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2010 Brakeman Report

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March 1, 2010

2010 State Tournament Preview
By: Brian Brakeman

Anticipation is always high for the Ohio High School State Wrestling Championships, but this year there is even more excitement than usual. Much of that is the result of four factors that promise to make the 73rd edition of this tournament one that will long be remembered.

First, there are an unprecedented number of returning wrestlers who have already won more than one state championship, led by the phenomenal Logan Stieber (Monroeville), who will seek to become Ohio’s 19th four-time state champion. Second, there is a strong likelihood of a sensational team competition in Division I, where Wadsworth seeks to unseat Lakewood St. Edward in a battle that may not be resolved until the very last bout Saturday night. Third, the tenacious Paige Nemec (Mantua Crestwood) qualified at the difficult 103 weight class at the Firestone District, thus becoming the first female wrestler to reach the state tournament. And fourth, there are more than the normal number of weight classes that feature compelling match-ups and widespread parity.

The individual highlight of the tournament will be Logan Stieber’s quest for a fourth state title. He currently owns a lifetime record of 170-1, with his only loss occurring during the first week of his freshman year to another four-time champion, David Taylor. Since then he has reeled off 167 consecutive victories, setting a new state record in that category. None of his 12 state victories to this point have gone the full six minutes and he can become the first four-time champion to win every state bout by fall or technical fall. Already one of the greatest high school wrestlers in Ohio history, he is an overwhelming favorite to win this, his last high school competition.

Division I

Substantial interest has been generated in the Division I team competition by the emergence of Wadsworth as a co-favorite this weekend. Lakewood St. Edward has won the last 13 state titles and established a new all-sports record last year breaking a tie with the St. Xavier boys swimming team of 1970-1981. However, Wadsworth, state dual meet champions the past two years, has mounted a major threat to that dominance. They qualified 12 wrestlers out of the tough Ashland District, including six champions, and are led by three powerful upper weight wrestlers—Caleb Busson, Nick Tavanello, and Ben Buzzelli—and the Squire brothers. Should they triumph, it would be their first team title since 1942.

However Lakewood St. Edward will not go easily. They qualified 11 wrestlers out of that same Ashland District with six champions and outscored Wadsworth to win the district title. They, too, have five potential finalists in Dean Heil, Gus Sako, Jamie Clark, Anthony Salupo, and Nick Sulzer. By exiting the same district, many key match-ups may have to wait until Saturday in what could be the closest Division I race in 33 years. Other strong teams include perennial powerhouse Massillon Perry, who won the always difficult Mentor District and qualified nine wrestlers, Marysville and Cincinnati Elder with eight qualifiers, and Springboro with seven.

It seems altogether appropriate that this year as we honor the 48 three-time state champions in Ohio wrestling history, that we have a tournament record six wrestlers seeking a third state title. In Division I, the brilliant Jamie Clark (Lakewood St. Edward) will compete for a state title at 130 pounds after winning championships at 119 and 112 the last two years. Clark has been hobbled by injuries and illness virtually the entire season, but still has posted a 124-8 record over the course of his outstanding career. His overtime loss in the state finals of his freshman year is all that prevented him from looking for a fourth state title. Bound for the University of Illinois, he would become the 10th wrestler representing Lakewood St. Edward to win three or more state titles.

There are eight other returning state champions in Division I, all of whom are seniors. Scattered throughout the 14 weight classes many will likely face familiar foes as they try to double up. Perhaps, the most crowded weight class is at 125, where former state champion Gus Sako (Lakewood St. Edward) must fend off the challenges of three wrestlers—Jake McCombs (Marysville), Jake Corrill Cincinnati Moeller) and John Dillon (Youngstown Boardman)—all of whom placed third last year. With each of the four exiting a different district it could make for a sensational semi-final round. Also expected at this weight class was two-time state runner-up Nick Lawrence (Westlake), who recently broke his foot and was, sadly, unable to compete.

