There’s more to wrestle for after a loss

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Gus Sutton of Austintown Fitch lifts up Elyria’s Matt Zuckerman during a Division I 138-pound match Saturday to determine fifth place at the state wrestling tournament.

COLUMBUS — Boardman’s Michael O’Horo and Austintown Fitch’s Gus Sutton entered the state wrestling tournament with one goal in mind: win a state championship.

When that goal was taken from the two seniors, the reality of losing a dream was devastating, and it left them with two options.

The first was to appreciate the career they had but to basically pack it in and succumb to simply being a state qualifier. The second, more difficult approach, was to battle, fight, scrap and claw for every single second they had left in their careers.

A quick look at the two wrestlers’ battered faces showed which response each had chosen.

Sutton battled back through the consolation bracket and placed third at 138 pounds in Division I, while O’Horo did much of the same, taking fifth at 170 pounds in Division I. Both wrestled at a level they had never reached before and ended their careers with a victory.

Tribune Chronicle photos / Joe Simon Boardman’s Michael O’Horo, right, wrestles Cole Floor of Pataskala Watkins Memorial during a Division I 170-pound fifth-place match on Saturday at the state wrestling tournament in Columbus.

“After I lost that (championship quarterfinal match), third place was the goal the whole time,” said Sutton, who gave nationally ranked Lakewood St. Edward junior Bryce Hepner all he could handle for three periods in that quarterfinal. “I feel like I wrestled really good. It’s my senior year, I just wanted to let everything go. You can’t worry about anything.”

Sutton walks away from Fitch as one of the program’s most decorated wrestlers.

A three-time state placer (sixth as a sophomore, eighth as a junior), his 175 career victories are tops in school history. His 53 victories as a senior tied Andrew Fairbanks’ record set just two years ago.

The two-time EOWL champion, Sutton joins Tony Jameson, a four-time state champ, and Nick Bodnar, a three-time state placer, as Fitch wrestlers to place three times.

He was emotional as he tried to put his career into perspective.

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon BOTTOM: Grand Valley’s Clayton Takacs, left, wrestles Caden Brown of Defiance Ayersville during their Division III 170-pound match for seventh place.

“All the coaches I had, the teammates I had here,” he said of what he’ll remember about wrestling at Fitch.

“It means so much,” he added. “I think I’m only the second person ever to (place at state three times). It feels amazing.”

O’Horo couldn’t agree more.

He was in a contentious battle for fifth place, with his opponent grabbing and pulling at his fingers during the match (an illegal tactic). A frustrated O’Horo was called for an unnecessary slam, and the two exchanged words as the match ended, but cooler heads prevailed — and so did O’Horo, who won, 8-4.

It only seemed appropriate that there was a bit of controversy to end an impressive career that also had its fair share of adversity.

“It was a high-emotion match, knowing it was my last high school match ever representing Boardman,” he said. “Just finding a way to finish and come out on top was the most important thing.”

O’Horo, much like Sutton, endured a loss in the championship quarterfinal. While his goal was vanquished, he didn’t give up. He said he looked to the tough times he endured over his career (having his appendix removed as a sophomore, being a tenth of a pound overweight for the sectional tournament as a junior and dealing with multiple injuries over three years) to remember why he had to pull through.

“All those things prepared me for today,” O’Horo said. “Coach (Dom and Frank) Mancini, all year, have been talking to me about thinking positive and finding the best out of everything and really just having a winner’s mindset — going into every match and every situation thinking that you can win it. So, after my loss in the quarters and then in the consi semis, right away we were on to the next one.

“That really helped me, with coach Mancini guiding me through it the past three years.”

Also a quarterback for the Spartans — he earned a football scholarship to Saginaw Valley State University — O’Horo finished his career at Boardman by leading the Spartans to back-to-back football playoff appearances and with 134 career victories in wrestling.

He transferred to Boardman after his freshman year at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. It’s a decision he said he doesn’t regret as he leaves Boardman as a winner.

That was something else he and Sutton had in common.

“It feels amazing to end it on a win,” Sutton said. “Now I can always look back and know I ended it on a win and did the best I could my senior year.”

TAKACS TAKES SEVENTH: Grand Valley’s Clayton Takacs ended his career on a high note as well. The senior took seventh place with a 6-5 victory over Caden Brown of Defiance Ayersville. He finished with 125 career victories.