Clay’s summer grapplers second of 48 teams at Disney
A repeat performance from last year’s tournament would have satisfied Clay wrestling coach Ralph Cubberly, but this was even better.
The Eagles’ “A” team placed second out of 48 teams in the Community I Division on June 27 through July 1 at the AAU Scholastic Dual Meet National Championships in Orlando, Fla. Clay took fourth at the same tournament, which is also called the Disney Duals, last summer.
“I was thinking between fourth and eighth,” Cubberly said. “We lost some good guys last year. I never guessed that we would be second. We took it seriously. This is a serious trip for our school and our program.”
The Eagles went 9-1 at the Duals, finishing behind Perry Meridian (Ind.) High School. Meridian won the tournament for the third year in a row, handing Clay its only loss (45-23) in 10 dual matches.
“They’re a very, very good team,” Cubberly said. “Their high school team was ranked 11th in the country last year. They have about 3,000 kids in their school.”
The Eagles, in addition to beating Toledo Central Catholic (40-13) in Florida, also beat high school opponents from Pine Bay (Miami), North River (Fla.), Naples (Fla.), Lincoln Highway (Pa.), Perry Meridian’s “B” team, Naperville Phoenix (Ill.), Westside (Fla.) and Dakota (Ill.).
Each team was allowed to “pick up” three wrestlers from other schools. Clay, which had 30 wrestlers and six coaches, added two individuals from Fremont Ross and one from Archbold.
Ross senior Trey Grine was the only gold medal winner for Clay, going 10-0 and winning the award for Technically Superior Athlete.
The Eagles won four silver medals and four bronze medals. Silver medal winners won nine of 10 matches, and bronze winners finished with 8-2 records.
Clay’s silver medal winners were senior 118-pounder Aaron Henneman, junior Richie Screptock at 137, senior Nick Stencel at 165 and sophomore Matt Stencel at 187.
Cubberly said Matt Stencel was the Eagles’ biggest surprise of the silver medal winners.
“He’s going to be a sophomore and wrestled 187 pounds for us,” the coach said. “Usually kids at that weight are 17-18 years old, and he went out there and went 9-1 against some big, strong kids. He has already improved from last year. Aaron Henneman was another surprise. He wrestled very strong throughout the tournament. He just went out and did the job for us. He was in really good shape and he used that to the best of his ability.”
Cubberly was not surprised by the performances of veterans Screptock and Nick Stencel. Screptock placed fourth at the Ohio state tournament in March.
“Richie’s a pretty tough kid,” Cubberly said. “He’s a guy I counted on winning all his matches because he is a very experienced wrestler. He’s been through the wars and knows how to win tough, tight matches. Nick is a strong, hard-working and aggressive kid who wrestles lights-out for six minutes. That helps him a lot.”
Clay’s bronze medal winners were seniors Jared Davis at 125 pounds, Gavin Nelson at 132 and heavyweight Antonio Zapata, and junior Kevin Witt at 175.
“Kevin was a big surprise for us,” Cubberly said. “He’s never been on our varsity team before. He was on our Green team as a freshman and sophomore. He went down there this year and was a pleasant surprise. He’s learned how to wrestle the last two years and looks like he’s ready to step into our Gold team next year.”
Peyton Geary, a junior from Ross who went 7-3, earned a copper medal for the Eagles.
Clay’s “B” team competed in the Community II Division, for smaller schools. Clay senior Brian Richmond earned a copper medal at 220 pounds after posting an 8-3 record.