‘It’s just pure grit’

Fitch wrestlers top Canfield again

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Fitch’s Willie Beverly, right, tries to secure a last-second takedown against Canfield’s Ben Cutrer. Beverly won, 3-1, helping Fitch secure a 30-28 victory.

AUSTINTOWN — The Austintown Fitch Falcons swear there’s no magic potion in their locker room or kryptonite stashed away in their wrestling shoes.

In the words of one of their saviors from Wednesday’s clash with Canfield, “it’s just pure grit.”

Fitch beat the Cardinals for the third straight year, squeaking out a 30-28 victory to create three co-champions in Division I of the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League.

“Honestly, it’s just pure grit,” said Falcons senior Willie Beverly of how they’ve consistently beat Canfield, the Division II state runner-up in the individual state tournament each of the last two seasons. “Canfield week, we know it’s the toughest week of the season. Canfield’s our rival, along with Boardman, and we come to practice and we get things done. That’s one week that we take seriously. We don’t take anything lightly. It’s for bragging rights, and Canfield’s the team to beat. That’s kind of our benchmark. If we beat Canfield, it’s a pretty good season for us.”

The last three have been impressive.

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Canfield’s Eric El-Hayek runs an arm-bar on Austintown Fitch’s Christian Davis during their 138-pound bout Wednesday. El-Hayek won, 5-3, but Fitch won the match, 30-28.

Fitch, now 14-2 and 5-1 in the EOWL, is 42-4 over the last three seasons and has earned EOWL dual meet titles each year. With the Cardinals (19-2) and Beaver Local also 5-1 in the league (Beaver Local beat Fitch, and Canfield beat the Beavers), all three are now co-champs.

The Falcons made sure of it.

Fitch won two matches in the final seconds, and that was the difference in the final score.

“The guys were just excited for the match. They wanted to come out and prove themselves,” said Falcons coach John Burd, whose team took second to Canfield in the EOWL Tournament and also placed second in the Top Gun and Josh Hephner tournaments. “We’ve finished second in the last couple tournaments. We weren’t happy with that. We knew we had a lot more to offer. We had a lot of guys step up tonight. We came out for a good match and had a lot of fun.”

Beverly was a big reason why.

The 170-pounder was in a 1-1 battle with Ben Cutrer of Canfield, and he was able to score after Cutrer attempted a takedown in the final 10 seconds of the third period. Beverly spun behind Cutrer, who moved up a weight class with Anthony D’Alesio out of the lineup, and elevated him into the air before returning him to the mat for a 3-1 win.

“It’s my senior year, last match at home, I’m trying to do my best and have a good memory,” Beverly said. “He shot on me, and then I just went around back. He had a leg, but I kind of got out of it. I don’t know how. It just happened. It’s just grit.”

The other last-second victory came at 132 pounds, where Zach Richards earned a similar wild takedown at the end of the third period of a tied match. The Cardinals’ McCoy Watkins shot in on a double-leg takedown and nearly earned the winning points, but Richards found a way to roll him through and slip behind to pick up the 5-4 victory.

“You’ve got win the close ones,” Burd said, “and today we came away with the close wins.”

The Cardinals were coming off a busy week.

This past Sunday they battled in the OHSAA Dual Team State Tournament, beating Claymont before falling to Wauseon in the Division II state semifinal. D’Alesio, one of the state’s top-ranked 170-pound wrestlers, was kept out of the Fitch match as a precaution because the individual state tournament begins next weekend. The Cardinals also didn’t have 120-pound starter, Ron Angelilli.

On the other side, Fitch was without 113-pound starter Marc Judy and 220-pound Brock Kimble.

Canfield coach Steve Pitts wasn’t making any excuses.

“The bottom line is we needed to work harder in the matches we were wrestling,” Pitts said. “We lost two or three really close matches where we kind of gave up and just let the the other guy go behind, and you can’t do that. … We’ve got to work on our conditioning in certain situations (and) being able to finish our takedowns. We just didn’t do that. We had our opportunities, we didn’t execute.”

The victory could provide some momentum for Fitch as it prepares for the Division I sectional tournament Feb. 24 at Massillon Perry.

If nothing else, the Falcons earned bragging rights, and an impressive group of seniors finished their dual meet careers in style.

“It’s a very big win, especially for our seniors,” Beverly said. “Last match, going out at home, we couldn’t ask for anything more than to go out with a bang. They had their slogan (at Canfield), ‘Row the boat.’ We wanted to sink the boat, and we accomplished that.”