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Canfield has the right hold



Published: Thu, February 20, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Cardinals won a sectional title and advanced nine wrestlers to the district meet.

By BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

CANFIELD -- U2 plays on a stereo in a side room, but the volume isn't as overpowering as the focus and effort being exerted by young men.

If you can't look inside yourself for motivation, glance at the walls. Read the words of Henry Clay, Michelangelo, Muhammad Ali or Vince Lombardi, among others, for inspiration.

Or scroll down the list of the school's former state place winners on another wall. Or follow the brackets and the path of some of the best wrestlers on their way to state glory.

"Don't waste time!" the coach instructs.

"You have 10 seconds; don't give him any points!"

Eight pairs of wrestlers tangle with each other during a Monday practice at Canfield High. Snow may have shut down most of the Mahoning Valley on this morning, but it hasn't shut down these wrestlers.

How could it?

Champions

Canfield High coach Dean Conley hasn't experienced anything like this in his four years here. The Cardinals won a Division II sectional title and qualified nine wrestlers to this weekend's district meet at Akron Firestone.

"Now's the best time to peak," said Canfield senior Bob Brenner, a sectional champion at 152 pounds who qualified for his fourth district. "Having a really good sectional, you're going to have a good attitude going into districts -- and hopefully state."

Brenner and senior Klynt Maston, a sectional champion at 130 pounds and a former state qualifier, are the leaders of this team. Maston is 37-0 this season; Brenner is 36-2. They are what Conley calls the workhorses.

"Those kids are tremendous," said Conley, 31, an Austintown Fitch graduate. "We go into matches feeling pretty confident they're going to win. But it's all the other kids who make championships."

They are kids that make up Canfield's district qualifiers: Seniors Jake Hartman (160 pounds) and Josh Conklin (275) and juniors Steve DeMaiolo (112), Chris Pankewicz (140), Steve Pitts (145), Jarek Esarco (189) and Jim Hendrickson (215).

"A lot of things have to come into play when you talk about winning a sectional," Conley said. "You have to be lucky and you have to be healthy. Add to that your nutritional aspect, making weight, conditioning and lifting. It's just grueling."

And a team needs to win matches that maybe it is not supposed to win, which Hartman and Hendrickson did.

Making it happen

"Jake Hartman is a senior and two-time captain," Conley said. "He never really had an impressive record, never really had all the championships. He's just a hard-working kid, a great kid."

A kid who stunned West Branch's Luke Bardo in the sectional semifinals, 4-2. Bardo had beaten Hartman convincingly two weeks earlier.

"I got choked up after that match," Conley said of the sectional. "There's a kid who just deserved to be on that podium."

Then there's Hendrickson. He weighs 175 pounds but wrestled two classes up at sectionals -- and finished second.

"I know there's no way in the world he thought he'd be in the sectional finals," said Conley, who credits the Cardinals' successes to assistant coaches Kevin Hoopes, Greg Faunda, Pete Graff and Don Crum.

A new beginning

After Canfield's sectional championship, Conley instituted, what he calls, the 24-hour rule. Enjoy what you accomplished, but on Monday be ready to prepare for districts.

"We'll be able to cherish our sectional championship in a couple of weeks," Conley said.

But not yet. Not when district competition looms Friday and Saturday.

"I think about it every day, how it's all going to be over soon," Maston said of his career. "It pushes me harder every day at practice."

And into the meet that will determine who goes to Columbus for the state tournament -- and who goes home.

"Your whole life revolves around it right now," Brenner said, "especially now that it's crunch time."

richesson@vindy.com




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