COLUMBUS - Even with its two largest members on board, the Central Catholic wrestling team feels as though it's traveling lightly to the state tournament this weekend.
The main hitters for the Irish all did well enough at last weekend's district to earn a bid to the season's final stage, but three of their teammates fell one win shy of joining the bus headed to the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State.
Still, Central coach Mitch Naufel believes he possesses enough scoring power among his five state qualifiers that the Irish can crack the top 10 of Division II and possibly match their No. 8 projection.
Wrestlers from all three divisions will begin competition this afternoon in the three-day tournament that is considered among the toughest in the nation.
For Central, Dan Cook (135 pounds), D.J. Beauch (145), Jake Henderson (215), and Vincenzo Cardone (285) are all projected to earn state placement - top eight - and Tony Martin's No. 12 ranking at 152 suggests he could challenge for honors too. But the Irish won't receive any relief assistance as three of their teammates - Matt Pool, Brian Elden, and Nico Covarrubias - all lost bouts in last week's win-or-go-home consolation semifinal round at Marion Harding.
"I don't think [top 10] is out of the question," Naufel said. "I think all five guys that we're taking have scoring placement potential. If you get five place winners that will usually put you in the top 10, maybe top five."
Like Naufel, Clay coach Gerry Anthony felt he was snake bitten at the brutal Division I district at Ashland. A bit shaken after competing in a tournament with two teams ranked in the top 10 of the nation, Anthony will travel with four wrestlers while leaving four others behind who missed qualifying by a single win. Nonetheless, Anthony believes with a strong weekend his quartet of Nick Garcia (103), Angelo Amenta (130), Mark Orth (135), and Chico
Cloyne (160) can finish in the top 10 of Division I. Garcia, who lost his first match of the year at districts, is ranked No. 3.
"That's what our hopes would be," Anthony said of cracking top 10. "But we feel like each one of our wrestlers has to score and one or two of our wrestlers have to score big and go deep into the tournament."
St. Parish Graham is considered a virtual lock to win its 10th consecutive Division II title, but Oak Harbor is projected No. 2, and with seven wrestlers qualified, including defending state runner-up Drew Stone (125) and defending place winners Ian Miller (145) and Mike Mallernee (171), the Rockets look positioned to grab the silver medal for the second time in three years.
St. Edward has won a state record - for any sport - 13 straight Division I titles but some believe Wadsworth will dethrone the Eagles, even though St. Edward won last week's tournament at Ashland.
Employing quality over quantity, Monroeville is projected to win in D-III on the strength of four wrestlers, each on path to win four career individual titles. The four-some of Hunter Stieber, Logan Stieber, Cam Tessari, and Chris Phillips are a combined 583-9 for their careers.
Highly ranked area individuals in D-III include: Elmwood's Nick Goebel (second at 112), and Westley Lee (second at 125), Patrick Henry's Alex Lopez (second at 130), Cardinal Stritch's Kyle Gladieux (fourth at 160), and Van Buren's Chad Sonnenberg (third at 140). In Division II, Wauseon's Nick McCall (171) is ranked third, as is Oak Harbor's Konner Witt (152). Findlay's Michael Alexander (171) and Max Gladstone (285) are both ranked second in Division I, as is Start's Nate Brubaker, who will wrestle 171 but is ranked at 189.
The only returning area state champion, Goebel, could become reacquainted with his opponent from last year's final, Beachwood's top-ranked Alex Dronzec, in Friday's semifinal round.
"I like being [the] underdog at this point," Goebel said after winning a district title at Owens Community College. "I'd rather be the one to pull the upset than the one to be upset."
Central's Henderson is the only area wrestler projected to win a state title, and should he do so, he'd become the Irish's first champ since Josh Lenix in 1999. Perhaps it's a good omen that Henderson wrestles the same weight - 215 - as Lenix did.
"Jake's just going to have to be himself," Naufel said. "He's going to have to stay loose, have fun, execute, and wrestle the way he's capable of and things will go his way."
Other area wrestlers competing:
Division I - St. John's Kevin Schoen (189) and Fremont Ross' Tyler Trautwein (189).
Division II - Wauseon's Dalton Nicely (125), Brandon Volkman (140), and Luke Tanier (160), Oak Harbor's Tyler Hackworth (119), Jake Cramer (145), and Zach Sandwisch (285), Eastwood's Seth Hoffman (160), Rossford's D.J. Recknagel (189) and the Napoleon duo of Zach Walker (103) and Cody Bloom (215).
Division III - Swanton's Tom Leahey (160), Derek Johnson (215), and Mimmo Lytle (285), Elmwood's Dexter Lee (103), Mitchell Emmitt (130), and Tyler Baer (145), Patrick Henry's Xavier Dye (171), Montpelier's D.J. Ferguson and Luke Boehm (145), Delta's Chris Delaney (125) and Tyler Yant (14), Liberty Center's Luke Kern (119), Zach Niner (145), Jake Elling (160), and Zane Krall (215), Archbold's Jordan Cowell (135), Gibsonburg's Damen Escobedo (135), Lake's Brandon Tantari (189), Lakota's Stephen Klotz (215) and McComb's Jacob Haas (119), Brandon Montgomery (130), and Chris Osborne (135).
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Even with its two largest members on board, the Central Catholic wrestling team feels as though it's traveling lightly to the state tournament this weekend. The main hitters for the Irish all did well enough at last weekend's district to earn a bid to the season's final stage, but three of their teammates fell one win shy of joining the bus headed to the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State.