One championship match stood out Saturday evening with more intensity and more noise inside the gymnasium of Austintown Fitch High School.
It was the 145-pound title bout that pitted Boardman’s Mario Graziani (32-5) against Austintown Fitch’s Zach Mackall (23-5) — the only Division I sectional championship between two area wrestlers.
The Spartans’ sophomore got an early lead and kept the pressure on Mackall, who remained within striking distance until the final minute. Graziani finished off Mackall and added style points late to win 9-0 and earn the sectional championship.
For Graziani the win was nice, but what was even more satisfying was where he was able to accomplish it.
“When I got introduced I could hear our student section, but then when Zach got introduced their crowd was louder, so I was just thinking, ‘Oh man, I can’t lose now,’” Graziani said. “It was pretty nice winning at his place.”
While Bordman enjoyed the head-to-head victory, Fitch was able to come out winners in two other weight classes. Camran Rezapourian (41-8) defeated Kenston’s Nolan Kondik 4-2 to claim the 170-pound title, while Jake Franks (22-13) outlasted Aurora’s Brian McNamara 6-3 to win the 220-pound weight class.
“It feels wonderful,” said Rezapourian, a senior. “After last year’s loss in the finals it makes this feel 10 times better.”
As Rezapourian congratulated his teammate on joining him at the top of the podium, Franks joked saying, “We’re at like the same level now.”
Rezapourian quickly reminded him about his 40-win season and quipped, “Don’t ever say that; we are not equal.”
His Falcons teammates got a good laugh out of the friendly trash talk, but even the veteran couldn’t hold back his excitement.
“I have to give Franks some props,” Rezapourian said. “Truthfully, I did not think Franks would win first place and the fact that he did shows that he actually does care about this sport and he is willing to put in the hard work to get to the top.”
To go along with the two first-place finishes and Mackall’s runner-up finish, the Falcons’ Andrew Fairbanks earned third place with a 3-0 decision in the 106-pound weight class and Ron Shadd won 1-0 to take third at 285 pounds.
“For the kids that did place I feel like they wrestled really well in the finals,” Rezapourian said. “Zach was coming off a big injury and hasn’t wrestled in a while, but he wrestled tough today.
“Mario is really, really, really tough and last time he pinned him, so I feel Zach’s improved and is only going to get better.”
Boardman’s Anthony Mancini will join Graziani at the district tournament in Mentor next weekend after earning third place in the 152-pound weight class. However as some of the more senior wrestlers know, the competition there is at a whole different level.
“Everyone there is fighting to get out,” Rezapourian said. “This is where you turn on the conditioning and focus on what you need to get better at, because everything has to be right or else you’ll be walking home.”