By steve wilaj
When Howland’s Alex Cornicelli says, “I can beat anybody in my weight class,” and, “My conditioning is better than anyone else’s,” he’s not bragging. He’s just speaking to his workout regimen.
“In the offseason, I play soccer and I run constantly,” Cornicelli said. “I also lift recreationally. In season, I’ll practice for two hours and 15 minutes, take a half-hour break and then run to the gym and lift for an hour.”
Saturday at the Howland Invitational Wrestling Tournament, Cornicelli’s hard work paid-off. He defeated Cranberry’s Seth Hary in the 126 pound championship, Cornicelli took home the first-place plaque for the third consecutive year.
“My first period, I was taking him down as fast as I could, trying to get him tired,” Cornicelli said. “Second period, I just used my technique and get some points racked up. The third period, I just went for the kill.”
His efforts contributed to Howland’s overall first-place finish with 197 points. It was the ninth straight team championship performance for the host Tigers.
“It’s just a home thing. We’ve got home-field advantage,” Cornicelli said. “It’s the best. I’ve got my family and everybody here supporting me.”
Teammate Gabe Stark — who also became a three-time tournament champion when he won the 145-pound title — agreed that there’s no place like home.
“Your whole family is here, all of your friends and you’re in your home gym,” said Stark, the tournament’s Most Valuable Wrestler. “Before the match you’re real pumped up and ready to go. It’s just exciting being at home. You’re nervous because everyone’s here, but it’s a good feeling to have.”
If Stark had any pre-match jitters, they didn’t show. He pinned Northwestern’s Sebastian Rinehardt in the first period for the victory.
“Today they were phenomenal,” Howland head coach Bill Beasom said of Cornicelli and Stark. “They did what they expected to do. They lead by example.”
Girard finished second with 133 points. Its individual first-place championships came in back-to-back matches.
Ed Sigurani claimed the 132-pound title, while Garrett Bass was victorious at 138.
“We were fourth going into the finals and really thought we could jump up to second,” Bass said. “So it’s good to take another trophy home.”
Bass defeated Ashtabula Lakeside’s Chris Tatters in his championship match.
“I just cradled him,” Bass said. “I got on top and was like, ‘All right, let’s go to the go-to.’ He bent and I locked it.”
Other local winners included Howland’s David Brian Whisler (152), Jordan Radich (160) and Cody Davis (170).