as he 9-1 to Fletcher in the fifth-place match.
"Nate did what he could do and [220-pounder] Miles Ashbaugh did what he could do," Massey said. "They’ll both be back."
Ashbaugh went 2-2 at Alliance before being eliminated by Walker 7-1. Woodridge also had senior 145-pounder Justin Rickenbacker got 1-2, while freshman 106-pounder Colin Galehouse, senior 170-pounder Noah Samerdak, junior 182-pounder Kevin Baker and freshman heavyweight Alistair Larson all went 0-2.
The Division II state wrestling tournament was set to open Thursday at the Value City Arena in Columbus.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_RPC