Whatever could go wrong for Medina’s wrestling program did last season.
The injury bug left coach Chad Gilmore with just a handful of wrestlers by season’s end, and the program had no representatives at the Cleveland State Division I District for the first time in years.
Those memories are getting pushed aside slowly by a strong core that has spent countless hours training since last March.
Fifteen Medina wrestlers, along with athletes from Brunswick and Highland, will take part in the AAU Scholastic Duals that start Friday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
“The end of last season was definitely not what we wanted,” Gilmore said. “We had a good heart-to-heart talk (after the season), and these guys have been going hard since. We’ve had a core group of 15-plus that have been lifting four times a week and wrestling twice a week.”
With a schedule that has included the Baldwin Wallace Team Duals and a New Albany event, along with running the bleachers at Kenneth Dukes Stadium, the Bees have taken advantage of every available second.
“We had a lot of injuries and the young guys saw how unfortunate it was for some of those upperclassmen,” Gilmore said. “They wanted to get the program back to where it’s been in previous years, and they took control of it from a leadership standpoint.”
Sophomore Brandon Gandolf (113 pounds) and Danny Gannon (120) had solid rookie seasons and incoming eighth-grader Brady Chrisman (106) was seventh at the Junior High State Meet in March.
Seniors Kaleb Ewing (120), Zach Priebe (152) and Austin Peak (182) will be looking to make up for lost time and will be joined by Groenig (106), Ian Senz (113), Alex Defraine (126), Scott Wilson (126), Zach Robbins (132), Mark Antonelli (138), Zach Defraine (145), Alex Sadowski (160), Michael Urban (182) and Danny Lind (195).
“Our goal is to get as many matches in as possible and look to have fun,” Gilmore said. “It’s been a very positive offseason. We’re not going to make a 180-degree turnaround in a year, but we’ll definitely be competitive next season.”
Like the Bees, defending Northeast Ohio Conference River Division champion Brunswick will be well-represented with 19 wrestlers.
All-Gazette selection and state placer Josh Heil has won 11 straight bouts this offseason and will be joined by D.J. Skiba, Justin McNeely and Ethan Rivera at 106 and 113 pounds. Rivera was a Junior High state placer last season and is 9-2 this summer, while Skiba is 10-1.
All-county pick Brett Thomas and Nate Taylor will compete at 120, followed by Nicky Kiusiss and Cade Bonds at 126 and Christian Camacho and Zack Molnar at 132. Kiusiss won the Junior High state title at 120 and is 10-1 this offseason.
Brunswick’s roster also includes Austin Fallon (138), Ray Floyd (152), Aaron Naples (152), Branden Bryant (160), Mike Bekeny (170), Dean Warchak (182), Mitch Slyman (195), Matt Perdue (220) and Gary Fredricks (285). Camacho, Fallon, Floyd, Warchak and Perdue were district qualifiers, while Naples was a junior high state placer.
Reigning Gazette MVP Tyler Hughes of Brunswick will be competing with an all-star team of incoming and current Lake Erie wrestlers.
Highland will have juniors Marko Vilimonovic (132) and Logan Brant (160) at Disney. Vilimonovic was a district qualifier with a 25-19 record, while Brant went 11-19.
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.