All season long, the Cuyahoga Falls wrestling team has shown flashes of brilliance and then shown its youth.
That youth is part of the reason why coach Craig Wilson decided to hold Falls out of the inaugural Division I state team tournament.
However, there's little doubt that Falls can make some noise in tournaments, as evidenced by the Black Tigers' performance Jan. 18 and 19 at the Bill Dies Memorial Tournament at Akron Firestone.
Falls finished in fourth place at the Dies with 113 points, just a half a point ahead of Elyria. Brecksville dominated the tournament with 255 points.
Wilson was all smiles when he reflected on the tournament.
"Everyone on the team contributed this weekend," Wilson said. "We're doing better than we did at the beginning of the season and we keep getting better."
Indeed, every Falls wrestler won at least one match at the Dies, but the charge was led by Falls' two most experienced charges.
Junior 220-pounder Rudy Ware had to deal with the toughest bracket in the tournament, but ended up as Falls' top finisher by taking third place.
After a bye, Ware opened with a pin in 2:58 over Copley's Austin Lewarchick and an 8-5 win over Brookfield's David Jamison. However, in the quarterfinal, Ware found himself pinned by eventual champion Vernon Rowe of Barberton in 3:24.
Ware rebounded by pinning Canfield's Jacob Esarco in 49 seconds. In the third-place match, Ware gave up the first takedown, but then used his patented "Mat Cat" double-arm throw to pin Brecksville's Austin Linden and take third place.
"Rudy really stepped up," Wilson said. "He's showing a lot of mental maturity, because when he gets behind, it's not a big deal. He's starting to get that elite wrestling mentality."
Meanwhile, senior 195-pounder Joe Repasky followed a similar path as Ware's, but had to settle for fourth place.
Repasky was on fire early, as he pinned his way to the semifinals, sticking Brunswick's Mitch Slyman (1:43), Canfield's Sam Conner (1:50) and Garfield Heights' Elliot Simpson.
In the semifinal, however, Repasky ran into eventual champion Adam Kluk of Medina Highland. Kluk won the match 9-1.
Repasky then went to overtime with Kenmore's Brandon Bailer before pulling out a 3-1 win in the sudden-victory round.
In the third-place match, Repasky was unable to get his offense going against Brecksville's Josh Murphy and lost 4-2.
"You get third or fourth in this tournament and you're pretty tough," Wilson said. "Joey is coming along just fine."
Falls could have had two other wrestlers going for third place, but 113-pounder Mitch Hannah and 160-pounder Austyn Wilson each suffered minor injuries.
Hannan wrestled back from a loss in the quarterfinals before dropping a tight 7-6 loss to Brunswick's Brett Thomas. He forfeited the fifth-place match to Kent Roosevelt's Andrew Wallace for "precautionary reasons," according to coach Wilson.
Meanwhile, Austyn Wilson was having an excellent tournament until he wrestled in the semifinals against second-seeded Kurt Moore of Norwayne. However, Wilson suffered a burst bursa sack in knee during the match and lost by injury default.
Rather than risk further damage, coach Wilson chose to hold his nephew out of the rest of the tournament, forcing him to settle for sixth place.
Falls had one other wrestler reach the podium as heavyweight Sampson Demand took eighth place.
With Falls opting out of the state duals, the next action the Black Tigers see will be at the Northeast Ohio Conference Tournament Feb. 1 and 2 at Garfield Heights.