by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
On a snowy weekend at Garfield Heights High School, the Hudson wrestling team put forth its most firm statement this season that it's ready for prime time.
The Explorers finished fifth overall at Northeast Ohio Conference Tournament with 137 points. Brunswick won the team title with 160.5 points and also clinching the River Division title in the process.
Not only that, but Hudson won two individual titles and had five other wrestlers reach the podium.
Was it the Explorers' best performance in team history at the NOCs?
"Absolutely," said longtime Hudson head coach Joe Caniglia.
"This is a tough tournament all the way around.
"We're scrapping and fighting and that's what you need to do to be successful here."
After getting just one wrestler into the final at the NOC tourney last year, the Explorers had three this season.
Junior 160-pounder Michael Coleman led the charge for Hudson.
He defeated Strongville's Danny Andrews 8-1, pinned Stow-Munroe Falls' Hunter Massey in 2 minutes, 20 seconds and beat top-seeded Brian Hawkins 4-2 to reach the final.
In the final, Coleman faced off with Twinsburg's Alex Keller and got the win (Feb. 2 results were not available at press time).
Coleman became the first Explorers' wrestler to win a conference title since Evan Standish in 2005.
"That's a tough weight class Mike is wrestling in," Caniglia said.
"So many of those matches can go either way."
Having waited eight years to get a conference champion, Caniglia had to wait only about eight minutes to get a second.
Senior 182-pounder Danny Tiley was given the second seed in his bracket. After a bye, Tiley pinned Medina's Austin Peak in 4:33 and then dominated Garfield Heights' Elliot Simpson 8-1 to reach the final.
Tiley faced a tough challenge in top-seeded Justin Halaska in the final, but Tiley scored the win to take the title.
"Danny is a very smart wrestler," Caniglia said. "He knows what he needs to do in these matches."
Hudson's third finalist was freshman 126-pounder Chris Motter. Motter had to squeeze out two early wins, beating Elyria's Devin Johnson 6-5 and Stow's Dylan Hartwig 8-5.
Motter's semifinal match with Parma's Chase Csongedi might have been the wildest match of the tournament.
Both wrestlers were on their backs and all over the mat, though Motter was able to put Csongedi on his back several times. When the smoke cleared, Motter scored a 21-14 win and a trip to the final.
Although Motter lost to North Royalton's Alec Benedetti in the final, Caniglia said the performance boded well for Motter's future.
"Motter has just been getting better with every match he wrestles," Caniglia said.
Caniglia had hoped seniors Zach Vehar and Pete Mougey could compete for titles as well, but each lost tight matches in their respective semifinals.
Vehar rebounded to take third at 195 pounds, beating Garfield's Anthony Kastelic in third-place match, while Mougey did the same at heavyweight, beating Mentor's Billy Hudson for third.
Junior 138-pounder Brandon White scored a fifth-place finish for Hudson.
Senior 132-pounder Nathan Gregory suffered an injury in the semifinals and had to default down to sixth place.
The Explorers are scheduled to next see action at a Division I sectional tournament at Austintown Fitch Feb. 15 and 16.