ASHLAND — Even without one of the top wrestlers in the state, Ashland acquitted itself admirably.
The short-handed Arrows won their record-setting fifth consecutive J.C. Gorman Invitational team title over the weekend at Mansfield Senior, edging Medina Buckeye by the thinnest of margins.
Ashland finished with 221 points to Buckeye’s 219.
What’s more, the Arrows did it without projected Division II state finalist Brady Welch in the lineup. The senior 175-pounder was held out for precautionary reasons after tweaking his knee a week earlier.
The Arrows followed up their Gorman championship with a district championship in the dual meet tournament Wednesday.
Ashland beat top-seeded Buckeye in the semifinals before dispatching No. 4 seed Tiffin Columbian in the district finals to earn a return trip to the dual meet state tournament. The Arrows finished third at the event last year.
Ashland’s most recent Gorman title — as well as its dual district crown — is a testament to its depth. The Arrows filled 12 of the 14 weight classes at the Gorman and 10 of those 12 wrestlers placed in the top eight. More importantly, eight of the 10 placers won their place matches Saturday.
Buckeye had 11 placers but only four of them won their place matches.
“We didn’t have our best day one, but wrestled really well (Saturday),” Ashland coach Sean Seder said. “We won a lot of our placement matches and were able to sneak it out there at the end."
Ashland boasted a pair of Gorman champs in 120-pounder Roman Parobek and 157-pounder John Metzger. Meanwhile, Buckeye had three individual champs in Colyn Limbert (106), tournament MVP Eddie Neitenbach (150) and Todd Allen (285).
Ashland got runner-up finishes from Milan Parobek at 126 and Griffin Adkins at 138. Cayden Spotts was third at 215, while fifth-place finishers included Korbyn Jones (113) and Ashden Maffett (150). Angelo Seitz (165), Hayden Flynn (175) and Hayden Hensel (285) placed seventh.
Metzger had perhaps the best tournament of any Ashland wrestler. He pinned his way to the finals before earning a 7-3 decision over Northmor’s Niko Christo in the championship match.
“I had a couple of pins on day one and just kind of got the feel for things,” said Metzger, who improved to 20-5. “I came out a little slow in my semifinals match before getting the pin and then I kind of flowed through the championship match and kept it at my pace.”
Like his head coach, Metzger was surprised to see the Arrows atop the podium again.
“With Brady out, you come in short-handed,” Metzger said. “In the (consolation rounds) you need all of your guys to step up and get as many pins as possible.
“Overall, our entire team stepped up big-time.”
In addition to his Gorman title, Metzger placed second at the hastily-organized Ashland Holiday Tournament — the event was put together in two days after the COVID-related cancelations of some marquee events. He also picked up a pair of wins during Wednesday’s dual meet district tournament.
“The last month we have had a hammer of a schedule,” Metzger said. “All of these tournaments are just preparation for sectionals and district and state.”
The individual postseason tournament begins Feb. 26. Before that, Ashland will compete in the Division II dual meet state tournament at Louisville High School on Feb. 12.
Given their recent performance, the Arrows are trending in the right direction.
“Any time you can take home a big tournament trophy in a competitive field like this, it’s always nice,” Seder said. “We’re grateful and thankful for the kids we’ve got and the coaches we’ve got and our wrestling community. I’m just real proud of everything we did.”