Another year, another set of expectations fulfilled for Oak Harbor wrestling. So far, anyways.
Over the weekend, the Rockets finished second at the Sandusky Bay Conference tournament, the third year in a row they’ve finished in the top four after winning the league five years in a row from 2007-11.
As a team, the Rockets finished with 191½ points, second to Perkins, which won its second straight conference title with 235 points. Clyde was third with 171 points, followed by Margaretta (131), Edison (127½), Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic (106), Huron (61) and Port Clinton (37).
Oak Harbor freshman Bruce Hrynciw and junior T.J. Lawrence led the way, finishing first at 106 and 285 pounds, respectively. It was the second league championship for Lawrence and the first for Hrynciw. It was a also well-earned victory for Lawrence who, for much of the season, had to battle injuries, making his triumph that much sweeter.
“It’s not been the year I wanted but I was able to get the second title,” said Lawrence, who finished eighth in the state meet at Division II last year in the heavyweight division. “Hopefully I’ll be able to win it for the third time next year. And since we have a young team, we have a good shot at finishing first next year.”
Lawrence defeated Clyde’s Collin Mange, 4-2, in the final, scoring two late points to claim victory while Hrynciw pinned SMCC’s Dominic Rosin in one minute, two seconds to win the title.
Oak Harbor’s second place finishers included Rhett Petersen (132), Ben Petersen (145) and Kian Thompson (160), all of whom are expected to make noise when the postseason rolls around. Rhett Petersen fell just short of winning a title in his weight class, falling, 5-4, to Perkins senior Nate Boggs.
Coach George Bergman, now in his 21st year at the helm, was pleased with the performance of his club.
“We had 12 wrestlers finish in the top four, the same as Perkins,” Bergman said, “and I was happy with that. We wrestled better than we had against Delta (in the state duals), but you’re never satisfied. We won a few rematches that we had lost and we lose some rematches that we had won before.
“I was impressed with Kian Thompson’s performance. And T.J. had a good year after some ups and downs and battling injuries. It was great to see Bruce win the title as a freshman, too.”
Five Rockets placed third, including Nick Bergman (120), Jeremy Balboa (138), Brody Hennig (152), Steve Simkus (170) and Brandon Garber (220), while Dylan Mansor (113) and Jake Huston (126) each finished fourth.
It was especially sweet for Nick Bergman, a state alternate as a freshman, to finish third considering that he’s consistently battled injuries over the last two seasons. A number of his teammates also overcame obstacles to get to this point, too.
“Nick took third and it was good to see him on the mat,” George Bergman said. “And I was real happy with Steve (Simkus). Steve never started in seventh or eighth grade and now he’s contributing. He’s about 155 pounds and we put him in at 170. He’s an example of a guy that has stayed with our program and it’s paid off. And Brandon and Brody did a nice job taking third. It was a total team effort.”
This performance certainly wasn’t a fluke.
In addition to competing in two prestigious tournaments, the Iron Man Competition and the Medina Invitational, the Rockets fared well at some of the local events, finishing 13th out of 35 teams at Clay’s Mike Casey/Maumee Bay Classic, which included larger schools, and the Perrysburg Invite (PIT), which saw them place fourth out of 22 teams.
But the Rockets are used to making the most noise is in the postseason. Home to 22 state champions, Oak Harbor has finished outside the top five in Division II just twice since ’07, coming in seventh last year and 19th in ’12.
Bergman believes if this unit is able to stay healthy and things break right for them, there’s no reason to believe they can’t have another solid showing in Columbus.
The sectional tournament takes place on Feb. 14-15 and the district tournament is one week later. Both events will be held at the Stroh Center at Bowling Green State University.