Although renovations at have forced several of the South Gym’s historic athletic pictures to be removed from its walls, several that remain bear witness to the success of Bison wrestling.
About seven of the school’s 14 state champions hang there now, many of them in crisp black-and-white with David Cassidy-like long hair from a past time. And while Beachwood has produced recent champions, one photo is missing – that of a state team champion.
As Beachwood opened its season by hosting the Bison Kickoff Classic on Saturday, sophomores Sam Gross and Ryan Harris grappled not only with their opponents but also with that deeper historical sense of things undone.
Gross (113 pounds), Harris (138), senior Aaron Friedman (120) and senior David Shapiro (160) captured individual titles and senior Grant Blumenthal(152) was a finalist. Beachwood finished third with 290 points behind winner Garfield Heights (338) and Revere (326).
But Beachwood clearly has its sights set on getting the entire team’s image mounted on the lofty South Gym’s walls.
“We’ve got a real tough team this year. In the room, it gets real competitive. We’ve got four or five guys who can win state this year. The competitiveness in the room pushes everyone, not just those four, but everybody’s whose going with them,” Gross said.
Last season, Gross placed third in the Division III state wrestling tournament at 112. Harris, who has jumped several weight classes this season, was a district champion at 125 and finished seventh at state last season.
Talk to current Bison coach Dugan Bentley or legendary Beachwood coach Domenick Iammarino and 2003 comes up. That was the closest the program came to a team title with a runner-up finish. Alex Dronzek (112) was the program’s last individual champion in 2010.
Like any coach, Bentley reflects a tempered optimism in contrast to his pupils’ ebullience about the team’s future, but he nonetheless shares their sense of daring and belief.
“The opportunity is here for us to do it,” Bentley said. “It takes the entire team to create an atmosphere inside the room that will make the most out of our starters. We do have some kids with real talent. … If everyone’s healthy and everyone does their part, we’ll certainly be in the mix of a state title.”
Beyond its stars, the Bison feature up-and-coming talents like sophomore Andrew Kitay (132), sophomore Gordon Hong (145) and junior Von Jones (195).
As for taking those first steps to that elusive state team title on Saturday night, Gross won a decision over Nate Frye of Cuyahoga Heights, 14-7, for his trophy. Shapiro smashed down Roman Waked of Columbia for a pin at 58 seconds, while Friedman stuck it to Kyle Flynn of Revere, 8-5, in the finals.
Harris was pleased with his performance in a 14-2 major decision over Justin Smith of Revere to win the crown, but had to adjust to his jump in weight class.
“I had a very rough beginning in the tournament because I went up three weight classes from last year. I needed to start picking my pace up a little. That’s what I did in the finals. I just went out there and destroyed the kid. And I think it’ll help me out because I was struggling with my weight and everything,” Harris said.
Under the watchful eye of Bentley, Iammarino and former Bison assistant wrestling coach and now school athletic director Ryan Peters, Harris and his teammates seem eager for more success to come.
Beachwood will next compete in the Olentangy Tournament next Saturday.