WADSWORTH — If last year’s meeting is any indication, Thursday night’s Wadsworth-Nordonia dual will be one for the ages.
After the Grizzlies’ thrilling 31-22 victory a year ago, the teams find themselves in the same scenario: Both are undefeated with the mythical regular-season Suburban League championship on the line.
“It’s always fun to have an exciting dual in the league,” Wadsworth coach John Gramuglia said. “This is why we train so hard in the offseason — to be in a position to win championships and represent our school and city so proudly.”
That’s exactly what Gramuglia’s program has done, as the Grizzlies will enter with a 54-match SL win streak and winners of the last six regular-season conference titles. Wadsworth has claimed 21 straight overall conference crowns.
Standing in the way is a Knights team that has been knocking on the door since joining the league in 2010.
Like the team it wants to knock off, Nordonia has talent up and down the roster, especially at its upper weights, which should make for some thrilling bouts.
It’s also a main reason why some analysts say this might be the year for the Knights.
“Before the season, all the wrestling polls had Nordonia beating us, so technically we’re the underdogs,” said Gramuglia, whose team last lost an SL bout in 2006 (a 31-24 setback to Highland). “Our lower weights need to set the tone and get some victories they might not be counting on. Obviously, this will help against some of their very tough upper weights.”
Nordonia senior Alex Woicehovich is ranked third in the state at 220 pounds by intermatwrestle.com, and is fresh off of a runner-up finish at the prestigious Brecksville Holiday Tournament last month. Toss in other upper weights like Eric Claren (182 pounds) and Nick Bina (195) and the Grizzlies will have their hands full.
With the likes of nationally ranked Noah Baughman, who is 19th in the country on intermatwrestle.com’s list, and other state-ranked wrestlers in Connor Gray (120), Robbie Bosley (152) and Tim Knipl (170), the Grizzlies will look to rack up major points before the Knights’ big guys even step on the mat.
Wadsworth’s Darrin Gilkerson, a 126-pounder working his way back from an ankle injury last month, Jordan Schleigh (138) and Shane Mast (160) also are expected to factor.
While each match is huge, Baughman and Bosley will face potential postseason opponents. Baughman’s match will be a big one, as the 113-pounder is expected to see Andrew Coghill, the 15th-ranked wrestler in Ohio, while Bosley and Nordonia’s Heath Phillibert are ranked 11th and 12th, respectively.
A question mark is the status of Knights 145-pounder Mike DeCesare, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury. Gramuglia and the Grizzlies expect to see the state qualifier in action.
Either way, it should be a night to remember for Wadsworth — and one the Grizzlies feel is an important step toward another SL banner.
“It’s senior night, so we want to make it special for them with a victory,” Gramuglia said. “And it’s halfway to our 22nd consecutive championship.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.