By BRAD BOURNIVAL
COLUMBUS â€” Parma Padua senior and York Township resident Anthony Melillo knows all about being a pain in the neck. The returning state qualifier learned it firsthand this season.
Just a month removed from his first action, Melillo rolled through his Division II match with Cambridgeâ€™s Tyler Berger in the 130-pound weight class of the 71st annual state wrestling tournament to join Brecksvilleâ€™s Ryan Marks (D-I, 119), who lives in Medina, as Medina Countians competing for other schools still alive in the championship side of the bracket.
Melillo originally hurt his neck at the Ironman to start the year and then aggravated it further in the Brecksville Holiday Tournament.
That put his senior year in jeopardy as the former Buckeye wrestler waited nervously to see if heâ€™d even be allowed to wrestle.
â€œAt first I didnâ€™t feel like I was going to be able to go,â€ Melillo said. â€œMy family doctor said no but I went to a specialist and they said as long as I felt OK I could wrestle.â€
And wrestle Melillo did, winning the Highland Sectional and Fostoria District.
That brought on a determination for the senior, who was sick at state as a junior. Melillo tore up Berger, this time, winning by technical fall 18-2.
Of course having to go to practice for six weeks and ride a bike, can be quite the inspiration.
â€œAt the beginning of the season I was kind of going through the motions,â€ Melillo said. â€œBut since Iâ€™ve been back, itâ€™s been all about winning.â€
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BIG, BIG WIN: No win in Columbus was larger than that of Hillsboroâ€™s Dustin Carter. A 103-pounder and third-place Goshen D-II District finisher, Carter wrestles minus both legs with two malformed arms â€” one cut off just above the elbow and the other below the elbow. Carter, who has only lost twice to St. Paris Grahamâ€™s Nick Brascetta all season, made it to the state tournament and made some noise. The senior, who lost his appendages to a rare blood infection known as meningococcemia, beat Cambridgeâ€™s Andrew Bertubin 2-1 in overtime to advance to the quarterfinals where he will face Paduaâ€™s Andrew Romanchcik today. Meningococcemia is from the same bacteria that causes severe formâ€™s of meningitis.
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BIG SCHOOL BOOGIE: Thereâ€™s a new king in town in regards to having the most state qualifiers when it comes to the three districts area teams go to. The Medina D-I District bumped the West Salem Northwestern D-III District from the top spot this season with 20 representatives at state. Northwestern was second with 19, while the Highland D-II District fell in line with 15.
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COUNTY COUNT: Highlandâ€™s Bart Young (D-II, 112) and Steve Timoteo (152) exacted revenge after losing first-round matches to stay alive. Wadsworthâ€™s Danny Foore (D-I, 125) won as well. The only casualty was Highlandâ€™s Logan Gresock (D-II, 135), who appeared to break his hand in his consolation semifinal match against Zanesville West Muskingumâ€™s Blake Pumphrey.
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FOUR-GOING THE FUTURE: While Austintown Fitchâ€™s Sean Jameson is trying to become the 16th four-time state champion in Ohio history, there is a gaggle of grapplers trying to win their third in Columbus this weekend. Six of them in fact as Lakewood St. Edwardâ€™s Collin Palmer (135, DI), joins St. Paris Grahamâ€™s David Taylor (D-II, 112) and Ben Jordan (D-II, 145) as possible three-timerâ€™s. Oak Harborâ€™s Cody Magrum (D-II, 189) is on the list as is Dayton Miami Valley Schoolâ€™s Daniel Koloczik (D-III, 130) and Casstown Miami Eastâ€™s Ryan Gambill (D-III, 135). Palmer and Taylor are the only ones with a shot at No. 4 as the other two are juniors.
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NO SOUP FOR YOU: Nineteen state placers didnâ€™t make it back to the state tournament this year, up three from a year ago. Of the 19, the highest non-returner is Joe Skaggs of North Jackson Jackson-Milton, who finished second in D-III at 135 in 2006. Black Riverâ€™s Josh Pfister, who had his season cut short by knee surgery, is among the 19 as well.
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SENIOR-ITIS: As it has been every year, the senior class leads the way when state qualifiers are broken down by grades. Twelfth-graders have 348 individuals in Columbus â€” up 38 from last year and the most since 2004. They are followed by the juniors (176), sophomores (107) and freshman (41). This yearâ€™s junior class got crushed by last yearâ€™s junior class, down 52 qualifiers from a year ago.
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STATELY SERVICE: Wadsworth (66) still holds the edge over Highland (57) in terms of state placers, but the Hornets hold a 14-12 advantage when it comes to state champs. Buckeye (27 placers, 6 champions), Black River (29, 4), Brunswick (23, 2), Medina (14, 2) and Cloverleaf (9, 1) fall in line after that.
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STOP RIGHT THERE: Troy Christian picked up one more state qualifier when alternate Kyle Burns replaced Dayton Jefferson Townshipâ€™s Jacob Mendenhall in D-III, 152. The Ohio High School Association ruled Mendenhall â€” Jefferson Townshipâ€™s first state qualifier in more than 30 years â€” academically ineligible Thursday, giving Jefferson Township another black eye. The boys basketball team defeated Lockland 83-59 on Tuesday to advance to a D-IV regional, but had an ineligible player and had to forfeit the victory. Burns wound up beating Archboldâ€™s Tyler Short in his opening-round match and is one match away from placing.
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WITH HONORS: Gazette staff writer and 1989 Nordonia graduate Brad Bournival will be recognized today at 6:15 p.m. as the Wrestling Coaches Associationâ€™s Media Service Award recipient. Bournival, who has worked for The Gazette since 1999, is covering his 10th state tournament for the newspaper. Bournival is the second Gazette staffer to be recognized, joining 2007 honoree Jason P. Skoda since the award came into existence in 1995.
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BACK POINTS: West Chester Lakota Westâ€™s Ryan Fields, who lost to Wadsworthâ€™s Brad Squire in the state finals last year, is in danger of becoming the Buckeye stateâ€™s first four-time state runner-up. … With 23 state titles, St. Edâ€™s has the fifth-most state wrestling championships in the country. The Eagles lead Ohio with 233 state placers, 135 state finalists and 83 state champions. They have nine left in the quarterfinals today. … Of the 56 wrestlers from the Owens D-III District, 23 lost both their matches.