By matthew peaslee
Georgio Poullas has already had a taste of the Ohio High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament before participating in a varsity bout.
The 114-pound eighth grader from Canfield visited Columbus last week to cheer for his brother, John. The CHS senior placed seventh in the 170-pound class.
“It was pretty exciting,” Georgio said. “I’m looking forward to [qualifying] next year. My goal is to qualify for the state tournament four times.”
With a hot start in Saturday’s 15th annual Ohio Junior High State Tournament, he’s well on his way.
After earning a bye, Georgio (49-2) pinned Jakeb Lewis in 48 seconds. Then, with a 15-0 shutout, he earned a technical fall over Hunter Yackee.
Today, he’ll face Ryan Thomas in the championship quarterfinals.
“He’s ready to go,” said Canfield assistant coach Steve Pitts. “Nerves don’t get to him. He puts up a lot of points and he’s fun to watch.”
Another step is beating his older brother.
“We push each other and have competitions,” Georgio said. “But, so far, [John] always gets me.”
Another unblemished grappler is Matthew Cardello, a 96-pound Poland resident who wrestles for the North Akron Wrestling Club. Also earning a bye, he beat Riley Smucker, 14-5, and shut out Justin Reid for a 15-0 tech fall.
In the championship quarterfinals, Cardello faces Chris Leffler.
Nick Vergallito, an eighth grader from Jackson-Milton, won two decision. He got past Spencer Robinson in the first round and came from behind to earn a 6-5 decision over Sam Rocazella in the second round.
Vergallito qualified for states in middle school, but said he never experienced anything like the championship setting at the Covelli Centre.
“I came this far, worked so hard and I didn’t want to lose,” he said. “The only thing in my mind was winning.”
Also a football player, Vergallito earned two takedowns to spark the comeback and held off Rocazella’s final minute attempts to earn more points.
“I wanted to roll him through and didn’t want that little mistake to cost me the match,” he said. “I like smashing people into the mat and taking all my frustrations out there.”
JM coach Brian Weidenthal feeds off that spirit, too.
“He comes out all fired up and wrestles how he knows how to wrestle,” Weidenthal said. “It’s a big difference from the start of the year until now — physically and mentally.
“Overall, he’s blossoming into a better wrestler from his feet to how he works on top. I’m so proud.”
For the first time in program history, Girard had two back-to-back state qualifiers.
Nick Hall and R.J. Davis, both eighth graders, experienced the tournament last year. The Indians also qualified Dakota McCloskey to state.
“It’s unprecedented and a history-making year,” said Girard coach Ray Davis, who has coached all three since kindergarten.
Hall went 0-2 on Saturday, Davis recovered from a first-round pin to earn a 6-2 decision over Ahmad Jumper and McCloskey is 2-1 heading into today’s bout with Cameron Riggenbach.
“He’s done what’s expected of him,” Davis said. “He lost to a kid that he was supposed to, if you can put it that way. That kid [Braken Mead] will win the weight class.”
Other area wrestlers who earned two wins were Carlo Deniro, a 138-pounder from Boardman, and David Beatty (78) and Drew Fairbanks (102), members of the North Akron Wrestling Club who hail from North Jackson and Austintown, respectively. Justin Mitchell of the West Branch Wrestling Club and David Crawford of Canfield also had two wins.