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It was a special night under the bright lights of Sandy Valley High School's gymnasium on Thursday, Dec. 13 as this marked the final home wrestling match for head coach John Groff. The Cardinal wrestlers took on Ridgewood and Newcomerstown in a triangular match and at the end of the night, the Cardinals were victorious in both.
In the night opener, the Cardinals took on the Generals from Ridgewood and bested them by the final score of 63-10. The Cardinals used six pins, four forfeits and one decision to easily take care of the Generals and notch their first win of the evening.
Gaining victories for Sandy Valley by pin were Joe Newman (120) in :30, Eric Cassidy (132) in :38, Brett Stoffer (170) in 1:42, Hudson Cole (182) in 1:19 and Sam Groff (195) in 1:38. Jake Geiger picked up the lone decision for the Cardinals in the 285 weight class, winning 4-3.
Following the first match of the evening, the school took a moment to honor coach Groff as former wrestlers of his lined the mats to acknowledge contributions he has made both on the mats and in their individual lives.
"John has been a tremendous asset to Sandy Valley, not only as a coach, but a teacher and community member as well," commented Sandy Valley Athletic Director Mickey Keck. "He has touched the lives of thousands of students and athletes. I know his desire to win is great but his devotion to make his students and athletes better people is, and was his first priority," Keck added on Groff.
The school honored Groff with a banner that reads "The House that Groff Built" and will be hung in the Sandy Valley wrestling room to commemorate his legacy to the program and school.
"That was fabulous," commented Groff on the evening. "This place has been my home and there have been times my wife has told me I've been at the school too long, but she has been great through this," added Groff as he looked back over his tenure.
When asked what's next after this year, Groff commented by saying, "It's a good question. I know I can't stay away forever but I'm not signing any contracts that make me be here," he said as he laughed.
In his 36 years at Sandy Valley, after coming over after serving three years at Malvern, Groff has compiled an overall record of 352-169-3. He was honored as the PAC-7 Coach of the year four times, the IVC Coach of the Year five times, the All-Stark County Coach of the Year twice and the Division II-III Stark County Coach of the Year four times.
His wrestling teams have amassed three PAC-7 League Championships, 10 IVC Championships, eight Sectional Championships and countless District IV Top five Team honors.
Groff has seen seven wrestlers place at the state meet, with two being runners-up, 37 state qualifiers, six district/regional champions, 200 district/regional qualifiers, 36 sectional champions, four league MVP's and 86 league champions.
There is only one word for that. Irreplaceable.
"Sandy Valley has been very fortunate to have a guy like Groff on their staff all these years," said Keck. "I cannot even begin to tell you what he has done for Sandy Valley, but also me personally. I just want him to enjoy his retirement and finally get to relax."
Groff could not rest long on Thursday evening as the Cardinals still had a dual to go against Newcomerstown High School.
The Trojans raced out to a 10-0 advantage but the Cardinals took over in the 170 pound weight class and never looked back. The Cardinals recorded five straight pins, with a forfeit mixed in to grab a commanding lead at 42-10. Sandy continued to pile it on and took the dual by the final of 57-19.
Scoring pins for the red and grey were Hunter Vanderpool (106) in :25, Cassidy (132) in 2:36, Stoffer (170) in 1:54, Cole (182) in 1:01, Nick Smith (220) in :54 and Geiger (285) in 1:17.
Also picking up wins were Newman by a 18-1 tech fall and Evan Offenberger with a 9-7 decision.
The boys did not have long to celebrate the victories as they were back on the mats Friday and Satruday, Dec. 14 and 15 to compete in the 43rd annual Barnesville Invitational.
The Cardinals finished 6th in the team standings behind champion Claymont, who cruised to a victory with 307.5 points. The next closest team was second place Tuscarawas Valley at 115.5. Third place went to Caldwell (103) and fourth place was captured by St. Clairsville (94.5). The Cardinals racked up 84.5 points and trailed fifth place finisher Martin's Ferry who had 90 team points.
Groff was the lone champion for the Cardinals as he took home the title in the 195 pound weight class. Newman reached the finals but was downed by Meadowbrook's Jerad Patterson in the title match by a decision score of 3-2.
The wrestlers were back on the mats on Dec. 19 when they traveled to Timken High School for a triangular with the Timken Trojans and the Malvern Hornets. The boys will then travel to Indian Valley High School to take on Indian Valley and Edison for a triangular on Dec. 27. Both matches are set to begin at 6 p.m.