Xavier Johnson

Napoleon’s Xavier Johnson wrestles during the Tinora Invitational earlier this season. Johnson and the Wildcats host the Gold Medal Duals Friday and Saturday in the Grand Canyon.

The annual two-day wrestling grind returns to the Grand Canyon Friday, with the start of the Napoleon Gold Medal Duals.

The Gold Medal Duals features 10 teams from all across the state, with each team wrestling the other team for a total of nine dual matches over the two day period.

“Wrestling nine matches in two days you have to be mentally prepared,” said Napoleon coach Jason Seiler. “We don’t have the experienced team we thought we were going to have at this point in the season. A lot of kids who didn’t think they would be wrestling varsity are wrestling varsity and that comes with growing pains.

“This is a big stretch of the season for us,” added Seiler. “With PIT (Perrysburg Invitational Tournament) last week, Gold Medals and Wapak (Wapakoneta Invitational) next week, it is a three-week grind.”

Along with host Napoleon, Liberty Center is back as part of the field for the Gold Medals. The Tigers are also a young team and getting a lot of mat time at this point in the season is beneficial, according to Tigers’ coach Troy Westhoven.

“We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores with little experience,” said Westhoven. “Any time you can get mat time it is a good thing, as long as you stay healthy. This tournament provides a lot of matches and some tough matches.

“Every time you step on the mat it is an opportunity for a learning experience,” added Westhoven. “This is not the week I want our kids peaking. We want the kids to be peaking at sectionals, districts and state. To get there we have to keep learning and progressing.”

Other teams competing at the Gold Medals are Fairview, Norwalk, Genoa, Versailles, Madison, Hilliard Darby and West Carrollton. Lexington was supposed to participate, but pulled out. A team composed of wrestlers from a mix of other teams in the tournament will fill in for the final spot on the roster.

“Norwalk is probably the best team,” said Seiler. “They have several kids ranked in the state and a couple that are projected to be top two in the state. They are a team in our district so we can get a good look at them.

“Genoa is also traditionally tough,” added Seiler. “I think second through fifth will come down to which team wants it more. I would like to think we are in that mix.”

The Wildcats are led by four wrestlers. Tyler Bostelman is 20-5 at 145 pounds this season, while Angelo Gonzalez is 17-5 at 170, Xavier Johnson is 20-5 at 195 and Demitrius Hernandez is 21-3 at 285.

Seiler said this is a good weekend for several wrestlers to turn their seasons around, including Claude Buckmaster (9-11 at 120) and Caleb Sell (12-10 at 138).

“Those two guys have been right on the bubble,” said the Napoleon coach. “I think those are two guys that can do something in the postseason. Maybe this is the weekend it comes together for them.”

Liberty Center also has a solid four wrestlers to lead the Tigers, with Dylan Matthews at 132 pounds, Maguire Vollmar at 138, Collin Johnson at 145 and Camren Foster at 160.

Vollmar is expected to wrestle this weekend after missing most of the season with an injury.

“We are hoping that we can use these guys to create some momentum in our line-up,” said Westhoven. “We want to compete at this tournament. I want our guys to give 100%. If they lose because of something technical, that is something we can fix. I don’t want them getting beat because their opponent wanted it more.

“We are going to go out there and battle for six minutes each match,” added Westhoven. “Then we can see how we have improved.”

Matches begin Friday at 3 p.m., with Napoleon and Liberty Center wrestling each other in the final round of the first day of competition. The final six rounds of the tournament begin Saturday at 9 a.m.

E-mail comments to jeffr@northwestsignal.net.

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