At 152 pounds, two three-time state place-winners will likely battle one last time. State champion David Habat (Cleveland St. Ignatius) and Pierce Harger (Cincinnati Moeller) have combined for 295 high school wins and their possible Saturday evening match-up should be a classic. In a potentially critical bout in the team competition, former state champion Brad Squire (Wadsworth) and two-time state placer Anthony Salupo (Lakewood St. Edward) will compete at 145 pounds for a third time. The winner of this meeting would not only take home an individual state title, but also provide points in the team race. Squire’s brother Kagan allowed only two points in five state bouts last year while finishing third and has a possible date with defending state champion Jerome Robinson (Cleveland St. Ignatius) in another bout with possible team implications. It would be a classic confrontation of defensive wizardry and unstoppable offense.

One possible state final rematch could occur at 135 pounds where defending state champion Shawn Fayette (Miamisburg) could once again square off with state runner-up Ty Davis (West Chester Lakota West), but this time their battle would be a semi-final classic. Other returning champions are the powerful Robert Shepherd (Mason), the charismatic Korey Mines (Maple Hts.) and the athletic Josh Demas (Westerville North).

Division II

While there is anticipation of close team races in Division I, no such expectation exists in Division II. Mighty St. Paris Graham, ranked as the nation’s best team by most experts, features four returning state champions and five other state placers. Last year they obliterated a number of team records, scoring 282 points (breaking the old record by an unheard of 53 points) and crowning seven individual state champions, eclipsing a record that had stood for 58 years. Their overall 50 individual state titles vaulted them past Maple Heights and put them second on the all-time list behind only Lakewood St. Edward. This year they are again likely to dominate as they seek their 10th consecutive team title and their 12th overall. That would give Coach Jeff Jordan his ninth state title and move him into fourth place overall behind only Greg Urbas, Howard Ferguson and Mike Milkovich.

The team battle will be for the runner-up trophy and there will be plenty of contenders. With St. Paris Graham earning so many points, there is more fragmentation in Division II, giving squads with three or four outstanding wrestlers a solid opportunity for a high placement. Top on the list is Oak Harbor, which qualified seven out of the Marion Harding District, including top contenders Drew Stone, Ian Miller and Konner Witt. Other top teams include Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, Lewis Center Olentangy, Lexington and Toledo Central Catholic.

There are some exceptional match-up opportunities in Division II. The most anticipated might be two-time state champion and three-time placer Ty Mitch (Aurora), perhaps the best wrestler in Aurora history, facing off with state champion Nick Brascetta (St. Paris Graham). Mitch defeated Brascetta the first two times they met, including a victory early in the year that snapped his 49-bout winning streak, but Brascetta has twice turned the tables since then evening their series at two apiece. Just to make the final, Brascetta will have to get past state runner-up Brandon Gambucci (Lexington) in what will be a highlighted semi-final contest. We may see a rematch at 125 pounds, where defending state champion Johnni DiJulius (Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit) could well meet his finals opponent from last year, Drew Stone. That ended with a one-point DiJulius victory and this year’s final could be just as close.

There is a lot of history at 140 pounds, where state champion Felipe Martinez (St. Paris Graham) and former teammate Tucker Armstrong (Kenton Ridge) could do battle for the sixth time this year. Both boys are state champions, with Martinez winning last year after beating out defending state champion Armstrong for a varsity spot at 130 pounds. Now back at Kenton Ridge, Armstrong has given Martinez a series of rousing battles, but has lost all five of their previous bouts. Three-time state placer and former state finalist Brad Wukie has one last opportunity to win a coveted state title at 160. A tough battler, he could well face defending state champion Kyle Ryan (St. Paris Graham) in what would be a compelling struggle.

Joining Mitch as a potential three-time champion in Division II is the outstanding Hunting Valley University School middleweight, Harrison Hightower. Often overlooked, Hightower is a strong pinner who has won 126 bouts the last three seasons and been a dominating winner at major Ohio tournaments. The other returning champion in this classification is another wrestler who may not have received his full due from the media, but Max Thomusseit (St. Paris Graham) is almost certain to win his second state title and place for the fourth consecutive year. He has lost only once to an Ohio wrestler the past two seasons and is probably the strongest favorite in Division II.

