by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
Heading into the 39th annual Medina Invitational Tournament, the Hudson wrestling team knew it was marching into the toughest challenge it would face this side of the state tournament.
The Explorers' trip to the MIT yielded two individual placers and a ton of experience for Hudson against top-level competition.
The Explorers finished 20th out of 44 teams at the MIT Dec. 28 with 56.5 points. Massillon Perry won the team title with 233 points, while Lakewood St. Edward (200) and Claymont (199) placed second and third, respectively.
Hudson head coach Joe Caniglia said he knew exactly what his team was facing.
"We go to the MIT to match up with great competition to help prepare for the postseason," he said. "If you look at individuals who do well and place at the MIT, those are the same kids who are placing and winning at the state level.
"In some weight classes, the MIT is tougher than the state tournament because you have the top kids from Division I, II and III as well as several top teams from Michigan.
"As a team, we had a slow start. Some of that was due to tough opening-round matchups and some was due to inexperience of some of our younger kids in major tournaments. We got better as the first day went on."
The Explorers' top finisher was senior Michael Coleman at 160 pounds. Coleman was given the top seed and reached the final by pinning Pickerington North's Jeremy Mann in 1 minute, 38 seconds, beating Richmond's Austin Pawlak 7-3, shutting out Wadsworth's Shane Mast 4-0 and pinning Rootstown's Zack Ladich in 5:27.
In the final, Coleman tangled with Perry All-Ohioan Tony Dailey. In a match that could be a preview of the Division I 160-pound state final, Coleman lost 5-2.
"We knew going in it would be a tight match and it proved to be that way," Caniglia said. "Perry is a team that is in our district, so it is likely they will meet again."
Hudson also had sophomore Chris Motter finish in sixth place at 132 pounds.
Motter came into the tournament unseeded, but he managed to defeat second-seeded Nate Boggs of Sandusky Perkins 4-1 to earn his place on the podium.
Motter then lost 8-6 to Brunswick's Nick Klussis in the consolation semifinals and 3-1 to Pickerington North's Jared Ferguson in the fifth-place match, but Caniglia wasn't complaining.
"This was great experience for Motter," Caniglia said. "Wrestling that number of matches against good competition for him and placing is great. It should really boost his confidence going into the second half of the season."
Caniglia also noted that Billy Buehl (138), Ben Krizman (182) and Michael Delsanter (195) each were just one win shy of finishing on the podium.
Braden Wright went 2-2 at 145 pounds at the MIT.
The Explorers are scheduled open their 2014 schedule by hosting the Hudson Duals Jan. 4. First match is set for 9 a.m.