Seniors lead Canfield to EOWL title

CANFIELD – The Canfield High School wrestling team should be relaxing with nachos, wings and pizza today as the Cardinals get ready to watch the Super Bowl, but that’s not the case.

Their coach, Dean Conley, fully intended on giving them a day off after a grueling Eastern Ohio Wrestling League Tournament on Friday and Saturday. His team had other ideas.

“They want to practice (today),” Conley said. “We usually just stretch and work out the kinks on Sunday, but I told them to take the day off. We’ve got two hard weeks. They said, ‘Come on. Let’s go an hour before the Super Bowl.’ I guess this is what happens when things work out.”

Everything certainly worked out on Saturday at the EOWL Tournament at Canfield High School. The Cardinals won the overall team championship in convincing fashion, scoring 249.5 points. West Branch, which won it last year, was second with 198, and Austintown Fitch finished third with 165. Conley wasn’t certain, but he believed the last time Canfield won the league tournament was 1990.

The Cardinals have been close, placing second in two of the last three years, including last season. The runner-up trophy was nice, but the thought of coming up short of a team title again didn’t sit well with Canfield’s senior class.

“They were tired of being second,” Conley said of the seniors. “They literally got the guys together after last year and said, ‘We’re never going to be second again. We want to win this thing.’ I’m happy for them. I’m proud of them, and they’re the reason we won this thing.”

The Cardinals claimed the EOWL dual meet title a few weeks ago, finishing undefeated against league teams. They kept the momentum rolling at the tournament as 11 wrestlers placed, including three champions – the most of any team.

“We knew from the beginning that this was our tournament,” said Canfield’s Stan Socha, a senior who placed first at 182 pounds. “It was an incredible night for our team. It was an experience like nothing else.”

Joining Socha at the top of the podium were Korey Frost at 120 pounds and Georgio Poullas at 126, and both dominated their weight classes. Frost, one of six seniors for Canfield, pinned his first three opponents in the first period and beat Travis Pidgeon of West Branch, 12-1, in the finals. Poullas, a freshman phenom, also pinned his first three opponents and defeated Jimmy Lerakis of Howland by technical fall, 23-8, in the championship.

Conley said he was worried, at first, about how the team chemistry would be if freshmen and sophomores enjoyed more success than some of the upperclassmen, but the situation never became a problem. In fact, the seniors played an integral role in further developing the young talent of the Cardinals.

“Leaders in high school sometimes aren’t always leaders,” Conley said. “They’re the popular kids or the good kids. I don’t know how this group did it, but they did.

“They’re just a special group of seniors, and these (younger) kids trust them.”

Five of the six seniors who wrestled placed, and the sixth was a match away from placing. Stephen Daprile took third at 132 pounds, and Shawn Williams (145) and Curtis Burns (285) finished as runners-up.

“It was unbelievable” Burns said. “I thought we were going to win it last year, but it just didn’t work out. I knew, this year, for sure that if we wrestled the way we had been all year, we would get it. Succeeding and getting that goal is just an amazing feeling.”

GIRARD’S WITH THE GIANTS: Girard placed fourth overall and won the Division III team title by 40 points. The Indians earned 136, and Jackson-Milton recorded 94 (ninth overall and second in Division III).

Girard coach Jim Cardiero he was impressed with the fact the Indians finished in front of several Division I and II?teams.

“That was exciting,” said Cardiero of winning Division III, “but I was more happy with our placement overall – being in the top four of a big tournament like that with all those big schools. When we left Friday (after the first day of the tournament), I was hoping to place in the top five. I thought that would be a good accomplishment … The kids wrestled well. A lot of guys stepped up.”

Girard had seven placers and three finalists (Dakota McCloskey, Ed Sigurani and Nick Cardiero – Jim’s nephew).

West Branch won the Division II title, and Grand Valley won Division IV with 79 points.