GARFIELD HEIGHTS — Ask a high school wrestler how it feels to be an alternate to the state tournament and you may get slapped with their headgear or something worse.
It’s not something they like to talk about.
Last year two St. John wrestlers, David Cumberledge and Derek Elrod, were just that; alternates. This year, they’re both going to the state tournament.
Elrod captured the 285-pound championship Saturday night at the Division III Garfield Heights District tournament. He did it by coming from behind 5-0 and nearly getting pinned less than a minute into the bout.
Being on his back early made him think of what his brother, former Edgewood state placer Jared Elrod, always preached to him about.
"My brother always yells at me to never give up,” he said. “I didn’t want to get yelled at.”
With thoughts of his older bro going through his head, Elrod not only fought off the pin, he reversed his opponent and ended the first period with a 6-5 lead.
From there he added a takedown and reversal for the framed bracket.
“Derek never quits,” coach Scott Blank said. “Having his brother as his coach, beating the snot out of him every day. When you have a heavyweight on top of you, it’s awfully hard to fight off your back that early, and then have enough to come back and win, that says something for his heart and his conditioning and for him to be a district champion as a senior, I’m really excited for him for next week.”
Elrod was one of three Heralds to win championships at Garfield Heights and one of four that are going to Columbus.
Defending state champion Jacob Lagoa won his second straight district title with a 9-5 win over Riley Smucker of Smithville in what could be a preview of the state final next Saturday night.
Nick Burgard won with a first period pin over Mason Wright of Wellington.
Cumberledge took third. Like Elrod, he too is excited to avenge his miss from a year ago.
“It killed me,” he said. “But it pushed me to be better this year and work hard, it’s brought a fire in me I’ve never had before.”
Cumberledge lost in the quarterfinals but came back to pin his way to a third-place finish including a second period fall over Brett Skye of Mogadore in the third-place match.
Overall the Heralds took fourth as a team.
“I’m happy with all the kids,” Blank said. “They all work hard in my room and they performed as a team all weekend for us to place where we did. For those two (Cumberledge and Elrod) to be where they are, they worked hard all summer, to be successful you have to do stuff in the offseason and that’s what these kids did.”
Pymatuning Valley will be sending three to Columbus next week.
Gaige Willis (220) will make his fourth trip and sophomore Jake Edelman (113) will make his second trip. Willis hung on for a 6-5 win over Paul Skye of Mogadore.
Edelman was victimized by a mistake that cost him a trip to his back, where he was pinned by Caleb Edwards of Rootstown. He’ll go to Columbus now as No. seed.
Another Laker joining the van ride to Columbus this year will be Caleb Bean (285). Bean took fourth. He won his opening match on Friday, before losing his second, a match he said, “I should have won.”
In the bottom bracket, though, he battled his way through two more matches into the place match.
After not placing a year ago at Garfield, Bean credited his teammates for helping him get to the next level, and shared blunt advice they shared with him.
“'Suck it and do your best,' they told me most of the time,” he said. “But this means a lot to me, I wrestled with Gaige (Willis) a lot and this really means lot to me.”
For coach Dave Miller, he surely would have liked to be taking a few more next week, but unfortunately a few hopefuls such as Willie and Noah Campbell along with Chad Brown came up a bit short.
Still, PV finished fifth in the team standings, just behind St John. Miller was well pleased with how all his wrestlers performed.
“Overall, I’m satisfied,” Miller said. “We’ve never had all of our kids that wrestled win at least two matches. All of them wrestled out to the consolation quarters at minimum and we were able to get three guys though.”
Grand Valley was not able to get anyone through. Clayton Takacs took fifth and will be an alternate at 160 while Travis Meeker took sixth place at 113.