WEST SALEM — It’s easier said than done sometimes to trust the process.
But Mapleton coach Corey Kline has been down this road more times than he can count.
A talented wrestler himself, both as a two-time state champion for the Mounties and a national champion with Ashland University before successful coaching stops at neighboring Black River and now at his alma mater, Kline had to remind his team of that after its fifth-place finish at the Husky Invitational Saturday at Northwestern High School.
“This tournament is a little hard for them to stomach because a pooled bracket it's never where you place, it's about your record and who you have to wrestle,” he said. “I had kids place fifth and they went 4-1 ... but we're building. This tournament is a builder to the last three that we're trying to get to.”
Mapleton went toe-to-toe with the likes of Division I power Wadsworth, which cruised to the team title with an eye-popping 413.5 points, advancing two wrestlers to finals matches and having a couple others place third.
Northwestern and Loudonville finished ninth and 10th, respectively, while Hillsdale was 16th overall.
And while the Mounties had two individuals — seniors Andrew Sas and Sean Gast — advance to championship bouts, the experience of seeing a loaded Grizzlies team that had a wrestler in every final except one will pay off down the road.
“Having a team like Wadsworth here is a nice experience, so the guys can see another team at another level,” Kline said. “I thought we wrestled pretty well today.”
Both Sas and Gast ran into buzzsaws in their respective title bouts. Sas got pinned with 24 seconds left in the opening period by Wadsworth’s David Shue, the sixth-ranked wrestler in D-I according to borofanohio.net, while Gast’s match ended in a 17-2 technical fall to Wadsworth’s Cohen Grimm.
The Mounties did, however, have both Grady Kline (175) and Landen Sword (215) place third in their respective weight classes en route to compiling 131 team points. Returning state qualifier Brock Durbin wrestled one match before the 126-pounder left the tournament with an illness.
“They wrestled tough.” Kline said. “We knew Wadsworth was going to be tough. Hey, you're not ranked third in the state (in D-I) without having a good team.
“But I told our guys that we had nothing to lose. Just go out and give it a shot and it was fall where it might. That's what it’s all about.”
Mapleton wasn’t the only local team with individuals wrestling for a title as Drew Spreng (Loudonville), Josh Wittel (Loudonville) and Matt Adams (Northwestern) all ended their days with runner-up finishes.
Spreng, who went 4-0 in his pool, pulled within a point of Zack Short twice in the second period before the Midview 113-pound senior pulled away for a 10-4 major decision.
“He's putting it together,” Redbirds coach Ryan Thatcher said. “He's been wrestling pretty solid all year. It didn't go the way that he wanted, but he'll learn from this and move on.
“He's really matured after last season and has improved in a couple of different positions, and that's really helped him.”
Wittel ran into a potential state champ at 150, competing against Wadsworth’s Chris Earnest, who is ranked second in D-I, and lost by pin at the 3:00 mark.
It was a setback that Thatcher said will only pay off for the senior in the second half of the season.
“Josh works hard every single day,” Thatcher said. “It didn't end the way he wanted, but he's starting to come around. That opponent there is as good as it gets, and that experience will help him come tournament time.”
Adams wrestled up a weight class and proceeded to run off three victories and advance to the 175-pound title match, but Wadsworth’s Louis Schaffer built up a 9-1 lead before earning a pin at the 3:50 mark.
“I think I did pretty good. I'm a little bit upset about my loss, but I feel healthy and I felt ready to go,” Adams said. “It was really tough. He's a lot stronger than I was, especially since I was wrestling up, so it made it tough. It was a very good challenge, though.”
Northwestern junior Trent Sigler placed fourth in the 113-pound bracket. Sigler’s lone loss in pool action was to Wadsworth’s Jaxon Joy, the projected D-I state champ in their weight class.
Locals Tyler Reeder (Loudonville, 106), Chase Sword (Mapleton, 113) and Joe Shoup (Mapleton, 285) all finished fifth, while Danny Ritchie (Hillsdale, 120) and Isaac Ott (Northwestern, 285) placed sixth.
This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: Area wrestlers learn several lessons at Husky Invitational