District competition set to begin today
By BRIAN DZENIS
The Jackson-Milton High School wrestling team is banking that a historic fall will be the gift that keeps giving in winter.
The Bluejays football team earned its first playoff appearance in program history and two players from that team are competing in the Division III district tournament that begins today at Garfield Heights High School.
“We’re a small school, we have about 80 boys and anytime you have that success, you want that momentum to carry over,” Jackson-Milton coach Brian Weidenthal said.
Senior Anthony Italiano (195 pounds) and sophomore Nick Scarl (152) stepped off the field and into the wrestling room. They’re joined by senior Terry Stockton (120) and freshman Anthony Pizzuto (113).
Stockton has been to state before. Italiano has been named an alternate twice, so he’s still looking for his first trip to Columbus.
“He’s got a tough draw, but he knows how it works,” Weidenthal said. “You’re 0-0 at this point. You can’t worry about the past, whether its this season or previous seasons. It’s just about fighting for those four spots and advancing.”
Scarl and Pezzuto are making their district debuts.
Division II competition will be at Alliance High School. While it may be the individual portion of the season, it still feels like a team sport for Canfield. That’s because coach Dean Conley is sending 10 wrestlers and an alternate to district competition.
“It’s always been a team sport to me, it’s always nice to celebrate with your teammates,” Conley said. “The fact that we have 10 people going is a great experience and we’re not quite done yet.”
The Cardinals have everything from favorites to relative unknowns heading to Alliance. Georgio Poullas (152), David Crawford (160), Jaret Bunch (195) and Jacob Esarco (220) are all coming off sectional titles.
Sean Frisbie (113), Kyle West (126), C.J. Frost (138), Braxton Madison (170), Dominic Cooper (182) and Mason Giordano (285) are also chasing a trip to Columbus.
Canfield boasts some highly touted grapplers, but the team hasn’t spent too much time concerned with rankings.
“We talked about rankings last year because it was a coming out year for us as having someone place at the state tournament,” Conley said. “Our thoughts are that rankings don’t mean to the guys that are competing.
“It’s nice for the sport and it’s nice to be recognized by your peers, but we haven’t spent anytime this year talking about who’s ranked what or where as a team.”
Girard is has four grapplers heading to Alliance: Dakota McCloskey (120), Chris Morgan (138), Jamil Bannister (160) and Ben Norman (220). Indians coach Jim Cardiero said McCloskey will bounce back after falling, 5-0, to Poland’s Dante Ginnetti.
“Ginnetti had his number. He has to keep working hard to get on his level,” Cardiero said. “He’ll be fine. He goes into and comes out of every match with the same attitude.”
McCloskey and Norman have been to district before, but the two have had different career paths. McClosky came to Girard as a known entity in middle school and qualified for state as a sophomore. Norman wrestled for the first time as a freshman and had to learn the sport as he’s competed.
“Ben has taken his lumps as a freshman and sophomore,” Cardiero said. “He’s a student of the sport, he asks questions and he watches film.
“Our big guys are our hardest workers,” he added.
Division I wrestlers will compete at Mentor High School. Fitch coach John Burd would have liked to have more than seven of his wrestlers qualify.
“They wrestled well at sectionals,” Burd said. “They gave themselves an opportunity this weekend to get to the state tournament and that’s what you’re looking for this time of year, to get to the next level.
“I feel all seven of our guys have a shot this weekend.”
Adam Green (160), Andrew Fairbanks (132) and Isaiah Jackson (170) are state tournament veterans, with Green going deep last year before falling in the quarterfinals.
Also heading to district are Gus Sutton (106), Tex Martin (182), Matt Rood (285) and Chris Droege (195).
“We stress everyday that every guy’s goal is to get to the state tournament,” Burd said. “Our better guys can’t take anything lightly. You have to know there’s somebody out there chasing you.”