MANSFIELD — Ashland coach Sean Seder doesn’t like to compare one championship to another, but Saturday’s team title at the 59th J.C. Gorman Invitational was a little sweeter than the previous four.
After all, the Arrows weren’t supposed to win it all again this year.
The likelihood of a fifth consecutive Gorman crown grew even more remote before the event got started Friday when Seder decided to rest projected state finalist Brady Welch. Ashland’s 175-pound hammer injured his knee against Brecksville’s Luke Vanadia at last week’s Ashland Holiday Tournament and was held out for precautionary reasons.
Even without Welch in the lineup, the Arrows again found their way to the top of the podium with a team score of 221. Medina Buckeye finished second with 219 in one of the closest team competitions in years. Tiffin Columbian (181), Indian Valley (172.5) and Ontario (123) rounded out the top five in the 33-team extravaganza.
“With Brady not wrestling, we knew it was going to be a pretty tall task,” Seder said. “Medina Buckeye has a great team. Tiffin is really good. Ontario is really good. The field was really deep.
“The fact that it was that close and we did it without one of our best kids, that was pretty special.”
Ashland boasted a pair of Gorman champs in Roman Parobek at 120 pounds and 157-pounder John Metzger. Parobek beat Indian Valley’s Leroy Steagal 4-1 in the finals while Metzger earned a 7-3 decision over Northmor’s Niko Christo.
“We came in short-handed and our entire team stepped up big-time,” said Metzger, who was second at the Ashland Holiday Tournament last week in a field that included some of the top Division I programs in the state. “We had a few big matches go our way at the end.”
In addition to Parobek and Metzger, north central Ohio produced four other Gorman champs. Ontario’s Jacob Ohl won the title at 113 pounds, while Mapleton’s Brock Durbin took honors at 126. Crestview’s Hayden Kuhn was the 132-pound champ and Madison’s Hunter Hutcheson won the title at 190.
A sophomore, Ohl was 3-0 on the weekend and improved to 15-0 on the year. He beat Northmor’s Cowin Becker 8-2 in the finals.
“It was a good tournament for me,” Ohl said. “These are the high-caliber kids I’ll see in the (postseason), so it was a good experience.”
A third-place finisher at the Division III state meet at 126, Kuhn was dominant in claiming the 132-pound title at the Gorman. He pinned his way to the finals before earning a 5-0 decision over Medina Buckeye’s Logan Cravatas.
“I wrestled well all weekend long and hopefully I’ll get better from here,” Kuhn said. “I’ll use this tournament as a stepping stool and keep building from here.”
A Division II state qualifier at 170 last year, Hutcheson earned a 10-5 decision over Norton’s Reid Beddow in the finals. The junior improved to 17-1 and laid to rest some unpleasant memories of his first Gorman appearance in 2020 (the event was canceled last year because of the pandemic).
“The last time I was here, I was not very successful. It was a rough showing,” Hutcheson said. “Last year I was looking to redeem myself and it ended up getting canceled. So to win it this year was exciting.”