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West Geauga senior takes KIT championship
West Geauga senior takes KIT championship
By TONY LANGE
Twenty-five teams. Fourteen weight classes. Two days. More than 300 competitors.
Losers wrestled on in consolation brackets. Only the winners went home undefeated.
Two days prior, many of their relatives were downing holiday cookies and gorging a family meal. Stepping on a scale was not the most popular trend.
Wrestlers from Kenston, West Geauga and Orange, however, were putting in road work and dripping sweat in preparation for the 46th annual Kenston Invitational Tournament on Dec. 27 and 28.
Cutting to make weight two days after Christmas takes hard work and discipline. Just like Thanksgiving and New Year's, it's a tough time to be a wrestler.
"Those days are definitely killer days," West Geauga senior Mike November, who won the 112-pound weight class, said.
November started the season at 135 pounds, he said, and was planning to wrestle 125 or 130 this year. He competed at 103 both his freshman and sophomore years and was at 112 last season. He didn't think he would be at it again this year until his teammate couldn't make that cut and his coach asked him if he could, he said.
"The first cut is always the worst. I started at 135 and cutting down to 112 the first time, my body wasn't used to it, and I was super weak and I was tired and I felt like I had no energy," November said. "But then, once I got down to 112 again, I started eating right and then my body just eventually kind of stabilized."
After the KIT, November had a 19-1 record, losing only to a Division I opponent from Oregon Clay.
West Geauga placed 12th as a team at the KIT with 86.5 points.
November's drill partner, Frank Mercuri, finished third at the 140-pound weight class after being seeded 15th. Scott Willis finished fourth at 130.
After a third-place finish in their own tourney last year, Kenston finished fifth as a team behind Crestwood with 225.5 points, Norwalk with 155, Fairfield with 154 points and Youngstown Boardman with 148.5. The Bombers had 130.5 points.
Top finishers for Kenston were seniors Tre Smith at 125 and Ben Kazimir at 135, who both took home silver.
Heavyweight senior Louis Mantush at 285 finished third after being seeded ninth. Senior Andrew Sawayda at 130 finished fifth. Sophomore Nate Lewis at 215 placed sixth.
Kenston Head Coach Brian Malloy said he was exceptionally pleased with Lewis' finish. He wasn't so happy with the team finish, he said.
"Actually, I'm a little upset with that finish," Malloy said. "I thought that we should have been top three for sure and have more guys place."
Malloy said one of his seniors placed second in the tournament last year and is in the same weight class this year and did not finish in the top six.
"I always tell them wrestling is a unique sport. In the beginning, there are obstacles and there are things to work on and learn," he said about the road to the state tournament. "I'm excited we have the time to work on those things moving forward."
Kazimir, who wrestled at 103 his freshman and sophomore years, placed third in the 2009 KIT at 119 and improved to second this year at 135.
"Twenty-two pounds in two years is a big transition," he said. "The competition becomes more intense, strong and more knowledgeable."
After a bye and then winning his first three bouts at the KIT with a 15-0 decision, a pin at the 5:42 mark and a pin at the 3:08 mark, Kazimir advanced to the championship match against Adam Sams, of Fairfield.
Last year's championship bout at 135 was also a Kazimir-Sams faceoff. However, it was their older brothers, Jake Kazimir and Austin Sams, who were going at it. Jake Kazimir won, 9-0.
This year, Ben Kazimir fell just short with a 2-0 loss to Adam Sams.
"I knew it was my final match of my senior year at the KIT and I wanted to do well. So, I just went out there and I tried what I could. I tried everything I knew and left it on the mat. That's all I could do, Kazimir said. "Yeah, I'm upset that I lost, but I've got to get ready for my next opponent and prepare for states."
Unlike Kazimir, who has moved up in weight classes during his high school career, Smith, who also finished second for Kenston at the KIT, has bounced around.
As a freshman, Smith wrestled at 130. As a sophomore, he dropped to 119 to fill the void when Tony Kocheff's graduated. Then, Smith moved to 125 as a junior and is back at 125 this season.
Smith said he likes to be right on weight and feels like he is a bigger 125-pounder. Whatever weight he feels is going to be the best for him in March, to do his best at the state tournament, that's the weight he is going to wrestle at, Smith said.
"One-twenty-five was questionable. Everybody, my dad especially, was like, 'Well, you're going to have trouble making it. You were '19 and you've gotten thicker since last year. I just don't want you to be sucking out all that weight. I know you are going to make the weight, but how are you going to wrestle at that weight?,'" Smith recalled.
"Well, I'll try it and if things don't go right at that weight, then I'll just go 130," Smith said. "Since I've been at 125, things have been going good, and I have two losses this year and they're not to anybody that I wouldn't want to lose to."
Smith said he qualified for state, then he placed and this year he wants to win state.
During his KIT championship bout, Smith was beating John Dillion, of Boardman, before getting pinned at the 3:11 mark.
"It's the sport of wrestling and like our coach tells us, 'You're never not in a match,'" Smith said. "Like, you could be down 14-nothing and you could pin somebody and you could win it."
November, who was seeded first and finished first in the KIT, said he tries not to get too high off wins for that very reason. After a bye in the first round, November pinned his first opponent in 38 seconds and won his second bout 20-5 before going on to win 4-1 in the semifinals and 7-1 in the finals.
"During my freshman and sophomore year, if I was successful early on in a tournament, I'd get that high and that would completely ruined how I wrestled in the semifinals or so on," November said. "So, I just knew I had to keep remaining focused. Whatever happens in my first two matches, that was done, over with. I just had to worry about my next match."
November said he treats the season the same way. His KIT championship is nice, he said, but now it's over with and he has to forget about it to move forward.
"Of course, I want to be a state champion, but my biggest goal is after this season, I want to look back on it and know that I did everything I could, to get as far as I possibly could," he said. "I want to have no regrets on anything I did and I'll be happy with that."
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