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Edison embracing 'team' aspect in second state appearance

Mark Hazelwood • Feb 8, 2017 at 8:30 PM

MILAN — At eight decades old in March, the individual state wrestling championships is its own beast.

But entering a fifth winter this Sunday, the eight-team state dual tournament offers a unique aspect to high school wrestling — long viewed as an individual sport.

“Everyone is there; the whole team is on the side cheering you on, getting into it,” Edison senior 145-pounder Alex Neuberger said. “It's not just a coach or two in the chair, or a small pocket of people in the stands like the individual state is.”

Neuberger and the Chargers will be making their second appearance at the state team tournament in Division III at St. John Arena in Columbus on Sunday. The Chargers are the No. 4 seed in the eight-team bracket and will wrestle Swanton at 11 a.m.

In 2015, the Chargers beat Massillon Tuslaw in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual team champion Delta in the semifinals, 37-22.

“It's a really exciting experience to get down there again,” said Edison senior Brady Barnett, a two-time state finalist at the individual tournament. “Two years ago we had a really good team; we gave Delta a run for it. We had some seniors move on, but we were pretty young overall.

“A lot of us are seniors now, two years older, ready to get down there and hopefully wrestle for the title this time,” he added.

As someone who has wrestled on the raised stage for an individual championship in each of the past two seasons, Barnett also noted the distinct difference between the two state events.

“For this week, you have your team there, and typically a better fan base is coming down to watch you compete with the whole team,” he said. “There is just a different mindset. You know you’re wrestling for team points, not advancing yourself in a tournament.

“And bonus points are real critical in duals, so you got the whole team there yelling for you or trying to help you out — screaming at you to get off your back, things like that,” Barnett added. “But the big comparison is the whole team is down there, and you’re specifically wrestling for your team.”

If the Chargers beat No. 5 Swanton, a match with No. 1 Mechanicsburg awaits in the semifinals. Edison beat Swanton in a dual, 45-30, on Dec. 16 at the two-day Archbold duals already this season.

However, head coach Davey Hermes noted neither team was at full strength or has the same lineup from two months ago.

“I think the top four or five teams are pretty equal, honestly,” Hermes said. “I think Mechanicsburg, when you look at the traditional tournament format, definitely has a strong team with their core of five or six great wrestlers that they have. They will be hard to beat … in March.

“But I think the top four or five teams can be just as good as them in a dual format,” he added. “As long as you can get other bonus point wins elsewhere and not give up those bonus points to their stronger guys. But first we have to beat a good Swanton team.”

Hermes noted if the Chargers do beat Swanton and face Mechanicsburg, some decisions will have to be made with the lineup.

“We'd have to see what we can do to gain bonus points on our end and minimize it on their end,” he said. “And that could mean putting our top guys against their guys, eliminating the opportunity for them to have several six-point matches.”

Two years ago, half of the current Edison lineup wrestled in the state duals in Columbus. That list includes Dylan Burns, Barnett, Neuberger, Collin Mancuso, Dalton Burns, Sam Stoll and Jake Kasper.

“It's big having that experience, but with our other kids, I tell them all the time that our schedule in December and January prepares us for this,” Hermes said. “We go to Archbold, Brecksville and the Ironman — the goal for going to those events is for big tournaments like this so you don't freeze up and are used to being in close matches.”

Hermes said it's hard not to at least fantasize about what it could mean if the Chargers can win their opening two rounds Sunday. In the bottom half of the bracket, Sandusky Bay Conference power Oak Harbor is the No. 2 seed and a favorite to reach the title round.

“We could see an all-SBC match for a state title, which would be awesome,” Hermes said. “I think Oak Harbor is a favorite on the other side, just like their seed shows. That's a well-respected program that is great every year, and I think we're both very strong dual teams.

“In Division III you don't see many full teams, and teams that can put 10 or 12 really solid guys on the mat,” he added. “And I feel like both teams can do that. It would be fun, but we have some big hurdles to clear first.”

Quarterfinal opponent Swanton is making its state dual tournament debut, having never advanced past the regional semifinal round prior to last week. The Bulldogs return three wrestlers with individual state tournament experience: Trevor Schaller (120), Gage Pachlhofer (132) and 2015 state placer Chase Moore (145).

Last season, Neuberger placed sixth at 145 pounds in the individual tournament, while Moore was eighth in 2015. In the head-to-head dual in December, Neuberger won a tight 4-2 decision — and it will be one of the key matches Sunday.

“He's definitely a solid wrestler, and it will be a good match, just like last time,” Neuberger said. “We're both decent wrestlers in the rankings, and it will be a battle here and at districts, so it will be good to face him again.

“Making state as a team this week, it's a cherry on top of a great couple of years and something I was really looking forward to this season,” he added. “We knew coming into the year we had a strong dual team.”

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