Over the past two decades, the Wadsworth wrestling team has made Suburban League titles look easy.
Coach John Gramuglia is hoping his young squad can continue the tradition and win a 20th straight title at the Suburban League Tournament on Saturday.
“The streak is about maintaining excellence and using the old-school tradition of the entire team concept to win championships,” he said. “Throughout the course of these championships, we’ve had injuries, sickness, hardships, tough competitions, defeats, tough training days. It was never easy.
“We have whole communities cheering against us, bad calls against us, hatred from fans, wrestlers and coaches. But in the end, our team and coaches took the true concept of team first, individual accomplishments second.”
After securing the mythical regular-season crown two weeks ago and remaining alive in the state team tournament — via a win over league rival Nordonia — Wadsworth will need to dig deep this weekend if it wants another title.
Guys like Noah Baughman (103 pounds), Connor Gray (120), Mathias Zollinger (138) and Timmy Knipl (170) enter the tourney as favorites.
Zollinger will have his hands full, however, as he will most likely get a rematch with Nordonia’s Mike DeCesare. The two have split in two matches this winter, with Zollinger winning the most recent 8-3 on Jan. 17.
Knipl has been impressive since moving down from 182 to 170 earlier this month, while Baughman has already defeated fellow freshman Tony DeCeasare of Nordonia twice, which could create an exciting potential final.
Darren Gilkerson (126), Abdualhabib Abdualhabib (145) and Daryk Maki (285) should also help Wadsworth rack up the points, but the Grizzlies need to stay focused on the task at hand.
“With a young team, not getting rattled early from the pressure of the tourney will be key,” Gramuglia said. “Fighting through the adversity during the match (is key, too). Things will not come as easy in the first match-ups between some individuals.
“All teams when they are together at one site wrestle us harder. It makes us better, but it sometimes affects individuals differently.”
Highland’s Adam Kluk comes in as a heavy favorite at 195 pounds despite losing to Revere’s Stephen Suglio, who is expected to drop down to 182.
Marko Vilimonovic should be seeded high at 113 for the Hornets, while Tom Gabyak (160) is a heavy favorite if he can compete. Gabyak has been sidelined with a knee injury.
Cloverleaf’s Marc Heidelman (132) has won some key league matches this season and is out to win his first SL title.
Northeast Ohio Conference
The feel-good story of the season has been Brunswick. The Blue Devils went from last place to first in a year’s time and have a lineup that could make things interesting as the overall River Division championship is decided in a two-day format starting tonight.
Leading the turnaround has been the duo of Josh Heil (106) and Tyler Hughes (170).
Heil has been downright impressive, losing just one bout all season (to fellow state-ranked wrestler Tony DeCesare of Nordonia) and should be back wrestling at 106 after competing at 113 during dual meets.
The veteran Hughes also has been solid at 170 pounds, finishing runner-up at the Bill Dies and Hudson Tournaments and winning the North Coast Classic. He lost a 6-5 heartbreaker in the final of the Dies Tournament to Travis Linton, a wrestler that is predicted by many to compete for the D-III state title.
Brunswick knows it will take a solid weekend from its entire lineup to win the tournament crown.
“It has been a team goal to win our division,” Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar said. “The dual meets count for 50 percent towards the championship and the NOC tournament is the other 50. We realize it is going to be hard because even though we went 5-0 in duals, Hudson, Cuyahoga Falls, and North Royalton have all placed higher than us in tournaments this year. The key is getting a couple of guys in the finals, and then getting another 4-6 to place.”
Brett Thomas (113), Zach Taylor (126) and Ray Floyd (152) should help Brunswick pick up points.
Medina has been battling the injury bug over the last month. Danny Gannon (106) broke his hand last weekend at the Josh Hephner Memorial.
James Duke (285) has been a bright spot for the Bees with 27 wins and has made the podium in four tournaments.
Patriot Athletic Conference
Over the course of the PAC’s seven-year history, Black River and Buckeye have shared the honor of winning the league tournament.
The Bucks come in as the reigning champs and winners of three of the last four.
When asked about what it would take to repeat, Buckeye coach Tim Maxworthy was a man of few words.
“A complete team effort and a little luck,” the second-year coach said.
Senior Anthony Kisiday, who placed third at last season, has been the county’s top 145-pounder this season. Kisiday won the championship at the Mike Lewis Invitational and posted an impressive fifth-place showing at the Bill Dies earlier this month. Another third-place finisher in the PAC for the Bucks last season, Stefon Inman, is a favorite at 126.
Black River should dominate the lightweights with the trio of Sebastian Vidika (106), Spencer White (113) and Mike Hozan (120). Vidika and Hozan won PAC championships last season at 106 and 113, respectively, while White was a runner-up at 120.
Jake Maund, a 182 pounder, and Ryan Slone, a 220-pounder, both have won 20 or matches this season and should push to place.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.
Northeast Ohio Conference
WHEN: Tonight, 5 (opening rounds); Saturday, 11 a.m. (semifinals); 6 p.m. (finals).
WHERE: Garfield Heights High School, 4900 Turney Road, Cleveland.
TICKETS: $6 per session. Weekend pass is $18.
Patriot Athletic Conference
WHEN: Saturday, 10 a.m. (opening rounds), 4:30 p.m. (finals).
WHERE: Wellington High School, 629 North Main St., Wellington.
TICKETS: $6 for adults and $4 for students and senior citizens.
WHEN: Saturday, 10 a.m. (opening rounds); noon (semifinals); 5 p.m. (finals).
WHERE: Green High School, 1474 Boettler Road, Green.
TICKETS: $6 for adults per session and $4 for students.