By Brad Emerine
They are the epitome of the odd couple off the mat, but the Canfield senior duo of Robby Reed and Alex Benedict are a perfect match on the mat.
Neither had qualified to the high school state wrestling championships before. Both were state alternates last season. Today, both will compete for Division II titles.
“They are completely different in almost every other way except for their work ethic and heart,” Canfield coach Dean Conley said. “Robby is very regimented, with a 3.6 GPA, going to the Naval Academy, with everything zip-locked and color coded. [Alex] is the kid who forgets his [wrestling] shoes.”
Benedict improved to 35-4 by beating Wauseon’s Dalton Nicely 10-1 in a quarterfinal and upsetting Parma Padua’s Brent Fickel 2-1 in a semifinal. Fickel was a two-time state placer. Today, Benedict faces two-time state champion Johnni DiJulius (43-3) of Walsh Jesuit, an Ohio State recruit.
“This is such a different atmosphere, but I don’t care about who my opponent is,” Benedict said. “I’m on a roll right now and it feels great.”
Reed (43-3) beat Dayton Oakwood’s Josh Nelson 8-6 in a quarterfinal and defeated Beaver Local’s Johnny McComas 11-9 in a semifinal to advance to today’s final against Oak Harbor’s Tyler Hackworth (37-2).
“This is huge,” Reed said. “Both of us were alternates last season and for us both to make the finals is just amazing. Our coaches have been great and they do whatever it takes to help us succeed.”
Conley purchased state championship singlets 12 years ago, but hasn’t had anyone reach the final since. Reed and Benedict will model them today.
Only one other area wrestler has a chance to bring home the ultimate prize — Jackson-Milton senior Johnny Matacic (39-2). The defending Div. III champ at 130 pounds rolled into the final, beating Sycamore Mohawk’s Kyle Parker 10-0 in a quarterfinal and Hicksville’s Cody Laney 11-6 in a semifinal. He will battle Galion Northmor’s Alex Carroll (36-6).
“I’m very happy to be back in the finals again, but my goal wasn’t to reach the finals or finish third,” Matacic said. “I want first again. That would be a big accomplishment.”
Matacic’s teammates, seniors Vinnie Pizzuto (119) and Tim Wiseman (125), both reached the semifinals before losing and will compete today for placement.
“Our team goal was to finish in the top four and that’s still possible if Vinnie and Tim both come back to win third place,” coach Dave Tomaino said.
In Div. I, it was a rough day for Boardman.
Although projected champ John Dillon reached a semifinal before losing and will compete for placement today, Nico Graziani and Nick Mancini exited quicker than anticipated.
Dillon lost his semifinal 3-2 to Max Byrd of Cincinnati LaSalle.
Graziani, a junior who was a district champion, lost his quarterfinal 11-3 to Piqua’s Kyle Bryant and then dropped his consolation match 2-0 to Richard Robertson when he allowed an escape with 14 seconds left.
“It was a tough day for him because he is capable of placing very high down here,” coach Dom Mancini said. “In [the loss to Bryant], there was a questionable call at the end of the first period. He clearly had a takedown and should’ve led 2-0, but there was a clock discrepancy and they took the points off the board. That changed the direction of the match. He should led and been in control. It was a rare circumstance where an official changed the direction of a match.”
Nick Mancini pinned Austin Daly of Lakota East in 43 seconds, but was eliminated when he lost to Midpark’s Evan Krumheuer 4-3.
Hubbard senior Nick Nadeja lost twice in extremely different situations in Div. II. He lost his championship quarterfinal at 152 pounds to Andrew Higgins of Hilliard Bradley 19-4. He had a much better consolation bout, but fell to Olentangy’s Caleb Hetterscheidt 6-4 in sudden victory (third overtime).
West Branch senior Adam Lamancusa also lost in sudden victory, 11-6 to Austin Jones of Tri-Valley in a quarterfinal at 160. Lamancusa was eliminated by Bellevue’s Chris Moore 4-2.
West Branch went 0-4 on the day, as Dustin Graham was eliminated with a 3-2 loss to Joey Morris of Canton South and heavyweight Connor Sharp was eliminated 3-2 by Greydon Pavlik of Ravenna.