By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
In theory, it’s pretty easy to win a wrestling match. Be aggressive on your feet, finish your takedowns and don’t let your opponent up off the mat.
In reality, there’s a lot more to it. Chardon, however, did a good enough job in all three aspects to tally a 59-18 victory over Conneaut on Thursday at Garcia Gymnasium.
The Hilltoppers (1-0) scored the first takedown in six of the nine matches that were contested and totaled 20 takedowns to the Spartans’ six.
“I didn’t think we were aggressive as we could’ve been,” Chardon coach Nick Salatino said. “We work on being more heavy-handed (while tied with our opponents) in practice. I just talked to the team about being heavy-handed on the head.”
“I think, to an extent, it makes some difference, but also, we only have three guys who have any kind of experience,” Conneaut coach Matt Bidwell said. “R.J. (Nelson) went out and attacked and so did C.J. (Rice), who’s been battling injuries and was a little winded.”
Conditioning played a part in the Hilltoppers’ success. They scored a number of their points in the third period and even scored a win in a match Conneaut was leading, 8-2, at the start of the final period.
“We could always improve,” Salatino said. “I still think we’re in the best shape we could possibly be in. Wrestling is a long season and we’ll build up from here. We’re not going to wrestle somebody who’s in better shape than we are.”
“That influenced a lot, definitely,” Bidwell said. “I’m not trying to make excuses, we certainly didn’t wrestle the way we should have. We need to work hard at practice. We’ve got to step it up when we’re drilling and wrestling live.
“They wonder how hard six minutes can actually be. It’s varsity. Something I say as a wrestling coach is that you don’t have to be a good wrestler, but you have to be in good shape. That’s something we’ll be working on.”
Chardon surrendered just one reversal in the match, scored near-fall points 10 times and won with pins four times.
“That’s something we’ve been working on,” Salatino said. “Being on top is not a weakness, but it’s definitely not a strength. We look to be better on top and score points from there. We’re looking for a tilt or a cradle to get a quick two or three points from the top position.”
Conneaut (0-1) won just two of the nine contested weights.
“I wanted to win every match,” Salatino said. “I thought we could. Our 182 (Dustin Clute) is very green and our 152 (Sam Rocozella) is really tough, but he’s just a freshman. He still wrestled a good match.”
Evan Hornyak led things off with a third-period pin at 106 for the Hilltoppers. After a forfeit, Anthony Tilocco rallied from an 8-2 deficit to beat the Spartans’’ Ngiraingas, 14-11, at 120.
“(Tilocco) was just in better shape,” Salatino said. “We knew when he tied it, 10-10, we might as well just kick him out and score a takedown. I wish he would’ve worked both sides more. He was working on just the one leg.
“When you tire someone out, you can do just about anything you want to do to take a guy down.”
It turns out Ngiraingas suffered some kind of head injury and was taken to UH-Conneaut Medical Center.
“Isaiah wrestled aggressively, too, but I’m not sure what all happened.
“I’ll probably head over there after we’re done here and see how he is. I’m not sure what to make of that situation. If he was hurt, maybe that’s what happened (in giving up the lead).”
Steve Guzsik won by technical fall at 126 and Mike Connick beat Justin Mason, 5-3, at 132. Matt Liggett and Jake Eldridge scored pins at 138 and 145, respectively, and Chardon led, 35-0.
Rice scored the first team points for Conneaut in pinning Sam Rocozella with 10 seconds left in the bout, though he struggled to breathe most of the match.
“C.J. has been hurt,” Bidwell said. “He just came back. His chest is still bothering him. That (pin) was huge. He left everything he had on that mat.”
Dalton Moses pinned his opponent at 160 and the Hilltoppers took a forfeit at 170 to take a 47-6 advantage.
Nelson had the only other Conneaut win in a contested weight with a first-period pin of Clute.
Chardon accepted forfeits at 195 and 220 and the Spartans accepted another at heavyweight.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.