Perrysburg’s Cale Bonner, right, battles Fremont St. Joseph’s Corey Durbin at 285 pounds. Bonner (21-2), a junior, was eighth at state last year.
Perrysburg senior J.P. Newton, left, works to take down Defiance’s Robbie Bowers in the 152-pound final of the Perrysburg Invitational Tournament. Newton (20-3), who will wrestle at Ohio State, placed third at state last year.
The steady rise of the Perrysburg wrestling program has grown into a tradition with expectations of excellence.
The Yellow Jackets have climbed the leaderboard at the Division I state tournament with a 25th-place team finish in 2012 to a school-best 13th-place finish last season.
Four Perrysburg wrestlers qualified to the state meet last season, and three placed. Senior J.P. Newton, who took third at in the 152-pound weight class, has been an integral part of the surge.
“It started when we were freshmen, and the goal was to turn the program around,” Newton said. “Our first goal was to be league champs.”
Newton has been part of three straight Northern Lakes League team championships, while winning three NLL titles himself.
“It’s pride because we know the hard work is paying off,” Newton said. “The seniors now know what it takes to be at the top level, so we try to teach the younger guys and show by example.”
Coach Sam Cotterman, who is in his fourth season, said he pulled his eight seniors aside before the season began.
“I told them they were the reason why we are where we are at,” Cotterman said.
It is the first class he has coached all four years.
“I expect them to do the yelling now,” Cotterman said. “When they see someone not doing what we expect, they will step in there. They’ve grown.”
Senior Rocco Caywood, who qualified for state, returns along with state placers in sophomore Mario Guillen (fifth, 106) and junior Cale Bonner (eighth, 285).
Bonner, who is off to a 21-2 start, said the climb has been rapid.
“I never pictured us as a really elite wrestling team. But now the expectations are big, and it’s nice to try to live up to them,” he said.
Newton (20-3 at 152), who earned a scholarship to wrestle at Ohio State, said the surge to the top started with dedication in the offseason.
“Even when practice wasn’t mandatory, you never pass up an opportunity to get better,” he said. “You want to get better every day because if I'm not, I know someone else is getting better.”
Bonner said the seniors push the underclassmen.
“They are not taking anything for granted,” Bonner said. “They make us work hard. They want to take advantage of the opportunity.”
The camaraderie was evident when the Yellow Jackets held off Delta to win the Perrysburg Invitational Tournament. Guillen (24-3 at 113), Newton, and Caywood (25-3 at 182) all repeated as champions. Perrysburg won by just 4½ points.
Newton said the Yellow Jackets came together as a team at the PIT.
“We fed off each other,” he said.
Mario Guillen controls Napoleon’s Seth Beard in the 113-pound final at the PIT. Guillen, a sophomore, finished fifth at state last season at 106.
Bonner and Kadin Llewellyn (24-4 at 195), a senior, also won titles at the PIT. Llewellyn leads the team with 15 pins. Llewellyn also has the second most takedowns with 48.
Newton is tied for the team lead in takedowns with 53. He has 12 pins.
Cotterman said he believes he has five or six wrestlers that should qualify to the state meet. He said Newton, Caywood, Bonner, and Guillen all have realistic shots at winning it all.
Cotterman said last year the team goal was to get in the top 10, and now it’s to reach the top three.
“Last year was a big confidence booster,” Newton said, “because I know what to expect down there. I know I’m right up there. We’ve been working for this since we were freshmen. I don’t want to blow this opportunity.”
Bonner said he was in awe when he got to Columbus.
“I had no idea what was going to happen,” he said. “Now I want to get to the finals, and I want to bring four or five guys with me.”
The Yellow Jackets are particularly strong in the lower and upper weights.
Sophomore Kyron Vidales, who has 53 takedowns, is 18-5 at 106.
Freshman Moises Guillen (Mario’s brother) is 19-5 at 120.
Junior Matt Waltermeyer (11-9 at 145) leads the team with 30 escapes. His twin brother, Dan Waltermeyer, is 17-3 at 160.
Freshman Chase Newton, J.P.’s brother, has a 15-7 record at 170.
Mark Delas, a senior, is 6-3 at 220.
Rocco Caywood, a senior, looks to score on Akron St. Vincent St. Mary’s Aaron Adkins. Caywood, 25-3 at 182 pounds, qualified for state last season.
The lineup is rounded out by sophomores Brock Jones (7-8 at 126) and Leo Romp (6-9 at 138). Freshman Josh Herhold (8-11 at 132) leads the Yellow Jackets with 11 reversals.
J.P. Newton, Caywood, Bonner, Mario Guillen and Jones all won NLL titles last year.
“The first goal is always to win the league tournament,” Cotterman said.
Newton is looking to become only the sixth wrestler in the 51-year history of the NLL to win four league titles.
“He loves the sport,” Cotterman said. “There is not a day that goes by that he doesn’t wrestle.”
Newton, an All-NLL defensive lineman, even wrestles during the football season after practice.
“He wrestles all summer long,” Cotterman said.
Newton said he also considered offers from Kent State and Purdue before deciding on Ohio State.
“I grew up an Ohio State fan,” he said. “They came for an in-house visit and they asked if I wanted to be a Buckeye. I did a double-take. It’s just really exciting.”
Cotterman who wrestled at Elmwood, took sixth place at state as a heavyweight in 2000. He said his program’s surge traces back to the success of its youth club.
Newton and Mario Gillen won NLL titles as a freshmen. Newton said he joined the youth club in the second grade.
“I always really liked it,” he said. “The youth program is like the base of the pyramid. Everything comes from there.”