BELOIT - The West Branch wrestling team is once again in control of its own destiny in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference.
The Warriors relied on underclassmen in five key matchups as they shut down Minerva 46-20 on Thursday at West Branch High School.
The Warriors improve to 8-1 overall and claimed a share of the NBC championship with a 6-0 record which excited the team as well as coach Jason Brown.
"I think our fans got to see some nice wrestling tonight," Brown said. "We know that the prize is at the end of the season, and that's what we've begun to prepare ourselves for."
The Warriors have won at least a share, if not all, of the NBC championship since 2007. Brown noted the strength and dedication the wrestling team over the past eight winning seasons.
"I tell the guys all the time that it's not an accident," Brown said. "This didn't happen like 'Oopsie, we won eight in a row.' This is from all the work and dedication they put in all throughout the summer. It's from the commitment the parents put in all year long, and the commitment from the coaches all season long."
With the commitment came success. Against the Lions, the Warriors took advantage of several opportunites as the team has shown improvements.
"Biggest thing I'm happy with is that we had young guys get opportunities tonight to face quality opponents," Brown said. "We're improving tremendously right now. I can feel it in the room, I can see it in the guys."
The opportunities started with Mason Hughes as he pinned Devin Soliday in the 160-pound class. Four more pins went the Warriors way, including one from sophomore Aaron Mohr, who pinned Logan Fritz in the 185-pound match.
"I just wanted to not get pinned," Mohr said. "I just did what I had to do go get the win. We all got the pins when we needed them."
As the team cleaned up, Mohr noted the team's excitement over an eighth title.
"It's a really good feeling," Mohr said. "It's a party in the back right now."
Along with partially clinching the NBC, West Branch held its senior night, and bid farewell to seniors Colin Boswell, A.J. O'Brien and Logan Sharp. Boswell was the only senior who competed, winning by forfeit.
Brown noted the significance of all three seniors, as well as their highlights, over the past season.
"Boswell had a quality win in Carrollton," Brown said. "My pep talk to Logan Sharp was 'Get six, go pin them,' and he's found ways to get the job done. As for A.J., we moved him around to get some better matchups, and he goes out to get the job done."
"They did a lot for us throughout the years," Mohr said. "They're going to be missed by the team."
Meanwhile, Minerva (10-5, 5-1) got its best showing in the meet from their tried-and-true mat veterans Harrison Hoppel and Dalton Hartshorn.
Hoppel scored the only pin for the Lions against Michael Page in the 220-pound class, while Hartshorn won by technical fall over Jake Mazzei in the 152-pound class.
Lions coach Chad Hilliard, who knew how tough the Warriors were going to be going into the meet, gave support to the seniors.
"Our juniors and seniors were the ones doing the best," Hilliard said. "They went out there and got the points for us and have done well for us tonight."
The Lions have one final meet before sectionals as they host Carrollton next Thursday.
"We have to get prepared for Carrollton next week," Hilliard said. "Right now, that's what we need to focus on before we worry about sectionals, districts and state."
The Warriors will get ready as they travel to Salem on Thursday and potentially take full possession of the NBC title.
"This is going to be a big meet against Salem next week," Brown said. "We don't want just a share, we want it all."
Seniors Colin Boswell, A.J. O'Brien and Logan Sharp were honored as part of the class of 2014 during a ceremony before the meet.
West Branch won the junior high meet 57-22.
West Branch 46, Minerva 20
106: Alec Schopfer (WB) dec. Seth McGee 7-2.
113: Josiah Hrusch (M) dec. Justin Mitchell 8-5.
120: Cameron Canonico (M) dec. Travis Pidgeon 4-2.
126: Matthew Steer (WB) dec. Ben Zbasnik 4-0.
132: Jesse McGee (M) dec. Cameron Thorn 3-1 OT.
138: Cody Learn (WB) pin Joey Lettrich 1:07.
145: Colin Boswell (WB) win by forfeit.
152: Dalton Hartshorn (M) tech. fall Jake Mazzei 24-9.
160: Mason Hughes (WB) pin Drew Soliday 1:07.
170: Logan Nagy (WB) maj. dec. Cainen Bryant 12-4.
182: Adam Wilke (WB) pin Luke Walter 2:45.
195: Aaron Mohr (WB) pin Logan Fritz 4:24.
220: Harrison Hoppel (M) pin Michael Page 2:40
285: Ian Sharp (WB) win by forfeit.