by Martin McConnell
The Brecksville-Broadview Heights Bees high school wrestling team advanced to the Ohio state tournament this season, with the squad finishing as state runner-up.
“[This is an] unbelievable group of kids,” Brecksville wrestling coach Todd Haverdill said. “Just the way they exceeded expectations. … Each event, it was another kid or two that really stepped up.”
Part of Haverdill’s love for the sport of wrestling comes from the variety in style of those who compete. He noted that unlike other sports, anyone of any size and from any background can be a wrestler.
“What’s neat about wrestling is that any size, make, and model can do this sport,” Haverdill said. “I tell our coaching staff all the time, if we have an average roster of 30 kids, I’ll say we have to be able to speak 30 different languages.”
Haverdill credited the team’s success to not only their hard work, but the team’s willingness to buy into the program’s prior success. The team watched Brecksville’s program consistently succeed over the years, which gave them a psychological edge over other programs, and the ability to achieve even more.
“These kids came into the year and they probably believed they were better than they were,” Haverdill said. “They believe that because the teams before them, they won. I think we’re at the point now that when they put a Bee on their chest, they believe that that stands for something, and that they’re supposed to win.”
Haverdill described this particular team’s run to the state tournament as “magical.” Though this year’s Bees came into the season as young and relatively inexperienced, they were able to win their regional semi- and final tournaments and qualify for the final eight teams in the state.
Winning their region brought the Bees to the state tournament, where the “magic” truly took place. After a win over Columbus-based Marysville in the elite eight, Brecksville took on Wadsworth, their perennial archrival in the final four.
“We won our state semifinal match 25-24, we had to juggle our lineup to do it,” Haverdill said. “Every single point matters. … That’s the kind of year that we had.”
Brecksville’s season of success was a full team effort, but Haverdill specifically named junior Frank Gallo as an unsung hero of the team’s performance in the state tournament, especially the state semifinal.
“[Gallo] wasn’t a returning starter, didn’t make the individual state tournament,” Haverdill said. “In that match, he was losing and came back to win. … He stole a match, and we ended up winning 25-24.”
Haverdill believes that Brecksville’s team mentality will be necessary for even more success going forward. He and the team were thrilled with this past season. Haverdill stressed once again that it took a combined effort to finish as the state runner-up.
“Every week, they were able to kind of overcome and overachieve,” Haverdill said. “It was just the most remarkable thing I’ve dealt with as a coach, honestly.” ∞