into mat success
By Brian Dzenis
David Crawford has vanquished everyone on the wrestling mat, from the state’s best in Columbus to the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League’s elite, but the only opponent who can truly bring out the rage in the Canfield senior is his younger brother, Nick.
“There were a lot of brawls. In the basement. In the living room. My mom would just scream at us,” David said. “Now we just settle it in the wrestling room.”
David (182) and Nick (195) — along with five Cardinals teammates — are traveling to the Jerome Schottenstein Center for the state wrestling tournament. It’s the brothers’ first and only trip together for state. David is trying to become the first Canfield wrestler to win two state titles and Nick is making his state debut, but the basement of the Crawford home remains the scene of some of his most epic battles. As the two got bigger, so did the destruction.
“We were always getting yelled at by our dad. [The wrestling] was awesome, but getting yelled at by our dad wasn’t awesome. We always brawled,” Nick said. “We tried to hide it. We’d put up posters. We had one where [David] threw a ping-pong paddle at me after I punched him and put a hole in the wall. We put books under a couch to lift it up so that he couldn’t see it.
“He found it.”
Nick, a sophomore with the Cardinals, has his own identity with the team. He’s taller and little faster than David, but the older sibling is more stout and stronger. Should Nick ever get the better of David in practice, he makes a beeline for the exit to avoid David’s wrath.
“They’re opposite personalities. David is very quiet in the practice room and Nick is trying to laugh and giggle. It’s funny to watch the two interact,” Canfield coach Stephen Pitts said. “What’s interesting is their results are pretty similar.”
David comes to Columbus as the top wrestler in the state and Nick is No. 7 for his weight class.
Whatever David accomplishes in Columbus this weekend, Nick will try to top it.
“I use him as a stepping stone,” Nick said. “Everything he does, I have to go one step higher.”
A BLANK SLATE
Christian Wayt is never caught in a bad spot in a bout, physically or mentally.
The West Branch junior has a knack for feeling out an opponent and adapting as needed. He does this without putting much thought into it.
“I try not to think as much as I can. I just go out there and just wrestle,” Wayt said. “I stay to myself. I don’t like people talking to me before matches and just think and prepare for my match.
“When I pace back and forth [before a match], I try to keep a blank mind and just focus on what I need to do, opponents’ weaknesses and how to perform to the best of my ability.”
Wayt (113) is undefeated and a returning state semifinalist. He’s ranked No. 1 for his weight and is favored to win his first state title.
Two out of Crestview’s three state qualifiers come from the same family.
Senior Andrew Hardenbrook (145) and Landon Talbert (195) are the Rebels’ first state qualifiers since Matt Hardenbrook in 2013. Matt took fifth in Crestview’s maiden voyage to the Schott with Andrew in tow.
“It’s a big environment. I remember my brother handling that environment really well,” Andrew said. “He was really confident and that’s the biggest thing I take from him.”
Crestview is in its eighth year with wrestling as a varsity sport.
“Landon and Andrew were some of our first youth wrestlers that finally made it through the ranks,” Crestview coach Victor Nery said. “The improvements we’ve made throughout the years are truly astounding. They all worked hard to improve their abilities and it really showed.”
KNOWING THE DRILL
The biggest factor for Girard heavyweight Jack DelGarbino as he goes to state for the second time is experience.
“You already know what to expect in big matches, especially when you’ve been in as many tournaments as I’ve been in,” the junior returning semifinalist said.
DelGarbino has been in a lot of tournaments — and won them. Some of his biggest victories include Alliance’s Top Gun and the EOWL tournament as well as earning sectional and district titles. He’s 45-0 on the season and is a heavy favorite to win state a state title, something his father, John, did in 1991.
A RENEWED LOVE
It took a year away from wrestling for Canfield heavyweight Dan Kapalko to realize he liked the sport.
He’s been wrestling since he was 5 years old and over time, the sport felt like an obligation rather than something he enjoyed. He needed wrist surgery in what would have been his junior season. He could have had a limited season, but decided to leave wrestling altogether.
“I felt like I wasn’t wrestling for myself, so I stepped back,” Kapalko said. “I came back and I really felt like I was wrestling for myself and my teammates and it made it all the more special for me. I’m getting chills talking about it.”
Despite feeling burned out when he left, he just couldn’t stay away. He comes to the Schott as the No. 3 heavyweight in the state.
“It’s humbling. I never thought I would be special at anything wrestling related, but I know the work I put in,” Kapalko said. “I know the work my teammates put in to get to get to this point and it isn’t surprising at all.”
The plan is to make up for lost time.
“I’m just looking wrestle my matches to prove something to myself and my teammates. I’m going to make my family proud,” Kapalko said. “My goal is obviously the top of the podium, but if I wrestle as best as I can and I wrestle with everything I’ve got, it’s all I can ask for.”