AKRON - Kyle Leek is no stranger to big matches.
Leek faced a foe most people and the Brakeman Report consider the odds-on favorite for the 140-pound state champion - University School's Harrison Hightower - on Feb. 28.
Leek (37-4), who was projected third by the Brakeman Report, scored a 5-4 victory in the Division II district championship match at Firestone High School.
"Most people will look at it as I got lucky because I fought him off and he came back," Leek said. "If I could do it again, it would prove to everyone it wasn't a fluke."
The top four in each weight class advances to state, while the fifth-place finisher is an alternate.
Neither wrestler tried anything too drastic in the first period. There were a couple of failed shooting attempts and no takedowns.
"When you wrestle someone that good, they catch all your mistakes," Leek said. "You have to try not to make any mistakes our you'll end up on your back. That's why I was just holding on, trying not do anything real crazy."
Leek tallied the first two points on a reversal midway through the second period to take a 2-0 lead. Harrison quickly countered with a reversal of his own 20 seconds later.
Leek got on Harrison in the third, imposing his will.
"He didn't make the first move," Leek said.
Leek then tallied a three-point near fall with 1 minute, 15 seconds left to take a 5-2 lead.
Then, Harrison turned up the pressure and tried for a pin in the last 30 seconds - scoring a two-point near fall. But, Leek held on.
The two may face each other next weekend in Columbus.
"If we get in the bracket that far, we'll meet again," Leek said. "Once we get down there, he'll be the guy with the target on his back again. I'll go back to being Kyle Leek."
Leek only enjoyed the victory the night of Feb. 28
"I'll be excited today and wake up tomorrow training again."
n HOWLAND'S TIGER TRIO: Howland senior Kai Yancey (125), sophomore Bryce Tricker (160) and sophomore Cody Reesman (285) all made it to Saturday night's final matches.
Yancey faced Marlington's Bobby Campbell in last week's sectional at West Branch High School.
Yancey lost to Campbell in their last meeting by one. This time, things would be different as Yancey earned a victory in his fifth-place match - beating Campbell, 13-8.
"He buried his nose in his double-leg takedown when he (Campbell) started to come back," Earich said.
After a couple of takedowns in the final minute, Yancey secured the victory and possible
trip to state as an alternate. This is from a three-year junior varsity wrestler who moved up to varsity this season.
"That's not too shabby," Earich said.
Tricker got down early to Copley's Sam Wheeler. But like most Tiger wrestlers, they have the internal will to win.
Tricker rallied to make it 7-5, but Wheeler was too much as he won 11-7 in this fifth-place match.
But Tricker's fighting spirit signifies what the team does.
"They work hard," Earich said.
As for Reesman, he jumped out to a 6-0 lead on Akron North's Dezmen Bass in this third-place match. Reesman ended up pinning him in 1:16.
Reesman was a heavyweight wrestler at John F. Kennedy last year, but broke his hand - preventing him from wrestling.
He had some injury problems at the beginning of this season, but rallied to earn third place at districts.
"Coach Earich was telling me to go out and be patient," Reesman said. "Without him, I don't know where I'd be."
But Earich doesn't want to take the credit. He tells of long-time coach Barry Reinhardt's practice schedules and how he still follows those time-tested techniques.
"Why reinvent the wheel?" Earich said.