BROOKLYN — The Patriot Athletic Conference isn’t just a chance for the Buckeye wrestling team to compete, it’s an opportunity to dominate and send a message to the rest of the league.
The defending champions aren’t just hoping to defend their title Saturday at Brooklyn High School, they’re looking forward to breaking records.
A four-time league champion, Buckeye scored 186 points last year en route to the title but want more this time as the Bucks are shooting to break the tournament record (196½ points) they set in 2010 when they won the PAC with six champions.
“We mentioned to them the most individual champs we’ve had is six,” Buckeye coach Rich Conkle said. “We’re going to try and set a record with that or at least tie the individual champ record. Hopefully, we’ll be at full strength Saturday.”
While Conkle wasn’t going to call his shot, the veteran coach has been around the Bucks long enough to know what he has in his squad.
Dual meets and tournaments are different animals as the team aspect in multi-team events takes a back seat whereas it is in the forefront in one-on-one settings.
That said, what the Bucks did this season in the PAC shows just how dominant they are in the league.
Two teams were able to get within 29 points of Buckeye during head-to-head competition (Wellington, 47-18, Keystone, 53-24), but the average margin of victory in PAC action for the undefeated Bucks was 40 points.
“I’d be extremely disappointed if we didn’t win it,” Conkle said. “We ran through the dual meets. We handled everybody pretty solidly. We’ll have kids finish second, third and fourth and stuff, but overall, I think our 12 or 13 wrestlers we put on the mat will be of higher quality than the rest of the league.”
While only Mike Clark (138 pounds) returns as a champion, Conkle’s statement has teeth.
Jake Bartinelli (126) is looking to better his second-place finish from last year as are Jaret Lowry (145), Doug Brown (160) and Jarrod Setliff (170) after finishing third.
“I don’t think we have to worry about being overconfident,” Conkle said. “They’ve seen these kids for three or four years now. They know that every team has some quality wrestlers on them. We’ve always had the attitude of respect everyone, but fear no one. We’re going to go out and try to beat everybody up and have some fun doing it.”
Black River, which returns runners-up in Zach LaHood (113) and Jacob Campbell (195), is also ready for its last test before the stuff that really counts.
Campbell sits one win away from breaking the school record for career victories (141), while LaHood sits in a loaded weight class.
That’s what Pirates coach Jesse Campbell wants, however, as the squad gets ready for the postseason.
LaHood, who is ranked 19th in the state in Division II will have No. 22 Anthony Ashley of Buckeye and No. 25 Connor Eckman of Firelands in his bracket.
Campbell, who is ranked eighth, will have No. 6 Justin Ocheltree of Keystone in his.
“We want to see the fight,” Jesse Campbell said. “I want to see guys using the stuff they’ve been building on since Day 1. I want to see them going after it. I’m very excited to see them do well.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.