Look ahead, even for a moment, and the Medina Invitational Tournament will put you on your backside as fast it throws you on the bottom of the bracket.
Many a wrestler has come to the MIT, now in its 44th year, expecting a title, only to go home with a two-day view of the tournament from the stands.
At an event filled with 87 state qualifiers, two nationally ranked teams in No. 24 Davison (Mich.) and No. 30 Wadsworth, the brackets look more like landmines than they do clear paths to the title.
“It’s a great measuring stick just to figure out where you’re at,” Highland coach Tim Maxworthy said. “If you place at the MIT, it doesn’t mean you’re going to place at the state tournament, but if you’re not making it to the second day, it shows you have a whole lot of work to do.”
Champions of tomorrow begin being made today at the MIT, and Maxworthy, who was a two-time state finalist and state titlist, was one of them when he wrestled for Buckeye.
Three-time state champion Chris Hahn of Minerva cut his teeth at the event as well by beating Maxworthy, a then state runner-up, 8-6 in the 2001 MIT semifinals. Both went on to win state titles later in the season.
Few have forgotten the 2005 finals between Massillon Perry’s Dustin Schlatter and Davison’s Brent Metcalf, which went into overtime before Metcalf won. Both went on to be Division I national champions in college.
“It definitely is a tournament where you can get your name out there,” Medina coach Chad Gilmore said. “You can make a name for yourself. There’s always great competition. I think it’s one of those tournaments where it’s a great chance for you to elevate your ability to the competition.”
Wadsworth’s Luke Baughman showed exactly what he was made of after winning last year’s MIT.
An eventual state runner-up, the three-time state qualifier and two-time state placer drew eventual three-time state placer Alex Isbrandt of Miami East in the 138-pound final. The match went 7:29 before Baughman picked up a pin.
“It was a huge confidence booster,” Baughman said. “I just think that the final match I showed grit in it. At the end of the third period the scoreboard said I was down a point, but the refs overturned it (to send it to overtime). I kept focus and came out on top.”
Looking at the tournament on a smaller scale shows just how much the future of Medina County will be shaped. Headlined by two-time reigning champion Wadsworth, the only county school not making the trek to East Union Street the next two days is Black River.
“You have that little county rivalry thing that is always going on,” Buckeye coach Rich Conkle said. “It also transpires into us rooting for each other as the tournament goes on. It’s friendly camaraderie.”
It’s also a chance to see where each team ranks in the grand scheme of the local picture.
There’s plenty to choose from, as Baughman and Michael North were MIT champions last season for Wadsworth. The Grizzlies also return placers Landen Hacker and Logan Messer. Brunswick’s Logan Heil, Derek Fields and Eddie Sevastos return as placers, as does Buckeye’s Nick Neitenbach.
“Our county is tough and it’s just getting bigger and better,” Gilmore said. “We have a ton of young talent coming up. Highland and Buckeye have done a great job of developing their own talent at the youth level. Their talent is finally coming to the high school the next couple years. They’re going to be elevating the Medina County tradition. It’s going to make all of us step up our game. It’s a great thing.”
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