By Brian Dzenis
For a wrestling team as successful as Canfield’s, leading the Mahoning Valley area in sectional champions and district qualifiers doesn’t have the same “wow” factor for it that it might have at another school.
When the Cardinals’ two No. 1-ranked wrestlers, Georgio Poullas (160) and David Crawford (170), were asked if they spent any time celebrating the team’s feats last weekend at West Branch, they both said no. Their coach, Dean Conley, takes the same approach.
“We still have a lot to do, we’re not anywhere near our goals yet. We have two big weeks and then we can look back and reflect and maybe celebrate what we’re doing,” Conley said. “Nobody is celebrating anything from this weekend. We were excited for about 24 hours, but now it’s time to get back to work.”
Starting today, 17 schools across the Valley are sending 78 wrestlers to district tournaments across four sites. In that group, there are 18 sectional champions and Canfield has five of those. The Cardinals have 11 wrestlers competing in Alliance.
For Poullas and Crawford, preparing for the Division II Alliance district tournament involves a lot of sparring with each other.
“We know each other’s styles so much, we have to change and get better at other things,” Crawford said. “We know what each others best moves are and what we’re going after.”
In addition to the top-ranked pair, returning state qualifiers Dominic Cooper (182) — a sectional champ — and Mason Giordano (285) come back to Alliance. Among the new faces going are sectional champs Tyler Stein (195) and Anthony D’Alesio (152).
Stein qualified as a sophomore and D’Alesio has emerged as a contributor as a freshman. Stein credits an offseason with assistant coach Steve Pitts — the main cornerman for Poullas — with getting him wrestling at a high level this season.
“It got my confidence up and every time I’ve wrestled, it’s been really exciting this year,” Stein said. “I have my own thing, but I look up to Georgio and how he wrestles and how he’s not afraid of anyone.”
A match at Alliance that could end up being a preview of a state final is Giordano vs. West Branch’s Ian Sharp, ranked No. 1 in Ohio at 285. Sharp has won both meetings at the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League Championships and last weekend, he took a 5-0 decision in the sectional finals. Giordano isn’t far behind with No. 3 status.
“He’s an incredibly conditioned kid and I think he got a little bit excited — a little bit pumped up — when he went out there and I think he has to be a little more patient and wait for the right opportunity to score,” Conley said. “Sharp is obviously a really good wrestler and [Giordano] has to make sure he doesn’t rush anything.
West Branch is sending seven athletes to districts, including sectional champ Christian Wayt (106) and state qualifier Dylan Miller.
Other sectional champs going to Alliance are Girard’s Alex (113) and Jack DelGarbino (220).
Competing in Div. II, but travelling to Heath is Beaver Local. TCole McComas (106) had been ranked as high as No. 3 in the state and is considered a favorite for a district title and Beau Smith (145) is a returning state qualifier.
Austintown Fitch is taking 10 to North Canton Hoover, including two sectional champs in Andrew Fairbanks (138) and Tyler Petry (285).
“It’s going to be a brutal district and all our guys are going to be ready to compete,” Austintown Fitch coach John Burd said. “Nothing is sure at that level.”
Fairbanks, the area’s lone returning state qualifier in D-I, had a dominant sectional, pinning two opponents and winning his title by technical fall. He failed to place in Columbus when he first qualified last year.
“Over the years, he’s continuously improved each year,” Burd said. “He’s been concentrating on the tempo and pace of his match. He’s always keeping good position and that’s been helping him every match.”
Petry carries a 26-13 record to Hoover. Michael Feree (160) has to rebound from a painful loss in the sectional finals at Kenston. The Josh Hephner Memorial champ was facing off with No. 4-ranked Joey Andrassy out of Stow-Munroe Falls and it was a close match for a while. Andrassy led 8-6 with about a minute and a half.
“Michael fought a close match and he got caught on his back in the third period,” Burd said. “It didn’t go away and we’re looking toward this weekend. We’re focusing on positioning and fixing any mistakes he’s making.”
Boardman has four wrestlers going to Hoover. Carlo DeNiro (182) takes the program’s all-time pins record with him at 86 and counting. At Kenston, DeNiro made it to the finals, dropping an 8-2 decision to Hudson’s Kyle Minor.
Jackson-Milton and Crestview, with five qualifiers apiece, have the most district qualifiers among the area’s smaller wrestling programs.
But the Bluejays and Rebels did not have a sectional champion.
Columbiana’s four qualifiers include sectional champion Tim Davin (285). Other sectional champs include Brookfield’s Bryce Randall (170) and South Range’s Kyle Keenan (106).