By John Bassetti
The young man in the wrestling room at Canfield High School on Tuesday was with the 15 state qualifiers, but he wasn’t one of them.
He was Jim Golden, a 2010 Girard graduate who returned to help an old teammate.
“I’m a drill partner,” the 19-year-old Golden said of his role for the Indians’ lone qualifier for Columbus this weekend, Jacob Carpenter. “I’ve been working with them all season, trying to help the Girard program.”
What Golden might consider devotion is what West Branch coach Mike Helm called something else.
“I don’t call wrestling a sport, I call it a disease,” Helm joked of the affliction that permeates such places as the wrestling room where 15 individuals from Eastern Ohio Wrestling League member schools came to practice for the tournament at Value City Arena.
West Branch’s Connor Sharp was a prime example of the infectiousness of wrestling.
As a sophomore, this is Sharp’s first state qualification, following in the footsteps of father, Roger, a former one-time state qualifier and uncles Nathan (four times) and Seth (two times).
Like Golden, Connor’s uncles were on the mat with him on Tuesday.
Helm’s other wrestlers are seniors Dustin Graham (112, 36-4) and Adam Lamancusa (160, 38-2) and alternate Chad Hupp (135).
“You’ve got to be ready to wrestle one-point matches,” Helm said of competition at the state level. “So much of it down there [Columbus] is mental. You’ve got to be able to be prepared when you hit the mat because you don’t know; the kid you’re wrestling may be in awe of the facility or he may be nervous. You don’t know how people are going to react, so you’ve got to jump on them. Hopefully, we’ll do that this weekend and end up with some guys on the podium.”
Seniors Alex Benedict (130, 32-4) and Robby Reed (125, 40-3) are Canfield’s representatives after runner-up finishes at the district. Both were state alternates as juniors.
“We’re excited that those guys who were so close last year were able to reach their goal,” Canfield coach Dean Conley said.
“Firestone is both blessed and cursed by geography,” Conley said of the district’s loaded talent that may eventually pay dividends in Columbus.
“We were happy to have two in the top four,” Conley said of Reed, who has made adjustments since his district championship loss. “He got caught, so, next time we see him [Kenston’s Tre Smith], we like our chances.”
Benedict met a defending state champ and nationally-ranked opponent.
“We went out and did the best we could,” Conley said.
Jackson-Milton has the usual suspects of Johnny Matacic (130), Vinnie Pizzuto (119) and Tim Wiseman (125) — all state qualifiers in 2009 and 2010.
Matacic and Pizzuto both have placed twice while Wiseman placed once in his two trips to Columbus.
“They’re in positions where, if they wrestle well and to their potential, they can both be in the finals,” Bluejays coach Dave Tomaino said of draws for Matacic and Pizzuto.
Tomaino said Wiseman is in the half of the bracket with the projected state champ: Reading’s Stephen Myers (45-0).
“He’s beatable,” Tomaino said. “Even though he’s undefeated the kid’s beatable.”
Myers was third at 112 in Div. I with Cin. Moeller last year.
Senior Jacob Carpenter (135, 25-5) is Girard’s lone qualifier.
He was also the Indians’ one qualifier in 2010 and he also advanced as a sophomore.
“I’m still looking for it [a state champ],” Girard’s Jim Cardiero said. “That’s why I keep coaching.”
Hubbard has a pair of first-time qualifiers under first-year coach Don Newell Jr. — seniors Nick Nadeja (152, 28-8) and Tyler Lias (171, 33-12).
Nadeja was third at district and Lias fourth.
“Throw all the records away because they’re the top 16 in their division,” Newell said. “Everybody’s good there. You’ve got to put on your headgear, strap it up and go out and wrestle as hard as you can.”
Boardman has three qualifiers in champions John Dillon (119) and Nico Graziani (152) and fourth-place Nick Mancini (103).
“Anytime you get multiple qualifiers to state, it’s a good year,” coach Dom Mancini said.
Dillon finished fourth in 2010 at 125 pounds.
“He should have a real good shot at winning.” Mancini said.