GIRARD - Girard coach Jim Cardiero thought the Indians' home crowd lacked excitement Wednesday during a critical Eastern Ohio Wrestling League showdown with Jackson-Milton.
He can thank his wrestlers for the absence of enthusiasm.
The Indians made sure there wasn't any drama to pull fans to the edge of their seats in a 48-28 victory over Jackson-Milton, a match both coaches said they expected to be much closer.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Girard’s Matt Deal, top, pins Jackson-Milton’s Nick Goodlin during their 152-pound match Wednesday in Girard. Deal’s pin was part of a major momentum swing for the Indians in their 48-28 victory.
The home-mat advantage favored the Indians, but a five-match winning streak actually took the crowd out of a dual that held major implications in Division III of the EOWL.
"It wasn't a real electric crowd, so I don't think that made a real big difference as far as getting the kids pumped up or anything," Cardiero said. "The guys who needed to step up, stepped up."
The Indians improved to 8-1 in duals, with their only loss being a four-point defeat to Poland. They remained undefeated in Division III with a 3-0 record. Girard has one final match remaining with archrival Liberty, which also is unbeaten in the league but still has matches with Jackson-Milton (2-1, 2-1) and the Indians.
On Wednesday, the biggest wins for Girard came at weight classes 120, 152 and 182, where senior Nick Cardiero picked up his 99th career victory by pinning Anthony Italiano in the third period. Freshman Nick Hall beat returning district qualifier Terry Stockton, 6-0, at 120 pounds. And Matt Deal came back from a month-long injury to secure a surprising pin against Nick Goodlin at 152.
Deal's pin really swung the momentum in Girard's favor, giving them a 24-16 lead after the Blue Jays trimmed the advantage to 18-16. The senior blocked a double-leg attempt by Goodlin and immediately hit a violent headlock to earn a pin just 53 seconds into the match.
"Normally, once I have kids on their back or I get them down, I can hold 'em down pretty well," said Deal, who credits his explosiveness to his offseason lifting. "Ever since I started wrestling in seventh grade, I've been down in the weight room every summer doing as much weight as I can to get stronger and improve my stamina."
Jackson-Milton coach Dave Tomaino called the loss a "disappointment," mainly because he felt the Blue Jays were capable of beating the Indians. Tomaino said he got a good look at Girard over the weekend at the Jackson-Milton Invitational, which includes several local teams. The Indians finished third as a team while the Blue Jays were second, 51 points better than Girard, which was without a few starters. Tomaino said he did his share of scouting, and while he came away impressed with the Indians, he also felt confident about his team's chances.
"I thought we'd win by a point or two, to tell you the truth," Tomaino said. "The match actually went a little the way I thought it would, but I thought we'd catch them at 120 and I thought we had a shot at 152.
"(Jim Cardiero) juggled his lineup in a way that created some matchups I wasn't expecting, but I figured it could happen. So, Jim outcoached me today."
The Indians now await their showdown with Liberty on Feb. 5 at Girard for Senior Night.
"It's probably going to bring out the best in us and the best of them too," said James Cupan, a senior captain for the Indians. "So we just have to bring our 'A' game."