Canfield wrestling dual run ends in state semifinals

The longest run in the history of Mahoning Valley wrestling came to an end Sunday.

The Canfield High School wrestling team advanced to the semifinals of the OHSAA Dual Team State Tournament with a win over Claymont in the quarterfinal round Sunday at St. John’s Arena in Columbus. The eventual champions didn’t allow them to go any farther.

Top-seeded Wauseon knocked off the No. 3 Cardinals, 38-33, in the semifinal and eventually won the Division II state championship with a dominant victory over Lake Catholic, 48-12.

The run for Canfield was the longest of any team in the history of the Mahoning Valley. And while Cardinals coach Steve Pitts said he and the team were disappointed in the outcome, he expects to be in position for another championship in years to come.

“The place (was) buzzing, everybody’s talking and cheering,” said Pitts of the experience of wrestling for a state final berth. “It was exciting, and I’m glad our kids — because, to be honest, we have a young team — so I’m glad a lot of our kids got to experience this now. It’ll continue to be a goal of ours in the future.”

Canfield (19-1) started the day off with a convincing 46-22 victory over Claymont. The lopsided score was a bit surprising considering the fourth-seeded Mustangs possessed several highly ranked wrestlers and appeared to be a viable matchup for the Cardinals.

Canfield, however, secured upsets over wrestlers ranked higher than theirs at both 152 pounds and 160 pounds by David Reinhart and Ben Cutrer, respectively. That swung the momentum and tilted the score in the Cardinals’ favor.

The victory showed the depth of Canfield, and the win also provided a different feel for Pitts, a first-year head coach who was a longtime assistant with the Cardinals prior to taking over.

“It’s similar to our individual state runs we’ve had over the last few years,” said Pitts of Canfield’s back-to-back state runner-up finishes in the individual state tournament, “but it’s different in that everyone took part in it. It wasn’t five or six kids like we’ve had in the past. It was 14. … It’s more exciting from the standpoint that everyone gets to take part.”

The loss to Wauseon was a tough one to swallow.

Canfield won the first match before the Indians rattled off eight straight victories. A few losses in close matches kept the momentum going for the Indians. Their final win at 160 pounds gave Wauseon an insurmountable lead with just five weight classes to go and Canfield trailing, 38-4, so the Indians forfeited the last five matches.

“You go down there to wrestle, and when you don’t get that shot, for the back half of our lineup … You know, they’re competitors, and initially they took it hard,” Pitts said. “It’s not the way you want to lose, but I understand why Wauseon would do it. To be honest, I would probably do it too. It doesn’t look good for the fans or anything, but those guys can’t risk injuries and those sorts of things.

“Our kids are competitors, so they took it personally, but we’ll see those kids again at the (individual) state tournament, so we’ll get our crack at them with our big boys.”

The individual state tournament begins with the sectional round, which starts Feb. 24 for all divisions.

The champions in the other divisions were St. Paris Graham, beating St. Edward, 28-13, for the D-I title, and Genoa, which defeated Tuslaw, 40-20, in D-III.