Poland rolls past Liberty

LIBERTY – Liberty wrestling coach Hadi A. Hadi sounded a lot like former NFL coach Dennis Green following a rough night on the mat for the Leopards against the Poland Bulldogs.

“We knew what we were up against,” Hadi said. “They were who we thought they were.”

The Bulldogs were clearly the superior team Wednesday, recording nine pins and two majority decisions in posting a 68-9 win in an Eastern Ohio Wrestling League meet. The Bulldogs won by pin in each of the first six matches to take a 42-0 lead (Poland had one win by forfeit at 120).

It was an unrelenting effort by the Bulldogs, who are in their third season of high school competition. Poland’s youth program has been in existence for a longer period of time, feeding what is now a strong group of underclassmen into the varsity program.

The Leopards, conversely, graduated five key wrestlers off last season’s team that defeated the Bulldogs to claim the EOWL championship. Hadi didn’t use the loss of those six as the reason for the blowout, but it’s clearly a rebuilding year for Liberty.

“We lost five scorers,” Hadi said. “They were pinners. They (the Bulldogs) are a tough team. We needed to catch a couple of breaks, and we didn’t. They’re very solid. They have a great group of freshmen, and they have a good group of juniors and sophomores. They’re going to be good for the next two or three years. They’re going to be very hard to beat.”

Dante Ginnetti of the Bulldogs set the tone for the match when he pinned Jeremy Borton 1:44 into the first period at 106. The confidence of the Bulldogs seemed to grow with each succeeding pin.

The streak of pins ended at 152 when John Berndt scored an 11-1 majority decision over Brandon Jefferson. Anthony Audi followed with a 9-0 majority decision over Daryl McClendon at 160 in one of the more competitive matches.

“Their young guys are a little more polished,” Hadi said. “You want the momentum going your way. When you’re fighting momentum it’s hard. You need a break somewhere, and we didn’t get it until it was way too late.

“You just have to stay off your back. In this sport, if you don’t get pinned, your team has a shot to win every dual meet. If you get pinned, you’re just giving it away.”

The Leopards (6-4) didn’t get on the scoreboard until Patrick Sturgeon pinned Bill Brundage at 220. Cody BuCher of the Leopards ended the meet with a 6-0 decision over Jason Velasquez at 285.

Hadi’s goal is get the inexperienced Leopards back to where they were last season.

“I have a big sophomore class,” he said. “I have a decent freshman class. I have about a dozen eighth-graders coming up. We’re young, but that score should never happen.”

It does happen sometimes when a rebuilding project runs straight into a rising team with plenty of talented wrestlers.

“It was ugly,” Hadi said.

The Leopards are at Jackson-Milton next Wednesday.