By Doug Chapin
As the high school wrestling schedule heads into the new year, the intensity of weekend invitational tournaments increases with an eye on upcoming league meets to be followed by the sectional tournaments in mid-February.
A number of smaller mat programs in the area will do battle Saturday at the Jackson-Milton Wrestling Invitational sponsored by Johnny’s Excavating.
Defending co-champions Girard and Waterloo headline the dozen teams in the event which begins at 10:30 a.m. Finals are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
Garrettsville Garfield, tied for 10th in Division III in the most recent Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association state poll, will return after finishing third in the event last year. Garrettsville then went on to finish seventh in the Division III state tournament.
“Waterloo is strong again and I like to think we can do well,” Girard coach Jim Cardiero said. “We’ve got some solid kids this year. We’re just trying to get our team in better shape, we’ve dealt with some injuries.
“Garrettsville has some top-notch kids but they had some holes in their lineup last year and had some forfeits. I don’t know about their lineup this year.”
The G-Men are led by two wrestlers who won their respective weight classes at Jackson-Milton in 2012 then went on to state runner-up finishes at Columbus. Aaron Yonker, a junior 160-pounder, was co-MVP of the Johnny’s Excavating Tournament last year, and senior Kevin Stock, pinned all four of his opponents at 182 a year ago in a total time of 2:16.
Two other defending individual champions are Girard junior Matt Deal who won at 152 pounds last year and South Range senior Colton Schuster who won the 195-pound title.
Other entries include the host school which will enter two teams, Liberty, South Range, Salem, Crestview, United, Wellsville and Middlefield Cardinal.
“We like this tournament partly because we see a lot of the same teams we will see in the sectional,” Cardiero said. “It’s a good test to see who’s strong.
“I’ve been going to this tournament since I was a wrestler in the ‘80s and it’s always a great tourney. It’s well-run, the coaches all get along and there is good competition.”