by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
Momentum has been building for the Hudson wrestling team all season.
At the start of the postseason, the Explorers showed they are officially a force to be reckoned with.
Hudson won an 11-team Division I sectional title at Austintown Fitch Feb. 16 with 198.5 points, besting runner-up Solon (179.5).
It is the Explorers' first sectional title since 1985.
Hudson head coach Joe Caniglia said he was 12 years old the last time the Explorers won a sectional, but he said he wasn't surprised by his team's performance.
"We talked about it going in that we had a chance to win it," Caniglia said. "We're in very good shape right now. The state team duals really showed us that we could compete at the top level."
More importantly, Hudson had nine wrestlers advance to a Division I district tournament in Mentor. The top four placers in each weight class at Austintown advanced to districts.
Caniglia said, as usual, the Explorers' victory was a total team effort.
"We have nine guys going to Mentor and 13 guys place [at Austintown]," Caniglia said. "I think a big part of it was we got a lot of bonus points in the quarterfinals and the consolation bracket. The kids were all continuing to wrestle and you're never in trouble when you're scoring points."
While Hudson had great success across the board, it finished with only one champion: 160-pounder Michael Coleman.
Coleman pinned Ashtabula Lakeside's Josh Polk, then beat Cuyahoga Falls' Austyn Wilson 10-0 in the final.
"He's really kicking it in right now, which is exactly what you need to do if you want to make a run," Caniglia said of Coleman.
Hopes were high 182-pounder Danny Tiley also could win his bracket. Tiley made it to the finals, pinning Chagrin Falls Kenston's Carmen Gianguzzo and beating Lakeside's Otis Conel 5-2.
In the final, however, Tiley had to deal with a familiar opponent in Stow-Munroe Falls' Gage Finegan. A last-minute takedown from Finegan won the match 4-3.
The Explorers also had 120-pounder Ben Boysel reach the final as Boysel defeated Lakeside's Tyler Newsome 18-4 in the semifinal.
In the final, however, Boysel lost a lost a 15-0 technical fall to top-seeded Nick Mancini of Boardman.
Hudson senior 132-pounder Nate Gregory was given the top seed in his bracket and made his way to the final, pinning Kent Roosevelt's Miles Greer and beating Lakeside's Griffen Keith 5-2. He lost 12-8 to Boardman's Mario Graziani in the final.
Taking fourth place for the Explorers were 120-pounder Billy Buehl, 138-pounder Brandon White, 145-pounder Braden Wright, 220-pounder Matt Slater and heavyweight Peter Mougey.
Also finishing on the podium for Hudson were 126-pounder Chris Motter (fifth), 170-pounder Ben Krizman (fifth), 195-pounder Zach Vehar (fifth) and 152-pounder Sam Semenczuk (sixth).
Caniglia knows his team faces a much bigger test this week when Hudson travels to the Mentor district tournament. He knows this tournament isn't called "The Mentor Meatgrinder" for nothing.
"Everyone has seen guys that are ranked No. 1 in the state not get out of Mentor and seen guys that nobody knows get out," Caniglia said. "As I told the guys, we don't have control of a lot at Mentor. It's going to be a packed house and there will be a lot of ups and downs. The only thing we're going to control is the way we wrestle.
The Mentor district tournament is scheduled to take place Feb. 22 and 23 with the first match Feb. 22 set for 5 p.m.