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Upper weight classes shine in Norwalk losses

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Dec 12, 2018 at 2:33 AM

NORWALK — Tche Leroux was fine in the two weeks leading up to Tuesday.

But the more time he had to think throughout the day, the more nervous the Norwalk senior became. 

After never wrestling above 195 pounds in his career, and not weighing anywhere close to 285 pounds — Leroux wrestled heavyweight during the Truckers’ season-opening dual meets against Ashland and Sandusky at Norwalk High School.

The result? Two first-period pins.

“I mean, yeah, I was really nervous at first,” Leroux said. “I had thought about it all day, but ... it feels awesome being home and putting in the work with these guys.”

As a team, there were no real shocking results to second-year coach Frank Staley. The Truckers fell, 52-19, against a strong Division I Arrows lineup, then got edged 39-37, by the Blue Streaks.

“I thought we wrestled better as the night went on,” Staley said. “Our young kids showed their inexperience, and the older kids wrestled up to their potential. That’s about what you expect in the first match of the season.”

The Sandusky match came down to the final one of the night. Norwalk needed freshman Hayden Graffice to win by pin for six points. He still got the win, but not enough to slip past the Streaks.

“He did a real good job in that spot,” Staley said.

Meanwhile, the accomplished wrestlers looked the part despite just two weeks of mat time. Returning state qualifiers Ethan Hernandez, Gabe Phillips and Alec Maloney each wrestled at 182, 195 and 220 — and each won their two matches on the night.

Hernandez was third at 160 and Phillips was sixth at 195 last season at the Div.II state championships. At Monroeville, Leroux was 35 matches and reached the district tournament as a junior in 2018.

DJ Smith and Ethan Phillips each went 1-1 at 152 and 160 for the Truckers.

“The big boys from football showed what they were made of,” Staley said. “DJ and Ethan both wrestled OK. Ethan had the lead (against Ashland) and got caught in a junk move, but he’ll get better. We’re all still in a little bit of football shape.

“We knew a team like Ashland would give us a tuneup with the way things fell,” he added. “We go to Findlay for a tournament on Saturday, and hopefully we come away with more wins than losses.”

Staley talked about the inexperience on the mat with his lower weights.

“Instead of just losing, they went out and got pinned,” he said. “Too many times we gave up the six points instead of the decision. There was a lot of their guys making one move and we went straight to our backs. But we’re also moving some weights around, but that is also no excuse.

“But the upper weights did what they were supposed to do,” Staley added. “The setbacks weren’t unexpected, but all in all, we’re about where we should be with just two weeks in the room. We’ll get better.”

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