Plain Dealer Reporter
Austintown- Ohio is reputed to have the best high school wrestling in the nation, but Buckeye State grapplers consumed a hefty dose of humble pie Saturday in the 11th Wrestling USA/Cliff Keen Dream Team Classic at Fitch High School.
Ohio all-star wrestlers were soundly beaten by Pennsylvania, 38-16, and in the follow-up meet, the USA All-Stars beat Team Ohio, 27-16.
The latter result was not unexpected since the USA All-Stars, who wrestle against a different state each year, have never lost. Iowa’s 39-21 loss in 2001 had been closest scare the USA had gotten.
Plain Dealer Wrestler of the Year Kevin Hardy (145 pounds) gave the crowd plenty of excitement in his 7-3 decision over four-time Texas state champ Luke Ashmore, 7-3. The lanky, angular Hardy used leverage to score three takedowns - two off a Russian tie and one single leg - and engulfed Ashmore with adroit mat wrestling.
“I used to have trouble with short, stocky wrestlers,” said Hardy, a three-time Division I state champ. “It’s taken me a few years, but now I’ve finally figured out how to beat them . . . and it’s not really that hard any more.”
Ohio State-bound Colt Sponseller (160) of West Holmes scored the only major decision in the match, using tenacious snap-and-spin-behind takedowns to thoroughly whip three-time Oregon state champ Ryan Smith, 21-9.
Berea’s 2006 state champ, Dustin Kilgore (171), lost a key bout in the last two seconds, 5-4, to nationally No. 1-rated Idaho state champ Kirk Smith, who used a driving single-leg takedown to win. It was similar to Kilgore’s 14-12 overtime loss to Brian Roddy of St. Edward in the recent state finals.
The Ohio team got off to an unexpectedly good start against Pennsylvania when Medina freshman Matt Mauer, trailing, 5-2, in the final period, rallied to tie the match, then won a scramble in overtime to beat Keith Scharrer, a senior from General McLane High, 10-6.
Mauer got two key takedowns in the final minute - switching from a fireman’s carry to barrel rolls in both cases - to tie the match, 6-6.
“I sure was nervous to start,” Mauer said. “I didn’t want to do anything stupid in front of that big crowd. I think I was able to wear him down. In overtime, I kept fighting and wouldn’t give up. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I even had points when the match was stopped.”
However, the Ohio team didn’t win again until hometown favorite and Fitch junior Tony Jameson (135), a three-time Division I state champ, used funky and creative takedowns to score a 17-9 major decision over Steve Waite.
Ohio’s worst misfortune came at 189, when two-time state champ John Weakley of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy was tapped on the nose by Nick Sipes in the first 32 seconds. Weakley winced in pain, and a physician determined that Sipes’ legal tap broke Weakley’s nose.