Joe Russ, John Vrasidas key to St. Anthony's fifth straight league title

St. Anthony's 132-pound champion Brandon O'Brian, left, coach St. Anthony's 132-pound champion Brandon O'Brian, left, coach Tony Walters, center, and 170-pound class champion Johnny Vrasidas pose after their matches. (Feb. 3, 2013) Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

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Joe Russ had enough with second-place finishes. So the St. Anthony's wrestler did something about it Sunday.

Russ gained redemption by winning his first CHSAA league title at 120 pounds after second-place finishes in each of the previous two league tournaments.

"I was tired of taking second," said Russ, who was named the meet's champion of champions. "This year was finally my year and I got first place. I just got a lot better. I'm 10 times stronger on my feet and a lot more focused than last year."

As usual, St. Anthony's wrestled with more focus than its opponents.

The Friars won their fifth straight league tournament, scoring 341 1/2 points en route to the title.

Chaminade followed closely in second with 330. Kellenberg was third with 146 points.

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The latest close meet added another chapter to the rivalry between St. Anthony's and Chaminade, which narrowly beat the Friars in a close contest earlier this year that helped it secure the dual-meet regular-season title.

"The rivalry the last two years hasn't been that strong, but it has been over the years," Chaminade coach George Dlugolonski said. "I think we bring the best out in each other and that's really what you want to do. You want to compete against the best and see how you measure up."

St. Anthony's John Vrasidas, at 170 pounds, pinned Daghan Hart of St. John the Baptist in the finals in 4:55, securing his first league title.

Vrasidas has had more success at states -- he's a two-time defending CHSAA state champion -- than at the league level.

"I've never gotten a hold of the league title and I'm confident going into next week," Vrasidas said of the CHSAA state championships, which begin Saturday in Buffalo. "Honestly, that was better because it motivated me, but I just had to go in there and get the job done."

Chaminade's Declan Gray, who secured the most pins in the least amount of time with four in 3:05, spoke of the rivalry with St. Anthony's: "It's a schoolwide mentality -- whenever we are able to beat them, the whole school gets behind that sport and pushes them. When the actual match or game happens, it gets heated, and then you go back to being friends again. Everyone kind of flips a switch."

And when that switch is flipped, both teams have shown that they will be contenders. Next stop: states.

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