It says something about how much Stow-Munroe Falls wrestling has progressed this season that its performance at the Josh Hephner Memorial Tournament was viewed as mild disappointment in some areas.
Stow earned yet another top 10 finished at the Hephner, which is a pool-style tournament that took place Jan. 24 and 25 at Austintown-Fitch High School. The Bulldogs finished eighth in the 32-team field with 186.5 points. Fitch won the team title with 276 points.
However, after a similar outcome the previous with at the Bill Dies Tournament, Stow coach Tyler Buckwalter wanted to see his team fire on all cylinders.
"I think overall our message to the guys was, we had some guys that wrestled really well this weekend," Buckwalter said. "Then, we had some other guys that didn’t wrestle as well as we would have liked. Our message to them was just consistency. It comes from being consist in practice and putting together good days in practice. I think if we can everyone wrestling well together, we’ll be tough to beat."
Buckwalter said the format of the Hephner was a test for the Bulldogs, as many of his wrestlers had to put in 10 matches over the two-day tournament.
"It’s a grind," Buckwalter said. "I think it was a one of the better ones that we’ve been at. What I like was, we got to see some different teams. Uniontown Lake was there. Fitch was there. The competition was good. I think it’s comparable to the Dies."
One highlight for Stow was the performance of 145-pounder JR Reed. A loss to Fitch’s Zach Richards in the his pool cost Reed chance to got for the title at 145, but that proved to be the lone blemish on his record.
In the knockout stages, Reed pinned Akron Springfield’s Dan Chapman in 3:20 and beat Louisville’s Logan Vanicek 7-5 to reach the third-place match. He then claimed third place with a solid 7-1 win over South Range’s Jacob Starkey.
"We really proud of the way he wrestled," Buckwalter said. "He’s been able to put together full matches recently. Mentally, he feels like he belongs with those guys. He’s one of our hardest workers in the room. It’s good to see all the hard work pay off."
While third place was a big result for Reed, it was a disappointment for 152-pounder Daniel Patten.
Patten dominated his pool with four falls and a decision and then pinned Ravenna’s Shane Michael in 5:30 in the quarterfinal.
In the semifinal, however, Patten found himself on the wrong end of 9-4 loss to Louisville’s Dan Kennedy. Patten rebounded to beat Boardman’s Nate Thompson 12-4 in the third-place match, but was not happy with the result.
"Obviously, we’re disappointed. He was disappointed with the way he wrestled that match," Buckwalter said. "He knows that. The kid from Louisville was good. We’re not worried. It’s better to have a bad match now than in a month."
Sophomore 160-pounder Will Edmonson had his best tournamnet of the season, as he finished in fifth place. Edmonson lost to eventual champion Hunter Kupniewski of North Royalton 15-0 in the quarterfinal, but came back with a 5-4 win over South Range’s Logan Cormell and a 7-2 win over Marysville’s Colton Powers to take fifth.
"He’s been opening up his offense a little bit," Buckwalter said. "He’s always been tough to score on. The second half of the year, he’s been gaining some confidence. I think he’s finally comfortable in a his weight class.
After an excellent performance at the Dies, a tough draw forced sophomore 132-pounder Vince Randall to settle for seventh place. He took seventh with a 4-3 win over North Royalton’s Dom Mudry.
"The guys he lost to were quality guys," Buckwalters said. "I was pleased with the way he wrestled. I don’t think it was case where he wrestled poorly."
Stow also got a pair of eighth-place finishes from senior 138-pounder Josh Lundstrom and freshman 106-pounder Chase Mygrants.
Stow was set to travel to face rival Hudson Friday at 6 p.m.