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HIGH SCHOOL REVIEW FOR DECEMBER 11: Either way, St. Edward made a statement

By Rob Sherrill, W.I.N. High School Editor

We may not have been entirely accurate in our preview assessment of yet another outstanding Ironman Invitational, but we sure were prophetic.

We felt that it would be difficult to top Blairstown (N.J.) Blair Academy's likely six finalists and four champions. Not only did we nail the six finalists and the four champions, but the four Bucs we thought would win titles - Kellen Russell (130), Max Shanaman (135), Mario Mason (140) and Eric Medina (152) - did so, and easily.

Enter Lakewood St. Edward, which accomplished that task.
This Saturday, the Eagles will be hosting a new event, the Super 8 Duals. At Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit High last weekend, St. Edward's Super 8 carried the Eagles to their first title in years.

St. Edward got a title from Chris Honeycutt (189) - probably not at the top of anybody's list pre-tournament as the pick for the team's lone champion - and runner-up finishes from Sean Nemec (160) and Ben Kuhar (285).

Oh, and tack on third-place finishes: five of them from Jamie Clark (103), Collin Palmer (125), Neil Birt (130), Dan Gonsor (145) and Brian Roddy (171). Palmer, Gonsor … and Roddy rallied from quarterfinal losses for their final placings. In all, those eight racked up a total of 215.5 points to carry St. Edward to a 260-237 victory over Blair.

The Bucs, meanwhile, got 168.5 points from their finalists, but little help elsewhere. In all, St. Edward placed 10 wrestlers in the top eight, Blair Academy eight. St. Paris Graham High, third with 174 points, matched Blair with eight place-winners.

I've written often in W.I.N. that tournaments such as the Ironman are better measures of individual rankings than team rankings. Not this time. Whereas the projected St. Edward-Blair showdown Jan. 27 in Lakewood previously looked like a one-match meet, it now appears the Eagles have stretched their advantage to seven to 10 points.
Lombard (Ill.) Montini High (141) finished fourth and was the only team besides Blair to crown more than one champion: Mike Benefiel (171) and Garrett Goebel (285). Carol Stream (Ill.) Glenbard North High and Camden Wyoming (Del.) Caesar Rodney High each scored 129 points to tie for fifth place.

Let's take a quick look at our pre-tournament Top 10 and see how they turned out:

1. Blair Academy, 235 (actual: 237, 2nd)
2. St. Edward, 221 (actual: 260, 1st)
3. St. Paris Graham, 169.5 (actual: 174, 3rd)
4. Massillon Perry, 144 (actual: 86, 12th)
5. Christiansburg (Va.), 143.5 (actual: 123, 7th)
6. Montini, 139 (actual: 141, 4th)
7. Caesar Rodney, 133 (actual: 129, 5th)
8. Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller, 128 (actual: 119, 9th)
9. Pennsburg (Pa.) Upper Perkiomen, 119 (actual: 112, 10th)
10. Greenville (Pa.) H.A. Reynolds, 108 (actual: 95, 11th)

Some quick hits by weight class:

103: David Taylor of St. Paris Graham High and freshman Logan Stieber of Monroeville High reached the finals as expected, with Taylor's experience winning out in a 7-3 decision. Stieber outlasted Clark, 6-5, in the semifinals. We still think that two-plus months of growth and the fact he competes in small-school Division 3 will find Stieber up at 112 by the time the state tournament series rolls around. But this weekend, it was time to enjoy this weight class's shining lights.

112: Talk about prophetic … the plot twists and turns at this weight class we cited in our preview began in the second round, when St. Edward freshman Nick Sulzer upset second-seeded Steve Mitcheff of Elyria High, 6-5. None of the top four seeds reached the semifinals and the match-up we cited, Tony Ramos of Glenbard North and freshman Chris Villalonga of Blair Academy, indeed did take place in the finals, Ramos winning 3-2. Mitcheff and top-seeded Ben Sergent of Troy Christian High did not place.

