Girard storms back to finish second at Howland Invitational

HOWLAND – Steamed wasn’t good enough to describe the temperament of Girard coach Jim Cardiero after the semifinal round of the Howland Invitational. It was more like infuriated or irate, he said.

Three different Indians were winning their matches and just mere minutes away from advancing to the finals when a few mistakes cost them the bouts. The Indians plummeted from second place in the team standings to seventh in one round. With that stewing in his mind, Cardiero kept his composure because he knew Girard was still in the running to finish high as a team, so he did what he could to keep his cool as he sent a message to his team.

“I talked to the kids and I said we just have to have a good consolation semifinal round and come out in the finals and win them all,” Cardiero said.

Maybe he should have gotten upset earlier in the day.

Led by a resounding win from senior 138-pounder Garrett Bass, the Indians stormed back to win seven of their eight finals matches and finished second with 133 points, edging Franklin’s 130.50. It was a bit of relief for Cardiero and the Indians, who had to fight through the consolation semifinals to have a chance at finishing second.

“I don’t know if (the talk) did it,” Cardiero said. “I think they’re kids that want to win, and they like to be on the top of the podium, so in their own minds, they wanted to win. But I wanted to let them know how I felt, too.”

His mindset started to improve after Bass’ performance in the championship match. Bass was losing, 2-0, to Chris Tatters of Ashtabula Lakeside entering the second period when he quickly locked up his go-to move, the crossface cradle. His grip was tight, his fundamentals were sound and a few seconds later his feet were in the air as he leaped up in excitement after pinning one of the better wrestlers at the tournament.

Bass said he’s been working on the cradle since he was a freshman, and he’s figured out a way to pin opponents in a hold that usually only results in back points.

“I make sure I’m above the elbow on the triceps (with my grip), and I make sure my knees are inside and hips are away,” Bass said. “It’s just instinct at this point.”

The Indians’ Ed Sigurani earned a first-place finish just one weight class earlier, and the Indians seemed to feed off the victories. Matt Deal (145), Nick Cardiero (152) and James Cupan (160) all took third directly after Bass’ win. Zane Chase (120) and Tim Mazzella (220) also came in third for Girard, which has been on a roll since several wrestlers returned from injury earlier this month.

“This just means we’re getting closer, getting better,” Bass said. “We’ve still got work to do, but this shows that the work is paying off.”