NILES — The Mats at the Mall event has a different feel than most regular-season high school wrestling matches — for good reason.
The combatants — Howland and Canfield — competed at Eastwood Mall on Saturday in an attempt to draw more publicity and grow excitement for the sport. They work on their form and battle hard against an opponent, rather than a wrestling partner in the wrestling room at their respective high schools.
“Our goals as separate programs when we entered this unique venue was to get more people to experience the sport, who wouldn’t normally go to a high school gym to watch,” Canfield coach Stephen Pitts said. “We’re targeting the people who wouldn’t normally see a match or may not know anything about the sport.
“At the same time, the kids really enjoy this perspective. The atmosphere is great, the crowd noise is fun and it draws added publicity and support. On Wednesday, we’ll be hosting Boardman in a match that will be shown on (local television). Plus, we have some other ideas up our sleeves as well.”
The Mats at the Mall was won by Canfield, 56-13. But that came as no surprise to anyone as the Cardinals have won all three events against Howland and have proven to be one of the top teams in the state in recent years.
The All-American Conference is an OHSAA-sanctioned league, created in 2008 as the result of the merger between the Trumbull Athletic Conference and the Metro Athletic Conference in Ohio. The league has 21 different member schools, with 17 sports offered throughout fall, winter and spring sports seasons.