STREETSBORO _ Southeast freshman Erik Bartley was unusually nervous before the start of Thursday night's dual match at Streetsboro that promised to decide the Portage County League wrestling champion.
"Bartley knew how big the match was and how important it was for us to get out to a good start," said Southeast coach Ralph Graham. "He normally doesn't pace very much, but he probably paced for about an hour, even during the JV bout. I told him 'sit down, your not wrestling,' but he said this was the most nervous he'd ever been."
The 103-pounder overcame his nerves to give the Pirates the start they needed, scoring a 7-2 victory that helped Southeast build a large lead over Streetsboro, winning in five of the first six weight classes before holding on for a 31-22 victory.
"We knew the first three matches would be the key," said Graham. "We felt we had to win those first three, because if we didn't, they would be able to build some momentum. I knew they were very capable in the first two weight classes against us. We thought we were maybe a slight favorite, so the heat was on us to produce wins in those classes."
The Pirates did just that with Bartley's victory over Bob Kirtley at 103, followed by Mike Kemble's 6-3 decision over Jim Kuchta at 112.
Southeast senior Bo Tasker continued the run by scoring a 19-2 technical fall over freshman Dan Alexander.
"We figured if we won the first two matches, we'd have a good shot at the first three because their kid was pretty young at 119," said Graham. "After that, I think it was important that we were able to get the matchups that we needed, being able to wrestle Jeff Mason at 171 and drop Jim Sutcliffe down (from 160 to 145)."
After Matt Kubitza pinned Streetsboro's David Magg in 3:26 of their 145-pound match, Sutcliffe won on a 17-0 technical fall over Scott Chappell, and Mason defeated John Hayduke 8-2.
Mason's victory put Southeast ahead 31-9 overall, sealing the victory.
But before the Pirates could put the dual match out of reach, they had to battle some tightly contested early matches.
Chris Weichman won 9-8 at 130 pounds over Streetsboro's Bora Tucture, and Todd Pastva scored on a late escape and a takedown to hold off the Rockets' Brandon DiDona 9-5 in their 135-pound match.
The only Streetsboro victory in the first six bouts came at 125, where Mike Klimak scored on an escape in the closing seconds to defeat Chris Dunfee 7-6.
Josh Alexander notched the next Rockets' victory (7-6) at 140 pounds, taking down Nathan Keppler with three seconds remaining in the final period for the two points he needed for the win.
"Josh hadn't wrestled in a week," said Streetsboro coach Jim Boardwine. "In our match with Field, he had suffered a shoulder injury, whiplash and had ligament damage in his chest. So I think he wrestled with a lot of (guts) to get that win."
Streetsboro's Anthony Rumplik won 17-11 over Gary Walczak at 152 pounds, keeping the Rockets hopes alive by cutting Southeast's lead to 23-9 before Sutcliffe and Mason sealed the Pirates' victory.
Streetsboro won the final three matches of the night, with Wayne Weingart scoring a 21-14 decision over Joe Botsford at 189, Clint Rutherford pinning Dustin Dohse (3:40) at 215, and Wayne Chappell holding off Tom Crock, 7-3, at heavyweight.
"I'm disappointed we lost, but overall I'm happy with the way the kids wrestled," said Boardwine. "I think that's probably the best we've wrestled against Southeast since I wrestled here. The matches that we lost were all pretty close. They were exciting matches that I think were fun for the crowd to watch."