Over the years, Ohio has produced some fine female wrestlers, but none that were able to compete at the state meet. However, this year the very talented Paige Nemec qualified in fourth place at a difficult district that featured at least six state-caliber wrestlers. Nemec, who began wrestling at age five, is a strong four-year performer at Mantua Crestwood and has earned well over 100 varsity wins. This year alone she took first in five important tournaments this year while amassing 33 victories. Her first round opponent, returning state placer Trevor Fiorucci (Lewis Center Olentangy) will be a tough opening match-up, but Nemec has proven to be a solid competitor over her varsity career.

Division III

As has recently been the case, much of the interest in Division III revolves around the sensational quartet of wrestlers representing Monroeville. While Logan Stieber closes in on his fourth state title his three teammates, Hunter Stieber, Cam Tessari, and Chris Phillips will be heavy favorites to capture their third. The four of them have combined for a 174-1 record this year. About the only goal they have so far failed to achieve is a team title, but they head into this meet as the favorites.

There are three other returning state champions in Division III and all of them face stern opposition this year. Nick Goebel (Bloomdale Elmwood), whose 60 bout winning streak was snapped earlier this year, will likely match-up at 112 pounds with the powerful Alex Dronzek (Beachwood) for the second consecutive year, but this time as a semi-final struggle. This has all the makings of an epic battle with Goebel at 99-1 the past two years, while Dronzek is 82-4. Last year Goebel prevailed by a single point and that could again be the margin this year. Waiting in the wings for the winner could well be William Spangler (LaGrange Keystone)

Jake Howe (Blanchester), already a three-time place-winner, strolled to the 152 pound title last year, outscoring his four opponents by a combined 41-14 margin. He has 177 career wins, but could face a tough battle with powerful junior Cody Walters (Bedford St. Peter Chanel), already a two-time place winner, who was third last year. A state quarterfinal overtime loss cost Walters an opportunity to compete with Howe last year. Corby Running (Clarksville Clinton Massie) was his school’s second individual state champion last year at 189 pounds, and returns to defend that title at one of the most competitive weight classes in Division III. For example, the Maple Heights District qualified state runner-up Jonathon Beam (Waynedale), state third-place finisher Kurtis Schaefer (West Salem Northwestern) and state fifth-place medallist Royal Brettrager (Kirtland) in what shapes up as an exciting battle from the very first round.

The team competition could be a real classic. It will likely pit the individual brilliance of Monroeville against the superior numbers of Bedford St. Peter Chanel in a battle where team depth will be tested. Monroeville, with its outstanding quartet of wrestlers, may have the inside track to the school’s first ever state team title, but they will need to perform at peak efficiency. Last year they fell one point short, losing to Troy Christian in an exciting contest. That gave Troy Christian its third-consecutive team title, becoming only the second Division III team to accomplish that milestone. This year Monroeville has qualified two additional wrestlers, including junior Cal Clark who has placement potential. Bedford St. Peter Chanel with a tournament leading 10 qualifiers will likely be the major obstacle for Monroeville. A young, beautifully balanced team with only two senior starters they should score heavily in many weight classes after emerging from the brutal Maple Heights District. They feature two potential finalists in senior, Mike Kovach, and junior, Cody Walters. Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (CVCA) had a hard-luck district, but still qualified five wrestlers in that same demanding district. Four of those wrestlers have finalist possibilities—Alex Utley, Nathan Tomasello, Zak Vargo, and Brandon Sommers—which could put them near the top of the leader board. Three-time team champ Troy Christian also qualified five wrestlers, all of whom have placed in prior years, while West Jefferson put seven wrestlers into the state tournament, a number exceeded only by Bedford St. Peter Chanel.

 


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