By Bret Curren
With a championship effort from Thane Kaufman and five other top-six placers, the West Holmes High School varsity wrestling team earned a sixth-place team finish at the 20-team 46th Annual Wayne Invitational Tournament held inside the Wilber L. Berkey Fieldhouse Friday and Saturday, December 9 and 10 at Smithville High School.
Wrestling at 113-pounds, Kaufman, a returning state qualifier for the Knights, received a first round bye as the weight class’s top seed, then powered through his first two opponents with two fall wins in a total time of 1:22 to reach the championship match. Kaufman ended the day at 3-0 and dominated Dylan Nicolino of Ravenna Southeast by a 19-8 major decision win in the title match for his second straight W.I.T. crown. He won at 106-pounds in 2015.
“Thane wrestled really well this weekend,” Knights head coach Jeff Woods said of Kaufman’s championship effort. “He made a few mistakes late in his match which had us a bit worried, but he overcame them to beat a really, really good wrestler.”
Also aiding in the Knights strong finish were runner-up honors for freshman Cael Woods at 106-pounds, plus third-place finishes from senior Cody Woods at 152-pounds and Josh Baldridge, a sophomore wrestling at 182-pounds. A fifth-place podium finish went to sophomore Ryan O’Donnell at 160-pounds and Alex Walker, a senior competing at 195-pounds.
“We had six overall placers in a pretty tough field,” Woods said. “It was a good final round for us with six wins.”
Cael Woods, who went 2-1 on the day, pocketed a first-round bye and recorded two fall wins to reach the title match, where he fought tooth and nail with Ed Suber IV of Tallmadge. However, Woods was caught in a move by Suber early in the third period to drop the title bout by fall at 4:17.
With two fall wins to open his tournament, Cody Woods lost his semifinal match by a close 7-3 decision to Billy Rose of Ravenna Southeast, but rebounded in the consolation semifinals with a hard fought 4-1 decision victory to reach the bronze medal match. Woods (4-1) then worked over Josh McCullen of Canton McKinley before flattening McCullen at the 4:51 mark.
Baldridge (4-1) scored two decision wins to reach the semifinal bout where he lost by fall at 4:50 to Micah Clemson of Canton McKinley. But Baldridge stormed back through the wrestle-backs with a decisive 8-4 victory in the semifinals before handling C. J. Williams of Norton for his third-place finish.
O’Donnell went 2-0 to reach the semifinals, where he was stopped by Richie Eyre of Tallmadge by fall just 18 seconds into the match. He then dropped the consolation semifinal bout also by fall at 2:10. O’Donnell regrouped in the fifth-place match a gutty 5-2 decision win over Coen Haven of Creston Norwayne to end his tournament with a 3-2 mark.
After a first round bye Walker (2-2) dropped his quarterfinal match by decision then came back with a consolation quarterfinal fall win at 0:49 before losing the semifinal bout by major decision. Walker came through in the fifth-place match, downing Devon Manning of Tallmadge with a 10-6 decision win.
“This was a good, tough tournament,” Woods said. “The guy’s improved as the tournament went along. We had a great first day (11 of 14 wrestlers moved on to second day competition), then went the other way early today with only six making it to the medals round. But, those six fought and got wins when it was on the line.”
Coach Woods tabbed Kaufman as the “Knights Varsity Wrestling Hammer of the Week” award winner giving Kaufman his second H.O W. of the season.
Finishing the tournament with 2-2 marks were freshman Walker Uhl at 126-pounds, Skylar Cline at 170-pounds and Jake Mullet a senior wrestling at 220-pounds with a heavily wrapped hand due to a football injury.
Tyler Masters, wrestling at 120-pounds and Colton Bowling, competing at 132-pounds, went 1-2.
Jarek Snow (138-pounds), Cruz Alexander (145), and Logan Miller (285) went 0-2. However, all three were given exhibition matches Saturday with Alexander and Miller winning their bouts by fall.
The team championship was captured by host Smithville with 211 points. It was the Smithies’ first ever team championship in their tournament’s 46-year history. Ravenna Southeast took runner-up honors with 163 points, Canton McKinley was third with 156, followed by Norton with 148.5, Tallmadge with 146 and the Knights at 136.