AVON LAKE, Ohio – Rocky River opened its season at the two-day Cobos Insurance Classic, a Friday-Saturday event hosted by Avon Lake High School.
The Wrestling Pirates placed 11th – four spots better than their showing in the same meet a year ago – on the strength of placement finishes by senior Tommy Koch, junior Matt Williams and freshman Ian Zender. And new River head coach Dan Juliani liked what he saw from that trio and others up and down a new-look Pirate roster.
“I’m very proud of all our wrestlers, those who competed and those who were in the stands,” said Juliani. “Our athletes were aggressive and relentless against our opponents. We had four guys who could not compete this weekend, but they were always matside, cheering on their teammates.”
Matt Williams carded a third-place finish at 106 pounds, going 6-1 over the weekend. Williams’ only defeat – a hard-fought 4-3 decision — came against Bay’s Stephen Tepper in the semifinals at 106. The junior grappler – a district qualifier a year ago as a sophomore – went 6-1 with five falls on the Avon Lake mats.
Tommy Koch placed fourth at 195. The 2018 district qualifier was involved in no less than four battles decided by three points or less. Koch also picked up a couple of pins in the season lid-lifter. He earned a 5-3 win over Bellevue’s Braxton Berry in the waning moments of the consolation semifinal bout on Saturday as part of his 4-3 weekend.
Ian Zender went 2-4 in his prep debut. The Pirate freshman earned a key quarterfinal win by fall over Amherst Steele’s Joxa Padilla, a wrestler who had bested him, 8-6, the day before.
Wrestling but not scoring over the weekend – in some cases one bout shy of placement – were senior captain Josh Bergin (2-3 with two pins at 126), junior Mahdi Salti (2-0 with two pins at 220) and sophomore sophomore Ryan Maloney (1-4 at 113).
Rocky River’s 11th-place finish came in a field of 15 teams. The Bellevue Redmen (271 points) won the meet, turning aside Avon (222.5), Bay (203) and a dozen other competitors over the season-opening action in Avon Lake.
“We are a small team, but we’re a very close-knit group, and that is important moving forward,” said Juliani. “Now, we’ll take what worked well for our wrestlers and work to sharpen those skills, and improve the areas we struggled in.”
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Photo credit: Angela Juliani Photography