Canfield sends 3 to wrestling state finals

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Canfield junior wrestler Nick Crawford hugs his father, Canfield assistant coach Dave Crawford, after defeating Matthew Cover of Bay High School in a Division II 195-pound semifinal Friday at the state wrestling tournament in Columbus. Crawford won in the waning seconds of the final overtime, 4-3.

COLUMBUS — It seemed like nothing could go right for the Canfield wrestling team during the first part of Friday’s state wrestling tournament.

Then, nothing could go wrong.

The Cardinals’ three-headed monster of Anthony D’Alesio, Nick Crawford and Tyler Stein made sure of it. All three will wrestle for a state championship tonight at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. The finals begin at 5:30 p.m.

Canfield brought six wrestlers to the state tournament, and all six were still alive in the tournament after the first day. Midway through the second day, half of them were eliminated.

“We had a rough morning,” Canfield coach Steve Pitts said. “Tough matchups for those guys. You feel bad for them, but they wrestled hard. This is a tough tournament. It’s a tough state. You’re going to come across good kids.”

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Canfield’s Tyler Stein, top, wrestles against Alex Maloney of Norwalk in a Division II 220-pound semifinal match at the state wrestling tournament Friday in Columbus. Stein won, 6-3.

Luckily for the Cardinals, they have a few great ones.

The three wrestled in succession on the same mat during the semifinal round, starting with D’Alesio, the top-ranked 182-pound wrestler in Division II. His match lasted just 26 seconds. He attacked with a powerful double-leg takedown, and when he and Keegan VanMeter, his opponent, landed out of bounds, VanMeter injured his leg and couldn’t continue.

That sent D’Alesio, a junior who’s 30-3, to the finals, where he faces Austin Hinzman of Coventry. D’Alesio pinned him in last week’s district tournament.

“I’m going to the state finals, so it’s awesome, but it kind of (stinks) that I didn’t get to wrestle the whole thing,” D’Alesio said. “It is what it is. I’m fresh, ready to go, excited — it’s a rematch with this kid.”

Crawford’s 195-pound match was the complete opposite, lasting nearly 20 minutes. Crawford, 41-2 and ranked No. 2 in the state, faced No. 1 Matthew Cover of Bay High School. The two were tied at 1 after three periods, sending the match into overtime. It remained tied after the first, second and third extra periods. That means the match goes to an ultimate tiebreaker.

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Canfield’s Anthony D’Alesio, right, is awarded a victory over Keegan VanMeter of Granville after VanMeter was injured during their Division II 182-pound semifinal Friday at the state wrestling tournament in Columbus.

After a long delay of nearly 10 minutes due to a scoring mistake, Crawford had his choice of top or bottom, and he chose bottom, meaning he had 30 seconds to escape. If Cover held him down, he won. Cover held on for 25 seconds as the two rolled out of bounds, and it appeared he would hold on with only 5 seconds remaining as the two restarted.

“I looked over in my corner, and I looked at my dad, and he goes like this, ‘Here and here,’ “ said Nick as he pointed to his head and his heart. “You’ve got to have heart with five seconds left. I’ve got nothing to lose. He was first in the state, predicted champ. I just gave it all I had.”

Crawford somehow turned his hips around and broke the fleeting grip of Cover just before the final seconds ticked away, scoring a point and earning the victory. He, too, has a matchup with the same wrestler he faced in last week’s district final, Colin McNamara of Aurora. Crawford edged him by one point last week.

Stein (44-2) is the savvy veteran of the trio. The top-ranked 220-pound senior is a returning state champion and an Ohio State recruit who could become the school’s second two-time champion (David Crawford, Nick’s brother, accomplished the feat just last year).

His match also had its fair share of drama. While Stein won, 6-3, he went down in a heap of pain during the second period. He said his arm was somewhat hyperextended, and it sent a shriek of fear down his spine as he crumbled to the mat.

“I felt it at first, and I was fine,” Stein said, “but when I rolled over, I kind of got a shock in it, and it hurt so bad I couldn’t straighten my arm.”

He was able to shake it off and continue, and he said he doesn’t expect it to hamper him in today’s final against Max Fausnaugh (44-4) of Bowling Green High School, who’s ranked ninth. Stein isn’t overlooking him. As the rough patch of losses his other teammates showed, anything can happen at the state tournament.

“A lot of people get here and just are OK with being here,” he said. “There are some people who just want to place, and then there are some people that if they’re not in the finals, it’s not OK. That speaks to how tough this tournament is and how tough Ohio is.”

The Cardinals’ Nick Barber (106 pounds), David Reinhart (160) and Ben Cutrer (170) all suffered tough losses in the second round of the consolation bracket. Often known as the blood round because of its gory nature, the wrestler who wins automatically places (either as high as third or as low as eighth) while the loser is eliminated.

“We’re proud of those guys,” Pitts said. “They wrestled their butts off. The guys in the evening (when the semifinals were wrestled) kind of changed our spirits.”

OTHER AREA PLACERS: Several other wrestlers will participate today to determine their placement in the tournament. Those wrestling for spots third through eighth begin at 10 a.m.

In Division I, Fitch’s Gus Sutton (138) and Boardman’s Michael O’Horo (170) each have a shot at wrestling for third place after battling through the consolation bracket. There are no remaining local wrestlers in Division II (besides Canfield’s trio). In Division III, only Clayton Takacs, 170 pounds, of Grand Valley remains. The senior will wrestle for seventh place.