The Division II district wrestling tournament at Alliance proved to be Perry’s own version of Treasure Island.
The Pirates had five wrestlers claim berths in the Ohio State Wrestling Championships to begin Thursday with two more placing in the top six.
“The guys wanted to go out and do well,” Perry assistant coach Chris Bezzeg, filling in for coach Dave Rowan, said. “It meant a lot to them to be a high-placing public school.
“I’m very, very pleased with the semifinal and final matches, for sure.”
That medal haul was good enough for a second-place finish for the Pirates. They tallied 151.5 points. Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy won with 174.
The Pirates had five grapplers reach the championship semifinals on Friday night and all five of them advanced to the finals. They didn’t fare much worse at that level, taking four championships in those five weight classes.
“The good news was we only lost one guy Friday night,” Bezzeg said. “All 12 of the other guys chipped in and won at least a match.
“We were 5-0 in the semifinals earlier in the day and we were 4-1 in the finals.”
Aaran Gessic claimed the 132-pound class as he slipped past Andy Dobben of CVCA, 4-3, to reach the final before finding a bit more magic with a 3-2 victory over Nolan Whitely of Walsh Jesuit.
Alec Schenk followed with a title at 160. He beat Ravenna’s Logan Reaser, 6-2, in the semifinals before dropping Zeck Lehman, 12-5, to claim the championship.
“I don’t want to say he was surprised,” Bezzeg said. “He was certainly overwhelmed that he made it. For the last month and a half, he’s been one of the most focused guys. He’s done some extra work.
“He came off crying and gave us a big hug. Being a champ is a great thing for him, not only this year but for next year, was well.”
That win put Schenk’s career total at 116, which is second in school history. He trails Mike Ashton, who graduated in 2001.
Evan Nichols netted a pin in the semifinals before beating Jimmy Szep, 11-3, to claim the title at 195. Billy Miller did exactly what was necessary to win the heavyweight title with a 2-1 win over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Drek Brumley in the semifinal and a 3-2 victory over West Branch’s Connor Sharp.
Collin Dees was the lone Pirate to reach a final who didn’t win. He did claim second, though, at 113 with a 2-0 win over John Chell of SVSM in the semifinal before falling, 3-1, to Ryan Bennett of CVCA.
Also placing for Perry were Ryan Sill at 170 and Kyle Kremiller at 182, who were both sixth.
Conneaut’s Billy Post was the only other state qualifier from the area in Division II, taking fourth at 220.
“I’m really happy for him,” Conneaut coach Matt Bidwell said. “He definitely wanted a high place, but the ultimate goal was to be wrestling next week and he will be doing that.
“He’s had a hell of a season.”
Post reached the semifinal where he fell, 9-7, to Logan Sharp of West Branch. He was winning, 2-0, in the consolation semifinal before advancing because of an injury to his opponent. In a battle for third place, Post was pinned by Mason Hilling of Woodridge.
“It feels great (to get to state),” Post said. “All of my hard work through the season paid off. Since I was a freshman, I had one goal. Coming off my junior season when I fell short, and now being able to say I qualified for state and am one of the top 16 wrestlers in Division II is pretty special.”
With just one loss entering the sectionals a week ago, it’s hard to say Post got on a roll. However, six days before the postseason began, a win over Lakeside heavyweight Chuck Morgan, who was unbeaten at the time, gave him an added measure of confidence.
“In my heart and in my mind, I thought I could pull off (the win over Morgan),” Post said. “The coaches believed in me.
“It was a boost that’s kept me going through sectionals and districts.”
Division I, Mentor
Kyle Conel of Lakeside remains unbeaten in claiming the championship at 195.
He beat Barberton’s Aaron Tschantz, 5-4, to reach the championship match against projected state champ, Massillon Perry’s JoJo Tayse. Conel scored an early takedown before Tayse felt something go wrong in his knee, forcing him to concede the match and the district crown to Conel.
The Dragons’ Morgan also reached the state tourney, finishing second to Canton GlenOak’s Corey Siegfried. Morgan beat Massillon Perry’s Stefano Millin, 6-5, to reach the final, where he lost, 3-1.
Riverside had three wrestlers advance to Columbus in Nick Boggs, Jake Denman and Evan Rosborough.
Boggs used a 3-1 win over Zac Carson of Lake in the semi and a first-period pin of Dejon Moss of Maple Heights to claim the title at 132.
Rosborough scored a pin in the semifinals before beating Vernon Rowe of Barberton, 10-2, for the championship at 220.
Denman was second at 160, following a 3-1 win over Brian Hawkins of Solon and a 7-0 loss to Bruno Millin of Massillon Perry.
Nick Montgomery won the title at 138 pounds with a semifinal pin and a 9-3 victory over Casey Sparkman of Massillon Perry in the finals.
Jarrad Lasko claimed third place at 126, recovering from a semifinal loss to win 8-4 in the consolation semifinals and 3-1 over Austin Phillips of Massillon Perry in the consolation finals.
Division III, Garfield Heights
Grand Valley’s Sean Szitas overcame a semifinal loss to claim a 7-3 over Nick Cardiero of Girard in the consolation semifinals and a 3-1 win over Seth King of Hawken to take third at 152.
“He was working with an advantage,” Grand Valley coach Steve Paratto said. “The kid he wrestled in the consolation semifinals, he had beat at the EOWL tournament. He had the confidence he could beat him because he’d already beaten him once.
“Once he got that first takedown, he was feeling all right.”
After winning his first match Friday, Glenn Zaller found himself on the wrong end of a 6-3 decision. All that did was fire him up.
Zaller romped through the consolation bracket with a 16-3 victory followed by three pins on Saturday to claim third at 182.
“I don’t know what happened (Friday night),” Paratto said. “He said he was feeling weak and a little overwhelmed. He got a good night’s sleep and he was ready to go. He opened a can whoop ass today.”
Pymatuning Valley’s Zach Campbell fell short in his bid for a third trip to the state tournament at 132, hampered by an agonizing elbow injury.
“He wrestled tough all day, but it got the better of him,” PV coach David Miller said. “He wrestled with one arm. He just couldn’t hang in there. He wrestled well, he just couldn’t pull off the one win he needed.
“It was tough (to watch his career end that way). You can always the play ‘what if.’ What if he hadn’t gotten hurt? What if he were 100 percent? What if? What if? What if? A lot kids would have said they were done and called it a career.
“He went out and left it all out there on the mat. It was tough to watch, the way it happened. But he knows he went out and gave his best possible effort.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.