Berkshire Wrestlers Build Confidence
The members of the Berkshire wrestling team aren’t just making believers out of Northeastern Ohio wrestling fans.
They’re making believers out of themselves.
Following the graduation of a slew of state placers over the past two years, the Badgers were expected to go through a little bit of a rebuilding year. Even they might have expected such.
But the early returns in Burton are more than good.
Despite being the smallest school in the field of 25, Berkshire won the 42nd annual Kenston Invitational Tournament on Friday. With champions Jason Porter (160) and Travis Porter (189) leading the way, the Badgers finished well ahead of second-place Parma, third-place Kenston and the rest of the field.
“We were expected to take a big step back,” said Jason Porter. “We lost the Freeman twins, (Corey) Phifer, my cousin Dustin (Porter). I think we’re a little surprised.”
Maybe at the beginning of the season, but not now.
They’re believers. Such confidence blossomed after the Badgers swept the Medina Duals and took sixth at the Solon Comet Classic.
“That was big,” Porter said. “We took sixth this year, and we took seventh last year. It feels good to do so well. It feels good to come in here and beat the bigger schools.”
The Badgers were in a comfortable position heading into the final round, sporting a 16-point lead over Parma and 18-point lead over third-place Kenston. But a rough start in the final round got Coach Pat Murphy a little nervous and increased the pace of his pacing.
After a few losses, though, Berkshire hit its stride. Senior Joel Jenkins (135) and sophomore Dave Malkus (140) and Graham Richardson (152) all pinned in their consolation matches to open up a 19-point lead. Jenkins won despite suffering a high-ankle sprain earlier in the day, while Malkus came up with a pin when his team needed the points to protect its lead.
“A team effort from top to bottom,” Murphy said. “To be honest, our goal coming in was to be in the top three. But we had a lot of people step up. Everybody wrestled great.”
Eight of the 12 Badgers who wrestled placed. Forfeiting at 103 pounds and heavyweight didn’t keep the Badgers from winning.
“Losing to Kenston (in a dual) last week lit a fire under us,” Murphy said. “We were undefeated, riding on top of the world. We went back to work and fixed some things. We won two head-to-head matches with them that we lost last week.”
Kenston coach Larry Klimkowski said his team is going back to the fixing mode, too. The Bombers finished third, just two points out of second, but might have expected better.
“Something to build on,” Klimkowski said, nodding his head in affirmation. “It’s a good gauge for tournaments later in the season. Coming off the Hudson tournament, we felt pretty good.”
Senior Ryan Saks (171) was the lone Kenston champion, however.
“You know, I think everybody wrestled with heart,” Saks said. “But we did not wrestle to our ability. We should win this tournament. Everybody worked their butts off in the (practice) room and in here today. But I think we could have done better.”
Other area wrestlers winning championships were West Geauga’s Dominic Cribari (119) and Mayfield’s Cory Hayes (130). Cribari got caught in a cradle by Berkshire’s Blake Thoreson, but still held on for a 13-7 decision, while Hayes worked overtime to defeat Maple Heights’ Jovan Highbaugh, 4-2.