Kyle Wahl of the Worthington Kilbourne High School wrestling team displayed his mental toughness in the Lorain Nationwide Holiday Classic on Dec. 29.
Trailing 16-4 in the championship match at 145 pounds, the senior gained a reversal and pinned Lorain's Eli Garcia in 4 minutes, 51 seconds, stunning the home crowd.
"I've never been through anything like that before," Wahl said. "As it was happening and the ref started to hit the mat, I was thinking, 'Am I actually doing this?' Then the stands went crazy and my teammates were jumping around. It was just sweet to upset him at his place."
Garcia was a Division I state alternate last season.
"He was handling Kyle pretty good, but Kyle never stops," coach Brett Shaut said. "(Garcia) was unbeaten and he seemed a bit cocky. I think that's why the crowd went crazy. It was a great comeback against a good wrestler and everyone not from Lorain just exploded.
"Hopefully, the rest of our team learned something from Kyle in that one. He wrestled heart above his ability and never questioned himself even when he was being throttled. He saw a window, reversed the kid and stuck him. It shocked Lorain and was the surprise of the tournament. It was a huge win for Kyle and for our program."
Wahl was one of two Wolves to win titles in the event, as Kilbourne finished sixth (149.5 points) of 15 teams behind champion Lisbon Beaver Local (243.5). Junior Alex Meehan won the title at 220, defeating Norwalk St. Paul's Ben Jenkins in the final.
Austin Oberly (106) placed third and Josh Jenkins (182) was fourth.
"Alex just took care of business and it was a battle between two 220s with very little fat on their bodies," Shautt said. "Both look like mountains. Alex wrestled with confidence and just continued his improvement. He's so much better technically and is a lot stronger than last season."
Kilbourne won only three of 14 weight classes in a 53-12 loss to host Thomas Worthington on Jan. 3. Winners were Oberly, Meehan and Lucky Shaut (126).
The Wolves opened their OCC-Cardinal Division schedule with a 45-30 win over Westerville South on Dec. 20. Their next league duals will be Jan. 17 when they compete against host Hilliard Darby and Dublin Scioto.
Cardinals continue piling up victories
Despite having just one individual champion, Thomas captured the team title in the Marion Harding Classic on Dec. 27 and 28.
"I think that's a sign of just how solid we are throughout the lineup," coach Mark Gundling said. "We wrestled without Tyler Norris at 106 and he would have earned some points for us, too."
The Cardinals scored 183 points in the 32-team event to hold off runner-up Lakewood St. Edward (172.5). Their only champion was senior Brooks Gilmore, who won the title at heavyweight.
"It was pretty exciting," said Gilmore, who was 16-1 before competing in the Meatgrinder Invitational on Jan. 5 at Olentangy Orange. "It's only the second time I've won a meet title."
Also in the Marion Harding Classic, Andrew Shackleford (182) and Noah Messerall (132) were runners-up, Ben Hooff (138) placed third and Alex Good (145) and Phil McKinney (195) finished fourth.
"Brooks goes about 240 and he beat a kid who was 285," Gundling said. "He just wrestled real smart. He's really strong, but his technique has improved so much (that) he looks like a different wrestler out there. He controlled the tempo, was confident and he has a good attitude. It's a nice win for him since he didn't even place there the previous two years.
"(Shackleford) and Messerall both lost finals in overtime, so we were close to having three champions."
Thomas finished 15th in the Marion Harding Classic last season and finished 28th in the event two season ago when none of the Cardinals advanced to the second day of the tournament.
"It's real rewarding to be able to see the hard work pay off for these kids, coaches and this program," Gundling said. "We've all put in the time and effort and to look back and see where we were two years ago to right now is special. Now we've got to keep moving forward."
Thomas scored 241.5 points to win the 11-team Meatgrinder Invitational. Orange was second with 172, with Olentangy (151), Pickerington North (149.5) and Ready (117.5) rounding out the top five.
Winning titles were Messerall, Norris, Kasey Ackley (120) and James Ford (220). Placing second were McKinney, Shackleford, Martice Johnson (113) and Max King (160).
Entering the Meatgrinder Invitational, Shackleford was 15-2, Hooff and Messerall both were 14-2, Good was 13-3 and McKinney was 12-4.
The Cardinals opened their OCC-Central schedule with a 60-15 win over Westland 60-15 on Dec. 20. They have league duals Friday, Jan. 11, against Hilliard Davidson and Marysville at Upper Arlington.
"We're all pretty positive with the way the season is going right now," Gilmore said. "We've won two tournaments and finished second in another (Washington Court House Duals on Dec. 22). We've got a lot of energy and we've been working hard."
Marysville was ranked sixth and Davidson was ninth in the Division I state poll Dec. 19.
"That will be a tremendous challenge for us," Gundling said. "They're two of the top programs in the state and we get them the same night. They aren't wrestling one another, but we get them both. We will have to be on top of our game for that, without a doubt."