Seniors’ wrestling experience could lead to state

District events are set this weekend

By Doug Chapin

The Mahoning Valley’s quest for berths in the state wrestling meet next week in Columbus will be led this weekend by a half-dozen wrestlers who already have experience in the state meet.

Area wrestlers vie in district meets this weekend for the chance to advance to Columbus. The Division I district is at Mentor, Div. II schools wrestle at Alliance (except for Beaver Local and East Liverpool which compete at Heath High School), and the Div. III event is at Garfield Heights.

The top four finishers in each weight class advance.

The area’s attempts to advance are led by a pair of seniors who are shooting for their third trip to state: Boardman’s Nick Mancini and West Branch’s Connor Sharp, who finished third at state last year in the Div. II 285-pound class.

Also back are 2012 state qualifiers Korey Frost of Canfield, Gabe Stark (5th at state, Div. II, 138 pounds) of Howland, and Joshua Henderson of Beaver Local. In addition, the Beavers’ Ron Foster qualified for state in 2011.

Mancini, Sharp, Stark and Henderson all wrestle this weekend as sectional champions of their respective weight classes.

Other sectional champs in action will be Hayden Smith of Canfield, Zane Chase and James Cupan of Girard, Alex Cornicelli of Howland, Tyler Pidgeon and Logan Sharp of West Branch, and Cody Martsolf of Beaver Local.

West Branch leads area schools with nine district qualifiers, followed in Div. II by Howland with eight, Beaver Local with seven and Canfield with six. In Div. III, Jackson-Milton has seven qualifiers and Girard has six. Boardman has five qualifiers in Div. I.

“We weren’t expecting to get seven guys through and we weren’t expecting all of them to be in the top three,” Jackson-Milton coach Dave Tomaino said. “If you’re fourth, you face a first-place kid in the first round of the district. So we think that’s going to be an advantage for us going into the district.

“We are a really young team and the kids have peaked out at the right moment,” Tomaino said. “They’ve been getting better and better. The team we put out in December was much different than the team we’re putting out there now. You could see improvement even this past week in practice going into districts. They have matured and are really putting it together here at the end.”

The difference between finishing third and finishing fourth in the sectional — which is decided in the consolation final of each weight class — is important.

“You’re always worried about them going into that third-place match exhaling. They’re thinking, ‘Whew, I’ve made it.’ As a coach you know the importance of the match,” Tomaino said. “If you lose you’ve got to go against a first-place kid from a sectional and we all know there’s those freaks of nature out there in the wrestling world that can beat just about anybody any time.

“You don’t want to face one of those guys in the first round of a tournament, especially if you’re a younger kid because that can take the wind right out of your sail. If you can go out and win that first match then, when you face that first-place guy in the next round, at least you’ve got some momentum going in.”

Another difference that is monumental is the competition level between the sectional meet and the district.

“The difference is huge. You can’t really even compare the two,” Girard coach Jim Cardiero said. “You might be in one of the top weight classes at sectional and you get some stiff competition, but in the district, in the first round, in consolation rounds, every match you wrestle a tough kid.”

A one-match-at-a-time focus is important, according to Cardiero.

“We don’t look ahead and the kids are pretty good about it,” he said. “They don’t look ahead and worry about who they wrestle if they win or who they wrestle if they lose. They pretty much focus on the match in front of them.”

In the end, after all the work wrestlers put in throughout the season, it is imperative that they finish the season wrestling their best in order to get to Columbus.

“Obviously the guys who won at sectional usually have a better draw, they’ll face a fourth-place kid in the first round,” Cardiero said. “But it’s just a matter of stepping up at the right time. This is the week to wrestle your best.”

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