HOWLAND - It's the ultimate goal of every wrestler, and it's their biggest fear as well.
A pin is the best and most effective way to win a wrestling match. It scores the most team points (six), it ends the match and the personal gratification gained from a pin is equal to hitting a home run or scoring a touchdown.
And in Thursday's Howland-Beaver Local wrestling match, pins were the difference in the meet.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Howland’s Mike Bell cranks on the head of Beaver Local’s Cody Martsolf as he attempts to go for the pin in the 285-pound weight class. Bell ended up pinning Martsolf. Howland won Thursday’s dual meet over Beaver Local.
Just looking at wins and losses, things were even. The Tigers won seven matches, and Beaver Local won seven. Yet Howland secured five pins in its victories, while the Beavers earned three. That was enough to give the Tigers a 40-30 win over its Eastern Ohio Wrestling League (Division I) and All-American Conference foe.
Howland coach Bill Beasom said captains Gabe Stark and Alex Cornicelli talked to the Tigers about pins before the match.
"They knew how important the pins would be," Beasom said. "Gabe and Cornicelli, they were talking in the (wrestling) room, and they told them, 'If you get the chance to put someone on their back, keep them on their back and pin 'em.' I told them that if they got on their back, we needed to fight off. All our kids fought really hard, even the ones who lost. There was no quitting on my team tonight."
Two of Howland's top wrestlers, Stark, 152 pounds, and David-Brian Whisler, 160, got things going right away for the Tigers (6-1). Stark pinned his opponent in 35 seconds to start the meet, and it took Whisler just 34 seconds to collect a fall (another word to describe a pin). But the Beavers (2-2) struck back when Dan Lattanzio earned an 8-3 decision over Cody Davis in a match between two of the better 170-pound wrestlers in the EOWL. Lattanzio hit a five-point move in the first period, and that ended up being the deciding factor.
The two teams went back and forth over the next few matches, with Howland earning a pin and a forfeit and Beaver Local capturing a decision at 220 pounds. That set the stage for one of the best matches of the night. The Tigers' Mike Bell and the Beavers' Cody Martsolf were neck and neck for most of the match, with Martsolf trailing by two with a minute remaining the third period. Bell, a sophomore, secured double underhooks and waited for just the right time to trip Martsolf, sending him to his back. He finished with another pin for the Tigers.
Bell said being in good shape was a key part to the victory.
"It helped out a lot toward the end," he said. "He was worn out somewhat, and I was able to hit my moves harder, so I was able to control the match more at the end."
The win was big for the Tigers because Beaver Local won five of the next seven matches. The Beavers' lightweights are the strength of the team, Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams said. Williams said he was pleased, for the most part, with how his team performed, but he also pointed to the pins as the determining factor. Because as great as a pin feels for the victor, it's equally demoralizing for the loser.
"I thought our kids who won wrestled very well - they did what we expected them to do," he said. "I just was disappointed in the way our guys who lost, the way they lost - getting pinned as many times as we did. For the Howland we faced, we wrestled hard, we've just got to do a better job not getting pinned."
The victory was especially important to Howland because it marked the only home dual meet of the season (the Howland Invitational wrestling tournament is Jan. 19). Beasom, a former Howland wrestler who graduated in 1991, said it means a lot to his team to wrestle well at home.
"We only get to wrestle in our home gymnasium a few times a year, so they take a lot of pride in that," he said. "They want to perform for the home crowd. So the kids were really pumped up. I even had to go up to some of them during the warm-up and say, 'Hey, calm down, relax a little bit. Take a deep breath and chill out.' They would have ran through a wall before we came out here. That's how pumped up they were."
Howland wrestles next in the Tool City Tournament in Meadville, Pa. on Jan. 4-5.