COPLEY — Heading into the Suburban League Tournament, the Tallmadge wrestling team was a shell of itself.
"We only had five guys wrestle here," Blue Devils head coach Jason Shaw said. "With the injuries, illness and then we had a couple guys not able to get down to the weight they should be, we really didn’t have that match."
Given the fact Shaw believes the Suburban League is the toughest wrestling conference in Ohio, heading into the tournament so depleted could be seen as a recipe for disaster. However, Shaw saw some positives for the Blue Devils.
Despite only having five wrestlers, Tallmadge was able to score 74 team points at the tournament, which took place Saturday at Copley High School. The Blue Devils finished 14th in the 15-team field, just 1.5 points behind Kent Rooosevelt.
Brecksville-Broadview Heights won the team title with 423.5 points, while third-place Aurora (343 points) claimed the title in the American Conference for the fifth straight year.
"Going into this year, you knew there were going to be some tough times like last year," Shaw said. "I think all of our guys were able to win at least one match."
Shaw had hoped to get Jesse Kanatzar and Ben Blankenship into their respective 182-pound and 220-pound finals at the tournament. Both seniors started the day well, as they went 2-0 with a bye in their three-round pools to advance to the semifinals.
However, the semifinal draw was not kind to either Blue Devil.
Kanatzar ran into a familiar foe in Nordonia’s Sal Perrine in a rematch from the finals of the North Coast Classic.
The match was tight, as Kanatzar was able to slow down the speedy Perrine, but Perrine claimed the winning takedown in the third period to win 3-1. Perrine went on to win the 182-pound title.
Kanatzar wasted little time rebounding in the third-place match, as he put Barberton’s Roosevelt Andrew on his back and pinned him in 48 seconds to claim third.
Meanwhile, Blankenship also had to deal with a Division I All-Ohioan in his semifinal, as he faced North Royalton’s Lazar Gasic, who got the pin in 4:43.
Like Kanatzar, Blankenship bounced back well in the third-place match. He was able to pin Copley’s Landon Robinson in 1:46 to claim the title.
"Jesse and Ben were looking forward to this," Shaw said. "They got some challenging matches in, which is what you want to see."
After going 0-2 in his pool matches, 132-pounder Josh Heatwall rebounded with a pair of pins in the placement stage. He stuck Nordonia’s Aiden Vinson in 31 seconds before pinning Twinsburg’s Carter Johnson in 1 minute to finish in ninth place.
Tallmadge also had Aden Schwartz (145) finish 10th and Gus Fortseras (136) finish 14th at the tournament.
Prior to the tournament, the Blue Devils hosted a dual meet with Field Jan. 2 and scored a 36-24 victory over the Falcons at James O. Maddox Court.
The highlight of the evening was the 182-pound match between Kanatzar and Field’s Dallas McAmis, who are both ranked in the state. Kanatzar controlled the match en route to an 8-3 win.
Tallmadge got pins from Fortseras (138), Schwartz (152) and Devin Richter (170). The Blue Devils also got two victories by forfeit.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO.