Lakers want to go further in duals

A loss at this point of the season went a long way in helping the Pymatuning Valley wrestling team last year. Coach Dave Miller is hoping a few wins can take the Lakers even further this time.

PV competes in the Region 20 semifinal of the Division III Dual Team State Tournament at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Rootstown, squaring off against Eastern Ohio Wrestling League-foe Ashtabula Edgewood for a chance to reach the regional final for the first time in school history.

The winner faces the victor of Tuslaw and Rootstown in the regional final, and the champ travels to St. John’s Arena in Columbus for the state quarterfinals on Feb. 11.

PV (8-1) lost to Rootstown in the semifinal round of last year’s tournament, but a loss to the Rovers, one of the state’s top teams on an annual basis, actually gave the Lakers confidence.

“After wrestling Rootstown last year, while we lost, our kids felt like they did well,” Miller said. “They didn’t get blown out of the gym. They competed in every match. They pushed their kids. So, if we can kind of pull it together again this year — where we can compete in every match, be in it and then go into the league tournament with that (confidence) — it’ll bode well for us.”

It’s going to be a long week for the Lakers one way or another.

They could potentially wrestle two quality opponents Wednesday, and then they have the two-day EOWL Tournament on Friday and Saturday, a 25-team tourney that is as difficult as any event on PV’s schedule.

First thing’s first for the Lakers, and that’s Edgewood, a formidable team that boasts a deep lineup from top to bottom.

“They kind of catch people off guard because they don’t have big names like some teams do,” said Miller, whose Lakers have at least three state-ranked wrestlers. “If you say PV, you automatically think about (returning state champion) Gaige (Willis) or some of the other kids we have. When you talk about Edgewood, you don’t necessarily think about one kid right off the bat, but their kids are all tough. They’re a good team.”

Miller is doing his best to make sure the Lakers are ready.

He said he knows Edgewood’s coaches and has seen their team wrestle before, but instead of worrying about individual wrestlers or what weight class a kid might be in, Miller looks at the way the Warriors wrestle.

“I try to look more at, ‘Is there a certain style their kids wrestle or certain moves their kids hit, in general as a team?,” Miller said. “I kind of have a general idea of what they do in certain situations. We just have make sure our kids don’t make a mistake and get caught in those situations.

“We’ll work on that some (today),” he added. “I try to make our kids focus more on, ‘Control the match, do what you do, but be aware of this (move).’ As long as we’re controlling the match, we don’t have to worry about that stuff.”

If PV is able to get past the Warriors, an even tougher task awaits them.

Tuslaw and Rootstown are perennial state powers, and the fact that they’re facing each other in the other semifinal is a good thing for the Lakers. Tuslaw, the Division III dual team state runner-up last year (losing by just four points in the final), and Rootstown, which has won two regional titles in the past three years, are likely to be in a heated battle. At least, that’s what Miller hopes.

“The one thing that we kind of look at when we look ahead is those two teams are going to beat each other up,” Miller said. “It’s just a matter of how unscathed can we come out of our match if we get past Edgewood to be able to have a shot.”

Win or lose, Miller is hoping for some momentum going into the league tournament. Last year, a strong showing resulted in PV placing seventh overall at the league tournament, the highest finish for any EOWL Division IV team.

“I gotta hope that we can pull off the same sort of thing again this year,” he said, “where we come out of there fairly unscathed but confident.”