Girard overwhelms Liberty; wins 2 titles

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Nate Mohn of Girard looks to get free of the grasp of Liberty’s Mouad Elouaddi in a 145-pound match on Wednesday night at Liberty.

LIBERTY — The spotlight is a tough place to be. But under the spotlight was exactly where the Girard and Liberty wrestling teams found themselves — both literally and figuratively — on Wednesday night with All-American Conference White Tier and Eastern Ohio Wrestling League Division III championships on the line.

The Indians scalped the Leopards, 52-18, to claim the two league titles.

“It’s big,” Girard coach Jim Cardiero said. “I like to win. The kids like to win. It’s something we’re always shooting for, but the main goal as a wrestler is to do well in the postseason. This is all still just practice for that. I want to win. Believe me, I’d be a very angry man and you might not be talking to me right now had we lost. This match could’ve been very, very close. Even in some of the matches we won with pins, they had taken us down and we had to turn things around.”

Girard (12-3, 6-0 in AAC, 5-0 EOWL) was down, 6-0, after Jordan McFadden scored a pin at 106 pounds. The Indians didn’t let the Leopards (19-7, 5-1 in AAC, 4-1 in EOWL) hold the advantage long. Alex Delgarbino (113), Matt Belcik (120) and Dakota McCloskey (126) all scored pins to put Girard up, 18-6.

“(Winning during that run) was important to me,” McCloskey said. “I felt I had to help set the pace for my team.”

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Shawn Thomas of Girard fights to get loose of the grasp of Liberty’s James Mortimer in a 132-pound bout on Wednesday night at Liberty.

Shawn Thomas then beat James Mortimer, 8-4, in a decision at 132 pounds to make it 21-6 in favor of the Indians.

“We were prepared for that (run of pins),” Liberty coach Hadi A. Hadi said. “They had a couple of state-ranked wrestlers in there. We knew they had some good wrestlers in those lower weight classes.”

Morgan Weinreber broke through for Liberty and is only a pair of wins away from 100 in his career after felling Michael Johnson at 138 pounds. Mouad Elouaddi followed with a pin of Nate Mohn at 145 pounds and it appeared the Leopards were back in the match at 21-18.

That was the beginning of the end, however, as Girard won the last seven bouts.

Jamil Bannister’s pin of James Zimbardi at 152 pounds got the ball rolling.

“Our 152-pounder hurt his knee in practice and we probably shouldn’t have wrestled him,” Hadi said. “We still sent him out there. Bannister wrestled him tough and kind of folded him up. At 160, our guy had won, 6-2, when they met at the league meet. Those swing matches can go either way and any time you have some swing matches, you try and finagle the lineup to get the best matchups for your team.”

Michael Belcik netted a reversal with 16 seconds left in the third period to topple Zion Matlock, 2-1, at 160. Zack Hazlett clinched the match with a 9-1 major decision over Kaleb Merrick-Neff at 170.

“We knew we had to beat Liberty,” Bannister said. “They didn’t announce my name and it upset me. That just got me ready. I knew I had to go hard after him for the team.”

Jacob Roviscanec (182) and Carlos Bach (195) each won by decision before Jack Delgarbino scored a pin at 220 and Conner Moore, who was supposed to receive a forfeit, pinned Simi Moananu, who stripped out of street clothes to take the mat, at heavyweight.

“I’ve known (the Liberty coaches) a long time,” Cardiero said. “They’re good coaches. I knew (Moananu) was going to wrestle, even though he pulled that Superman move and stripped out of his street clothes. You’ve got to stay on your toes. There’s a bit of gamesmanship involved in trying to set up the right matchups for the team.”