The Wadsworth team, the Brunswick quintet of Logan Heil, Josh Heil, Nick Kiussis, Garrett Lambert and Aaron Naples and Medina resident/Lutheran West junior James Handwerk are ready to throw down today.
All 20 wrestlers will have to be on their games as they prepare for the 22nd annual Walsh Jesuit Ironman Tournament.
The tournament isn’t your run-of-the-mill invitational. It’s an event where approximately 90 schools come from as far away as California and as close as across the street at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy to beat the heck out of each other.
“You can not get a better tournament,” Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar said. “There will be state champ vs. state champ as early as the quarterfinals. Guys that are fourth in the state might be the 15th seed, if they’re seeded at all. It’s just phenomenal competition. It’s one of those tournaments that if you wrestle it all over again, you might have a different outcome.”
While the tournament has only ever been won by Walsh Jesuit, Blair Academy (N.J.), St. Edward and St. Paris Graham, it brings the biggest names to the stage.
Fifteen nationally ranked teams will be there, including No. 1 Blair, No. 2 Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) and No. 4 Graham. Add No. 7 Oak Park River Forest (Ill.), No. 10 St. Edward, No. 11 Marmion Academy (Ill.), No. 17 Elyria, No. 22 Washington (Ill.), No. 24 Delta and No. 28 Bakersfield (Calif.) and this promises to be a fight.
Four top-ranked individuals will compete, as will 106 nationally ranked competitors. There is only one weight class (285) that has two nationally ranked individuals. The rest have as many as seven and as few as four.
“It toughens up the whole team,” Grizzlies coach John Gramuglia said. “We’ll let the No. 1 kid see how he stacks up against the best in the country. It gets them exposed to their weaknesses. Also, there will be kids there that have some success, so that’s good, too.”
Action starts today at 1 p.m. and rolls through Saturday, with finals starting at 6 p.m.
The remainder of the Blue Devils roster will head to Independence to defend its North Coast Classic crown. That could be tough with only D.J. Skiba (126 pounds) returning as a champion. Last season, only Josh Heil was at the Ironman.
The Bucks added another set of teeth to the Mike Lewis Invitational last year. This season, there are even more. Wanting to season his wrestlers for the holiday tournament run, coach Rich Conkle has added D-I schools Cuyahoga Falls, Fremont Ross, Lorain and Nordonia to the 38th annual event.
With North Ridgeville, Brecksville and Elyria returning, that’s seven big schools at the 10-team tournament, with Mansfield Madison a very large D-II.
“It’s for the kids to see better competition, especially earlier in the season” Conkle said. “We saw a lot of D-III schools at Edison last week (they finished second). It was OK competition, but in two weeks we will be walking into the Medina Invitational (Tournament) and we’ll be with some of the best Division I schools in the state. We’re trying to build up to make sure the kids have been exposed to that level of competition.”
Eric Bartos (120) and Art Clark (152) return as champions. Also placing for Buckeye were Mike Clark (2nd, 126), Jarrod Setliff (3rd, 145) and Zach Sanger (4th, 160). Action begins Saturday at 10 a.m. and runs straight through.
This is Sparta — well, at least the high school version of it. The Bees return to Highland Sparta for the Jeremy Ammons Kilted Classic, where the team has had tremendous success. Last season, Medina finished second behind Westerville North, with Brady Chrisman (152) and Max Schaefer (126) crowned champions. Also returning to the event for the Bees are Ian Senz (2nd, 138), Zach DeFraine (2nd, 160), Jared Dressler (3rd, 106), Christian Gannon (3rd, 132), Alex Sadowsky (3rd, 182) and Alex DeFraine (4th, 145).
A year ago, the Colts were riding high after winning the Madison Invitational and then came back to earth a bit with a seventh-place finish at the Hopewell-Loudon Duals.
Cloverleaf coach Bob Scandlon isn’t looking for a repeat performance when his squad returns to Seneca County. Cory Stallings (152) is back as a four-match winner at the five-match event, while Caleb Cass (145) won twice.
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.