Since joining the Ohio Wrestling League, Gibsonburg had been dominant.
They won two straight league titles, but this year just missed out on winning a third, finishing second at the OWL meet.
Led by senior Jacob Auld (220 pounds), 37-6, Gibsonburg finished with 144 points, just six short of Van Buren, who won the title. Arcadia finished third, followed by Northwood, Cory-Rawson, McComb, Toledo Christian, Cardinal Stritch and Danbury.
Auld was joined in the winner’s circle by teammates Bryce Mendoza (106), Griffin Geary (145), Antonio Vasquez (152) and Dan Henline (182).
All 10 of the team’s wrestlers finished in the top four, including Izaak Arriaga (132), who finished second, Wesley Campbell (126), Damien Schmeltz (138) and Marcus Kreais (170) came in third and Troy Ickes was fourth at 160.
There were other area wrestlers who placed high, among them Devon Dunbar (126) and Trevor Mack (138) of Northwood, both of whom won championships in their weight class. In fact, Dunbar was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Wrestler for his efforts, and teammate Brad Meeks finished second at 113.
And Cardinal Stritch Catholic had three wrestlers finish in the top four — James Dobson (second at 170), Ricky Pratt (third at 182) and Josh Kramer (fourth at 220).
Gibsonburg coach Justin Edgell was pleased his team’s performance.
“I was very excited,” said Edgell. “We came away with five champions and all 10 (of our wrestlers) placed in the top four. We have 10 guys and they made sacrifices (at the meet). Van Buren had 12 wrestlers and that made a little bit of a difference. Our kids were a little disappointed, but we didn’t let them hang their heads.”
The sacrifices Edgell is referring to are the eight wrestlers who moved up a weight class to ensure that the team could field 10 wrestlers.
“All of our wrestlers from 132 and above moved up a weight classes for the league tournament,” Edgell said. “This allowed us to put (Arriaga) at 132 and fill 10 weight classes.”
The Bears performed well during the season, going 6-2 in dual meets while finishing fourth at the Golden Bear Invite, sixth at the Woodmore Classic and ninth at the Van Buren Invite. Auld finished first at two of those events, Henline was first at the Golden Bear Invite and third at the Van Buren Invite while Schmeltz finished third at both and Geary and Vasquez each came in second at the Golden Bear Invite.
The team has done consistently well under Edgell, now in his fourth year at the helm. During his tenure, Gibsonburg has a 47-27 record in dual meet action. He’s built a solid foundation within the program, one that will see just one player graduate and has five quality sophomores, two of whom won OWL titles. The junior high team, which has won the league three years running, will supply seven new wrestlers to the high school next season.
The varsity is led by Auld, the captain. After wrestling at 182 pounds for the duration of the year, he jumped up two slots and wrestled at 220 pounds at the league tournament, defeating all of his opponents. In fact, it was the second time in three years Auld has moved up two weight classes at the OWL tournament. On top of that, he won the league title three years in a row and was a district qualifier last season while going 29-10.
Auld said responsibility comes with being the leader and lone senior on the club.
“I’ve really enjoyed the season I’ve had so far,” Auld said. “The team is doing well, and we’re very young this year. But we have made up for our age with experience — our guys have wrestled a long time and are very dedicated to getting themselves and each other better.
“Being the only senior and our heaviest guy, it can put a bit of stress on me (because) the guys are looking up to me. There have been several (tight matches) this year where it’s my match that either makes or breaks (the result). But even with the stress, I really enjoy saying that I am a captain on the Gibsonburg wrestling team and our guys represent us very well. Not just on the mat, but also in the bleachers.”
In addition to his efforts on that mat, Auld has had a stellar athletic career at Gibsonburg. Last fall, he was named the Toledo Area Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in football for his performance as a defensive end. Auld, who also started at left tackle and served as the punter, earned four varsity letters in the sport and helped to rebuild the program, one that saw the Bears go 0-10 during his freshman year when they were competing in the final year of the old Suburban Lakes League. During his final three years with the club, however, Gibsonburg went a combined 14-16 and 12-6 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, and has a chance to become one of the top teams in the league in the coming years.
Auld also plays catcher and outfield for the baseball team and was part of the squad two years ago that advanced to the Division IV regional semifinals.