American journalist Mark Shields once wrote, “There is always strength in numbers. The more individuals or organizations that you can rally to your cause, the better.”
Garaway head wrestling coach Sedric Gerber will undoubtedly reiterate that sentiment 100 percent.
In a thin field for the Inter-Valley Conference wrestling meet held in Sugarcreek Saturday, February 18, the Pirates were the only team to put wrestlers in every single one of the 14 weight classes, and on the strength of numbers and a trio of individual titles, the Pirates battled their way to a league championship.
Garaway racked up 455 points, and built a sizable enough lead that it was able to fend off hard-charging Ridgewood, which captured five titles in the finals. The Generals posted 380 points, including a championship from Most Valuable Wrestler Colton Bethel. Sandy Valley was a distant third with 238 points, followed by Malvern with 124, Newcomerstown with 114 and Tuscarawas Central Catholic with 90.
“When we took over this program 12 years ago, we ended the season with seven wrestlers, so Coach (Alan) Patterson and I knew that to be competitive year in and year out, we needed to boost our numbers,” said Gerber. “We have been very fortunate over the past four or five years to have great numbers, so we have been able to field complete teams and that makes us very competitive. The numbers became a big factor for us today.”
At 106-pounds, Newcomerstown’s Gavin Weaver took top honors, and Garaway’s Devan Petitte placed fourth. Bethel grappled his way to the title at 113-pounds, besting Sandy Valley’s Cooper Hemming, with Kyle Schlabach of Garaway placing third.
Ben Koshmider earned an emotional championship for the Pirates at 120-pounds. His bout with Malvern’s Josh Gastin went into overtime tied at 5-5, where Koshmider quickly earned a takedown and leaped to his feat in a fist-pumping celebration.
How pumped is Ben Koshmider after getting an IVC title match win in OT! pic.twitter.com/lU4zlDB24w
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) February 18, 2017
At 132-pounds, Ridgewood’s Tyler Caudy fended off Garaway’s Lucas Maurer in the finals, with TCC’s John Clore in third, while Garaway’s Dylan Hershberger grappled his way to first at by downing TCC’s Robby Danahoe in the finals with a win by fall over Ridgewood’s Cody West.
Tanner Petitte then made it two wins in a row with a convincing 13-0 major decision win at 145-pounds over Anthony Sanders of Newcomerstown.
At 152-pounds, Hunter Stoffer of Sandy Valley took first with an 8-2 decision win over Ridgewood’s Kevin Bethel in the finals, while Garaway’s Christian Wright recorded a pin win in the third-place bout over Andrew Norton of Malvern.
Garaway’s Tanner Petitte in total control to capture IVC crown pic.twitter.com/CqcI8aiW30
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) February 18, 2017
Jevon Merril of Ridgewood bested Garaway’s Jerod Hunt in the 160-pound finals in a 10-3 win, while Kasey Bethel of Ridgewood and Grant Hershberger of Garaway waged one whale of a battle in the 170-pound final. The two traded leads, and Bethel took a 5-3 lead and was able to fend off the hard-charging Hershberger for the gold.
It was another Generals versus Pirates final at 182-pounds, with Ridgewood again coming out on top in a tight battle. This time it was Jason Stubbs earning a 4-2 win over Gunnar Angel in a fight that could have gone either way.
At 195-pounds, Ridgewood won its third straight championship over Garaway when Nathaniel Thompson pinned Weston Woods at 2:36.
The Generals made it four straight over the Pirates at 220-pounds, where James Kedigh made quick work of Hunter Hostetler in just an 11 second final.
Finally at 285-pounds, Sandy Valley’s Francesco Borselino pinned Garaway’s Cody Hostetler to take the title for the bigs.
While Ridgewood won seven championships to Garaway’s three, it was the Pirates’ depth, with 10 wrestlers reaching the finals, that paved the way for its second title in three years and fifth in school history.
For Gerber, each of the five titles is special, since he was involved in all five either as a wrestler or a coach.
“I don’t think it’s me,” Gerber said with a laugh. “The kids did an amazing job today. Probably one of the biggest factors is the way these kids push each other every day during practice. It’s about guys willing to push and work.”
As Gerber sat coaching through each of the finals, he simply couldn’t keep track of how many wrestlers the Pirates placed in the finals, and thus, the score eluded him. With a focus on each match in progress, the end-game was irrelevant until it was all over.
Only then could he celebrate with his team.
“To be honest, I couldn’t tell you how many kids we had win and how many we had wrestling in the finals,” Gerber said with a chuckle. “I knew we had a lot in the finals, but more importantly, we wrestled really well as a team today. Our goal we set two weeks ago was to continue to climb that mountain and get better and to work to peak at the end of the season. We wrestled better today than we had two weeks ago. It was an absolutely crazy day. And we keep telling the guys, it isn’t about winning an IVC title, and it isn’t about winning an individual title, it is about how much you progress to improve as individuals and as a team.”
Gerber noted that the momentum of a league title heading into the sectional tournament is something his team can build on, since that kind of confidence goes a long way in building a belief in a winning attitude.
“So much of wrestling is a mental thing, and when you’re riding that wave on a high, it helps,” Gerber said. “The guys who struggled a bit today, our team does a really good job of rallying around those guys who had a couple of tough matches.”