119: After what amounted to a lost season last year, 2005 state champion Chris Sheetz of Upper Perkiomen may be all the way back after his stunning upset of defending champion Nikko Triggas of Moraga (Calif.) Campolindo High. Almost as big a story was Glenbard North sophomore Jimmy Chase (you may know his older sister, Caitlyn, from the girls wrestling circuit). Ranked only fifth at his weight in Illinois by The Illinois Best Weekly, Chase is sure to move up after beating top-ranked Carson Beebe of Montini 5-1 in the quarterfinals, then recording consolation victories over Luis Burgos of Caesar Rodney and Travis Coffey of Boone (N.C.) Watauga High - who have three state titles between them - en route to a third-place finish.

125: Neither Pennsylvania state champion at this weight, AAA champion Colin Johnston of Canonsburg Canon-McMillan High or AA king Troy Dolan of Derry High, managed to win. Johnston's run did include a 5-1 quarterfinal victory over Palmer before being pinned by Cal Poly recruit Boris Novachkov of Fremont (Calif.) High in the final. Novachkov was the lower-weight OW. Dolan advanced to the quarterfinals but lost two straight, including an elimination pin by Reynolds' Robbie Miller.

130: Russell did indeed pile up the bonus points with three pins and two major decisions, allowing just one point along the way. But Walsh Jesuit junior Chase Skonieczny put himself back on the radar screen with back-to-back victories over Upper Perkiomen's Shane Smith and Birt en route to the finals.

135: Shanaman and Graham's Ben Jordan met in the finals as expected. But our dark horse, Caesar Rodney's Chris Diaz, also was in it with a solid third-place finish. Double Cadet National place-winner Andrew Gasber of St. Edward had two pins before running into Shanaman and finished sixth.

140:The Green and Gold were celebrating after Harris' stunning tie-breaker reversal and semifinal pin over Pennsylvania recruit Zack Kemmerer of Upper Perkiomen; the only upset in a weight class that went true to form.

145: While Meade was gliding to the title, Gonsor was doing what several other Eagles were doing behind the scenes - winning four straight to take third, including two pins and a major decision.

152: Medina pinned his first four opponents en route to a repeat title over Massillon Perry's Thomas Straughn.

160: Junior Jason Welch of Las Lomas (Calif.) High's 3-0 victory over Nemec was a mild upset. But Welch, third in the event last year, obviously isn't fazed by the big stage. He allowed only seven points in the tournament - and just two over his final three matches.

171: Benefiel isn't the biggest of 171s, but his polish carried him to his second Ironman title. He managed to stay away from Pennsylvania horses Lawrence Beckman of Reynolds in an 8-7 semifinal win and Rob Waltko of Wexford North Allegheny High in a 10-7 final triumph. Division 2 champion Cody Magrum of Oak Harbor High pounded Roddy 12-5 in the quarterfinals, but was injured in his semifinal match against Waltko and defaulted to sixth. As for Roddy, well…you know the story.

189: Third in the state last year, Honeycutt had back-to-back solid victories over two state champions: Nick Purdue of Genoa Area High, 7-2 in the quarterfinals, and 9-1 over defending Ironman champion John Weakley of Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy after an early Weakley throw attempt failed. An 8-1 final victory over Broomfield (Colo.) High's David Marone earned Honeycutt the upper-weight OW.

215: Their Junior National finals bout was decided by a single point and this final between Christiansburg's Cody Gardner and Blair Academy's Jared Platt was as well with Gardner prevailing, 6-5.

Heavyweight: Never higher than fourth in the Illinois state tournament, Montini junior Garrett Goebel was impressive with three pins, the last over Frank Becker of Archbishop Moeller in the semifinals, and shut out Kuhar 7-0 in the final.

Brandon outscores Easton in Sunshine Invitational

There was some other wrestling going on.

In the 11-team NHSCA Sunshine Invitational at Brandon (Fla.) High, the hosts outscored Easton High 442.5-382.5 as the team race came down to the two nationally-ranked powers.

Brandon won four of six head-to-head matches in the finals, but one hoped-for match - Brandon's Eric Grajales against Easton's Jordan Oliver - didn't take place. Grajales won the 112-pound title by pinning Easton Kegan Handlovic, while Oliver won the 119-pound crown by beating Brandon's Kyle Keller, 12-2.

Easton's JuJu Drummond (130) and Colin Dailey (152) both beat nationally-ranked opponents in the finals. Drummond handled Vestavia Hills (Ala.) High's Keaton Thompson, 7-5, and Dailey edged Jupiter Christian School's George Bancroft, 3-2.

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