Canfield wins district; Tiger tandem advances

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Brandon Matlock, top, of Howland wrestles against Canfield's Tyler Stein Saturday in the 220-pound championship match at the Division II district tournament at Alliance.

ALLIANCE — After all was said and done, with Canfield claiming its second consecutive district title and advancing a school-record seven kids to the state tournament, the Cardinals were excited … about a parking pass?

Wait, what?

“We’ve had six (state qualifiers) the last two years, and I think you get a second parking pass once you get to seven,” laughed Canfield coach Steve Pitts, referring to parking at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, the site of the state tournament. “We joked the last few years about, ‘When are we going to get another parking pass?’ So, we’re excited about that.”

Winning one of the toughest district tournaments in the state was pretty cool, too.

Canfield scored 169.5 team points to edge CVCA’s 163.5 at the Division II Alliance District tournament. The Cardinals claimed the first district title in school history last year. This year, they were even better.

Canfield crowned four individual district champions — with Anthony D’Alesio, David Crawford and younger brother Nick Crawford along with Tyler Stein going 4-0 in the finals. The Cardinals are going to need that extra pass because they’re probably going to have to take an extra van to fit all seven of their state qualifiers during the trip to Columbus. The state tournament begins at 3 p.m. Thursday and continues Friday and Saturday.

“What’s nice about it is that it kind of vindicates a lot what we’ve been doing and what we’ve been saying to the kids,” Pitts said of the title. “This, in my opinion, is the toughest district in the state. To win it means a lot for our kids. And to do it the way we did, with seven kids qualifying, it feels good. This one was fun.”

Canfield dominated the upperweights.

D’Alesio won at 170 pounds, David Crawford won at 182, Nick Crawford was first at 195 and Stein won at 220. Senior Daniel Kapalko was third at 285 pounds, while Ethan Fletcher, a 106-pound freshman, and David Reinhart, a 152-pound junior, each placed fourth. The top four in each weight class advanced to the state tournament.

TIGER TANDEM MOVING ON: Howland’s upperweight duo of Brandon Matlock and Chris Julian set a goal last year while sitting inside the Schottenstein Center.

It was to have both of them competing in the state tournament as seniors. They reached that goal Saturday at the district tournament.

Matlock, who placed fourth at the state tournament last year, took second at 220 pounds, and Julian qualified for state for the first time, taking fourth at 285.

“They set this goal last year,” Howland coach Matt Zakrajsek said. “We brought Chris with us to the state tournament just to kind of see it, and Brandon tells him, ‘You’re going to be here next year. You’re going to be on the podium.’ So they set that goal last year, and they’ve almost fulfilled it.”

Advancing didn’t come easy.

Julian lost his semifinal match in overtime, which would have earned him an automatic bid to state. The loss meant he had to win his next bout to advance. He said it was difficult to move on after such a tough loss, but he regrouped and pinned Riley Brendle of Louisville.

“I knew a lot was on the line, and if I lost I was done, so I had to give it my all,” Julian said. “At first I was upset (after the semifinal loss), and then I was like, ‘I’ve always wanted this, I can’t let one match ruin my whole season.’ “

Matlock won his first three matches, but each one was close. He won, 1-0, 3-0 and 4-3 in the semifinal to set up another matchup with Stein. It was the fourth time they’ve met this season, with Stein winning each one, but this was the closest. Stein won, 3-1, in overtime.

“I felt like I was little more open this time and not as scared to risk stuff and try moves,” Matlock said. “I closed the gap a little bit.”

He’s looking forward to having his longtime friend and drill partner with him as he attempts to improve on his fourth-place finish from 2017.

“It’ll be a lot nicer to have someone down on the floor with me,” Matlock said. “My nerves will be a little more calm this year. Last year, I was pretty excited just to be there. This year, I’ve got a goal to win.”