[ back ]
Comets 'collect' on wrestling crowns
Comets 'collect' on wrestling crowns
By TONY LANGE
Solon may have had just three wrestlers qualify for the Division I state wrestling tournament last weekend, but they caused some damage nonetheless.
With two state champions and a fifth-place finish, the Comets tallied 57 points and finished sixth as a team. They made a name for themselves as the highest scoring closed-enrollment-school team at the dance.
Finishing in a distant first with 187 points, Lakewood St. Edward clinched its 26th state title. Open-enrollment Massillon Perry, 109 points, and Wadsworth, 96 points, claimed the second- and third-place positions, while private schools Cincinnati Elder, 72 points, and Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller, 66 points, were the other two teams finishing ahead of Solon.
Three kids can make a lot of noise, Solon head coach Tony DiGiovanni said.
"With open-enrollment schools and private schools, it's much more difficult now," DiGiovanni said. "But, as you can tell by the results this year, three good boys can still do a lot of damage, and that's what we did."
At 103 pounds and 130 pounds, sophomores Brandon Thompson and Anthony Collica won state championship titles in their respective weight classes, while, in the heavyweight division, Nate Hoff, a junior, placed fifth overall. Sixteen wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes qualified to compete at states.
At 103 pounds, Thompson said winning the state crown is basically a big accomplishment. "It makes me want to work harder for the next two years," he said.
During the first two rounds, the championship preliminaries and the championship quarterfinals, Thompson beat Dublin Coffman's Chris Mullucey 4-1, and Olmsted Falls' P.J. Mueller 4-2. He went on to pin Medina's Ryan Homack in the semifinals bout at the 1:54 mark.
The semifinals round is the match with the most pressure, DiGiovanni said. The winner is guaranteed first or second place, while the loser can place as low as sixth.
"The semifinal match is the match everybody lives and dies to win. That's the match," DiGiovanni said. "That's the match where all the chips are on the table. Brandon responded like a stallion in the match."
In the finals bout, Thompson faced Massillon Perry's David Bravery, whom he beat 3-1 in the Northeast District finals the previous weekend. In the state final, Thompson won 2-0.
En route to his state title in the 130-pound weight class, Collica defeated three district champions and the third-place finisher. All four of his opponents had top-eight place finishes.
"Anthony's draw was as tough as it could possibly be," DiGiovanni said. "In some circles there is a feeling that 130 might have been the toughest weight class in the tournament."
In his first bout, Collica defeated Oregon Clay's Angelo Amenta 8-5. Amenta went on to place third. In the quarterfinals, Collica defeated Kettering Fairmount's Matt Denlinger 7-1. He placed eighth overall. In the semifinals, Collica outdid Wadsworth's Alfredo Gray 7-3. He finished fifth overall.
The state championship bout was a repeat of the Northeast District championship bout. Collica faced Mayfield's Mike Carlone, who had pinned him a week earlier in the district final. At the state meet, Collica came out on top with a 7-4 decision.
"Last week, before that match, Anthony's instruction were, 'Do whatever you want. Go after him. Do any move you know. Do whatever you want.' He was following instructions. It didn't feel good. I didn't want him to lose," DiGiovanni said. "By him following those instructions, it gave us information for this week. That's what we were after."
At the state meet, Collica beat Carlone 7-4 for the title.
Both Thompson's and Collica's fathers are assistant coaches for the Solon High School team and have been so for more than a decade.
"It's easier for us to learn because of the father-son relationship. We always push each other. We're in the same grade," Thompson said. "Winning the title feels great, because I used to always go to the state tournament when I was little and watch all the other Solon wrestlers, and I feel so accomplished for doing it."
In the 285-pound heavyweight class, Hoff defeated Pickerington North's Pat Elfein in a 5-4 tie breaker during his championship preliminary bout and then pinned Oregon Clay's Garrett Gray at the 3:16 mark of the championship quarterfinals.
"It was nice to beat the next kid, because then I automatically place top six. It was a match I needed to win," Hoff said. "My goal was to place top eight. It was pretty cool just going to states."
Hoff lost to St. Edward's Greg Kuhar in the 3-1 sudden victory in the semifinals bout. Kuhar went on to finish as state runner-up. In the consolation semifinals, Cincinnati Elder's Nick Nusekabel pinned Hoff at the 3:44 mark and went on to finish third. Hoff went on to wrestle in the fifth-place bout, which was a rematch against Gray -- the opponent he'd already beaten.
In those situations, oftentimes the noose get a little tighter around the neck, DiGiovanni said. "Sometimes kids in that situation don't wrestle," he said. "They treat it more like a chess mass. They're thinking ahead. 'What if I do this and it doesn't work? What is he going to do if I do this?'"
Sometimes wrestlers can outthink themselves in those situations DiGiovanni said.
"There are thousands of moves, and there are many ways to do each move, and for every body type and structure the moves feel different," he said. "So a wrestling match is very cerebral, but it's also very reactionary."
Hoff went on to win that match 3-1 in an overtime sudden victory.
"Now I know what it takes to become the greatest, and my goal is to work my butt off during the off-season and become the best wrestler in the state next year," Hoff said.
Before Thompson and Collica wrestled their championship bouts last Saturday, DiGiovanni said they were so wired that they didn't need to be revved up.
"They have been wrestling since they were 5 maybe, and they go everywhere. They work hard. They never miss. Those kids don't miss. And they've been paying dues, paying dues, paying dues," DiGiovanni said. "I told them just as we were leaving the warm-up room, 'Tonight we collect.' And that's what they did."
[ back ]