High school wrestling: Mayfield's Braeden Beck takes the dramatic route to the state tournament

Mar. 4—NORTH CANTON — Mayfield's Braeden Beck has taken the tough road to the Division I wrestling tournament, and in doing so probably shaved a few years off the life of Coach Dwight Fritz.

Beck posted a 3-1 decision over Medina Highland's Creed Hill in the consolation semifinal — i.e. blood round — at North Canton Hoover on March 4 to clinch a bid in next week's state tournament. But it is HOW Beck did it on March 4 — and in the past 10 days — that speaks volumes.

Beck and Hill looked to be headed to sudden victory tied, 1-1, when Fritz went to the table contending Beck had locked up a takedown before time expired. After the officials conferred, Beck was given the 2, setting off a raucous celebration in the Mayfield corner along with a vehement disagreement from the Highland corner.

"There was no doubt it was 2," Fritz said. "The guy was on his back. His back was exposed to the mat. Fortunately the assistant (official) matside was in our favor. He told the head official it was 2, which it should have been."

It's the second week in a row that Beck went to the final seconds to defeat Hill, using a 5-point move in the waning seconds to win a sectional title last week. Couple those two tight bouts with Beck's 4-3 nailbiter against Walsh's Hunter Randolph in a district quarterfinal and — well — Beck' been tough on his coach.

"This is 10 years building up to this moment," Beck said, to which Fritz deadpanned, "Yeah, and you've taken 10 years from be."

Beck's state berth was the third of the day for Mayfield. Joining the senior 150-pounder in Columbus next week are 120-pounder Sal Palmisano and 126-pounder Vinnie D'Alessandro via their top-four finishes this weekend.

The Mayfield trio is part of a nine-person contingent from The News-Herald area that will vie for state supremacy next weekend. Mentor has four of them in Jack DeBoe (120), Nick Blackburn (126), Antonio Shelley (138) and Bear Horgan, along with Riverside's Antonio Bottiggi (215) and Chardon's Will Vucetic (165).

Blackburn, a junior, was a state alternate the past two years, losing in the consolation semifinal both years. This time, after losing a tough 1-0 bout to Brecksville's Kaden Jett in the semis, Blackburn won his blood-round match, 9-4, over Massillon Perry's Cameron Plotts.

"I've got to keep pushing," Blackburn said. "I've got big goals for next week. ... Last year I think I should have been (at state). This year I'm just having fun, wrestling and doing what I do."

Shelley is back in Columbus, too, after placing at state last year. The only difference is that this year, he has a full head of hair — not the shaved top he had last year.

"I don't know. I feel the buzz-cut brought out a crazy mentality in me," he said. "I think maybe I'll keep the hair for a while. Mom doesn't really like the buzz-cut anyway."

Chardon's Vucetic played a big waiting game last year as a state alternate in Division II. He eventually got into the tournament when another district wrestler had to back out. But thanks to a convincing 9-2 win over Nordonia's Caleb Ridgley in the semifinal, Vucetic removed all doubt by advancing to the championship match.

Vucetic cut from 175 to 165 prior to the postseason, which paid off.

"At first it was hard because I was not used to (the cut)," he said. "In the end, I dropped down and I'm thankful I did. (Getting to state) is a big relief. I can't wait. It's a big step, but you've got to leave everything out there on the mat."

Riverside's Bottiggi is also headed back to Columbus after a 9-3 decision over Fitch's Mark Stankorb that wasn't as close a the score might indicate.

Bottiggi injury defaulted to fourth place last year with an esophageal issue. But now that it has been fixed, he's been a wrecking ball this postseason.

"Last year I told him he was definitely a state-qualifier," Coach Justin Toth said. "This year before the tournament, I told him we're wrestling for the state finals. He has the ability to wrestle in the state finals this year. I truly believe that."