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And he's seen enough already. "I don't think

By Tom HardestyRecord-Courier staff writer Published: December 12, 1997 12:00 AM

And he's seen enough already.

"I don't think anybody in the PCL will even come close against them," said the Red Devils coach. "I don't think Southeast is going to get touched."

Butto should know.

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He had just watched the Pirates roll to a 51-18 Portage County League win in the season opener for both teams - and his Red Devils were picked to give Southeast its stiffest challenge of the season in the PCL.

With that in mind, it may not be a bad idea for the Southeast athletic department to find a place on the gymnasium wall for the wrestling team's seventh straight league championship banner.

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Pirates coach Ralph Graham, however, isn't quite ready to start decorating - yet.

"We don't take anything for granted, because you never know," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do. This just gives us a stepping stone to see where we're at. We still have a ways to go."

This season's version of the Pirates looks a lot like the last six PCL championship clubs: talent to burn, depth everywhere and experience up and down the lineup.

Apparently, this is a classic case of a program that never rebuilds, it just reloads.

"From the outside, it may seem that way," said Graham. "But it's not. High school athletics are so fragile. You're never quite sure of what you're going to have from year to year, and a lot can happen. You get a couple kids hurt, and you go from being a decent team to a team that could be in trouble. A couple injuries can change everything."

The Pirates started fast and ended faster against the Red Devils. Freshman Erik Bartley pinned Crestwood freshman Frankie Divencenzo in 1:16 at 103 pounds, and the Pirates had a quick 6-0 lead and were off and running.

Sophomore Mike Kemble pushed the Southeast lead to 12-0 moments later when he pinned sophomore Mike Resh in 1:24 at 112, and the advantage grew to 16-0 when senior Bo Tasker scored a 15-1 major decision over freshman Jesse Stamm at 119.

Crestwood never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

"I kind of felt that if we could get off to a good start, we would be able to control things," said Graham. "We knew we needed to get the first three (bouts). If they would have gotten one of the first three, they would have had some momentum and it would have been a battle."

The Pirates ended the match the same way they started, finishing with a technical fall and three pins in the final four bouts.

After Crestwood had closed to 28-18, Southeast senior Jeff Mason, fifth in the state in Division II last season, scored a 21-4 technical fall over senior Luke Tillett at 171, pushing the lead to 33-18.

Senior Dan Zinz followed with a pin in 1:27 over Crestwood junior Carl Heritage at 189 to make it 39-18, and senior Kris Cofojohn pinned Red Devils freshman Kyle Singleton in 1:30 at 215 for a 45-18 cushion. Southeast junior heavyweight Tom Crock closed the match by pinning junior Ken Stoots in 3:12.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised," said Butto. "I knew this was going to be very, very tough. We wrestled better than we did last year against them (a 57-13 Southeast win, also in the season opener). We really didn't wrestle too badly tonight ... we just got out-experienced. They're just stacked, that's all."

Trailing 16-0, the Red Devils got their initial win of the night when junior Heath Kramer decisioned Southeast sophomore Chris Dunfee, 16-10, at 125.

Pirates junior Chris Weichman responded by pinning senior Steve Mangeri in 1:21 at 130, and Southeast sophomore Todd Pastva scored a 6-0 decision over sophomore Kurt Ragle at 135 to push the Pirates' advantage to 25-3.

Senior Brendan Hyland then picked up Crestwood's second win of the match when he decisioned junior Gary Walczak, 12-5, at 140.

Southeast senior Jim Sutcliffe followed that with a 15-13 overtime decision over senior David Pignaloso at 145 in the night's most exiciting bout. Trailing 13-10 in the third period, Sutcliffe battled back to tie it at 13-13 with nine seconds left in regulation, then scored a takedown in overtime to win it.

Sutcliffe's win pushed Southeast's lead to 28-6, but the Red Devils battled back.

Senior Tim Sommer, fifth in the state in Division II last season, started his final high school campaign with a pin in 3:42 of Southeast sophomore Jake Berkley at 152.

Crestwood senior Chris Walters followed suit, pinning sophomore Matt Kubitza in 3:10 at 160, bringing the Red Devils within 28-18.

But the Pirates had too much talent, depth and experience in their lineup for the Red Devils to get any closer.

Just like the previous six years.

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