MEDINA — Saturday wasn’t the first time Wadsworth’s Mathias Zollinger squared off with Nordonia’s Mike DeCesare.
With the way this season is going, it won’t be the last.
Zollinger met DeCesare for the fourth time this season — this time for the Medina Division I Sectional crown at 138 pounds.
Like the previous two meetings, Zollinger took the win — and the higher seed into next weekend’s district tournament at Cleveland State — in helping the Grizzlies to a runner-up finish.
Brecksville won the championship with 296, while Brunswick was fourth and Highland was sixth.
“I know him and he knows me, so it’s just a battle every time,” he said. “It might come down to a go-to match with him (at districts), but we’ll see.”
The senior was one of six Medina County wrestlers to win weight classes, with five coming in D-I. Fellow Grizzlies Robbie Bosley (152 pounds) and Daryk Maki (285) also won individual titles, along with Brunswick’s Tyler Hughes (170) and Highland’s Adam Kluk (195) in D-I and Buckeye’s Anthony Kisiday (145) in D-II.
For Zollinger, it was his first sectional championship after placing third at Medina a year ago.
It wasn’t easy, however, as Zollinger jumped to a 3-1 lead after two periods on an escape in the final seconds. DeCesare, who handed Zollinger one of his two losses on the season at the North Canton Holiday Invitational in December, recorded an escape in the third, but Zollinger found the strength to hold on to the 3-2 victory.
“I didn’t know I was that flexible, that’s for sure,” he joked. “I definitely had to keep those legs separated so he doesn’t get two on the edge because you don’t want to lose with 20 seconds left in a match.”
Like Zollinger, Bosley had to do crafty maneuvering of his own to close out his 152-pound title bout with Firestone’s Tom Lehman. The junior was able to do just that as he made a 6-1 lead hold up.
“My forearms are killing me,” Bosley said. “It was hard to hold him down. He’s strong and a good switch. Basically, I had to have good position on top and don’t let him switch or anything.”
Maki made quick work of Nordonia’s Brandon Rem, pinning him in 1:33 of the 285-pound final.
Wadsworth had 10 competitors earn a spot in next week’s district with the three champs and Connor Gray (120), Shane Mast (160) and Tim Knipl (170) helping rack up the points. Noah Baughman (113), Abdulhabib Abdulhabib (145), Alex Carrell (182) and Clayton Brandenburg (195) also qualified.
A county showdown took place on the main mat at 170 pounds with Brunswick’s Hughes and Wadsworth’s Knipl facing each other for the first time this season.
Hughes escaped Knipl’s hold early and was able to hang on for a thrilling 1-0 win. It was the senior’s first sectional title and second one-point victory of the day after beating Brecksville’s Troy Lang by the same count.
“It’s all about advancing to the next round, whether it’s by a point or 20 points,” Hughes said. “I knew I could ride him out on top, so I knew if I could get out on the bottom and get a point that it might be able to hold up.
“Do I like to run on one point? No. But whatever gets the job done.”
Hughes will be joined at districts by eight other Blue Devils. Lightweights Josh Heil, Brett Thomas and Zack Taylor placed second in their respective weight classes, while Christian Camacho, Austin Fallon, Ray Floyd, Dean Warchak and Matt Perdue will all be making the trip up Interstate 71.
Heil lost for the second time this season to Brecksville’s Austin Assad — this time by a 2-1 count in the 106 final.
“I had some opportunities, but he just stopped me,” said the freshman, who lost to Assad 3-0 at the Bill Dies Tournament last month. “It was a lot closer this time, and I have a better feel for him. I just have to take my opportunities when I get them.”
Kluk notched another sectional title in a storied career, notching his third pin of the weekend in taking down Brecksville’s Josh Murphy in a mere 42 seconds for the 195 championship. The longest match for Kluk, a state placer last winter, lasted 1:09.
The Hornets’ Marko Vilmonovic and Tom Gabyak also advanced at 113 and 160, respectively.
On the D-II mats, Kisiday won the biggest match of his career as he claimed the 145-pound championship with a hard-fought 8-4 decision over Jordan Dalton of Lexington.
While the senior was thrilled with his first trip to the top of the sectional podium, he’s ready for the challenge of what’s left to come.
“I feel like it’s overdue,” Kisiday said. “I feel like I should’ve been here last year. Wrestling in season is good and all, but this is what really matters. Nobody cares how many tournaments you win. It’s about what you do in the state tournament.
“It feels good, but I feel I have to prepare for districts next week.”
Kisiday will be preparing for the districts with teammate Stefon Inman (126) and Kyle Fowler (132).
Inman, a district qualifier a year ago, was able to put the idea of advancing in perspective despite a 7-2 final loss to Clear Fork’s Drew Kinzel.
“It’s exciting, but I kind of wish I got first because I would be seeded way better,” he said. “I just have to go harder through districts to get to state.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.