by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
Lakewood -- The Division I state team wrestling tournament presented Hudson with a unique opportunity Jan. 30 in Lakewood.
If the Explorers could win their match with North Olmsted in the regional semifinal, Hudson would have the opportunity to wrestle St. Edward.
St. Ed's happens to be the defending state champion and the most storied program in the history of Ohio wrestling.
The Explorers took care of business in their first match, defeating North Olmsted 45-17.
While Hudson lost against St. Edward, the experience was nothing but a positive for head coach Joe Caniglia and his team.
St. Edward defeated the Explorers 53-12 to advance to the Division I, Region 3 final against Solon Feb. 6.
Hudson finished its dual meet season with a record 12-7.
Caniglia made it clear his team had nothing to be ashamed of as the Explorers won three individual bouts against the Eagles. St. Edward had shut out its first two opponents at the state duals, including a 74-0 win over Olmsted Falls Jan. 30.
"Our kids wrestled hard," Caniglia said. "We won those three matches and were competitive in at least two other matches. As I told the kids, you get a lot better faster when you wrestle the top teams. If you're not excited to wrestle a great program, you don't belong in this sport."
Eagles coach Greg Urbas was complimentary of the Explorers.
"I think Hudson is a very well-coached team," he said. "Their wrestlers are well-drilled and tough. It was a great match."
While St. Edward mixed its two varsity squads into the match, Hudson got its wins from 120-pounder Billy Buehl, who defeated Jack Conway 4-2, and 126-pounder Chris Motter, who defeated Kurt Wysocki 12-6.
The most emphatic win for Hudson came from 160-pounder Michael Coleman as he pinned St. Edward's Kevin Khoma in 50 seconds.
The Explorers had a few other near misses. At 145 pounds, Braden Wright lost a tight 3-1 decision to the Eagles' Joey Ciacchi, while heavyweight Pete Mougey lost a 9-5 decision to Kevin Ward.
Hudson did have to deal with two of St. Edward's big guns on the night.
Three-time state champion Dean Heil made quick work of the Explorers' 138-pounder, Brandon White, pinning him in 1:24.
Meanwhile, Hudson 170-pounder Danny Tiley took two-time state champion Dominic Abounader to the second period before getting pinned in 2:31.
Prior to the match with St. Edward, the Exporers were in a dogfight with another flock of Eagles before Hudson's upperweights pulled away.
"We talked about being able to get bonus points in these matches and we got bonus points in all but one of our wins," Caniglia said.
Indeed, the Explorers got four pins, four major decisions and a decision win to beat North Olmsted, while the Eagles managed only one technical fall and four decisions. Hudson handed North Olmsted only its third loss of the season.
"We lost some pushing matching in the lower weights," said North Olmsted coach Kerry McWoodson. "That really hurt us."
After losing the opening match by technical fall, the Explorers got a 4-3 win from Ben Boysel at 113, followed by a 10-1 win from Buehl at 120 and a 13-4 win from Motter at 126.
North Olmsted then squeezed out three straight decision wins, but Hudson 152-pounder Sam Semenczuk scored a 13-3 win to make it 15-14 Explorers after eight matches.
The pivotal matches came at 160 and 170 pounds, respectively.
At 160, North Olmsted senior Adel Shoman came in with one of the Eagles' best records, but his match with Coleman was never close. Coleman nearly scored a technical fall, winning the contest 14-0.
At 170 pounds, Hudson's Ben Krizman trailed Jake Jones early, but Krizman fought back and pinned Jones at the 5:11 mark.
"That was one heck of a fight," Caniglia said with a smile.
After 182-pounder Danny Tiley wrestles a cautious match to avoid the pin (the Eagles' Alex Belia won 6-1), 195-pounder Zach Vehar clinched the match for the Explorers by pinning Moose Al-Najjar in 3:48.
Hudson then put some gloss on the final score when 220-pounder Gabe Vehar pinned Ammar Abdelhaq in 4:50 and Moguey pinned Aaron Davis in 28 seconds.
"We've got some things to work on, but the attitude is very strong right now," Caniglia said. "We're in good shape."
The Explorers were set to participate at the Northeast Ohio Conference Tournament Feb. 1 and 2 in Garfield Heights. Results were not available at press time.
Hudson will now prepare for the postseason, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 15 and 16 at a Division I sectional tournament at Austintown Fitch High School.