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Placing wrestlers in all but one weight class helped Bucs regain top honors
Another incredible year inside Walsh Jesuit High School’s athletic dome is in the books. Some of the nation’s top talent have entered the national fray. Some have added to their legacy. Some have made Ironman tournament history.
All of them put on a great show, Dec. 10-11, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
On the team side of the ledger, Blair Academy (previously ranked No. 2 in WIN’s preseason poll) held off a run by St. Edward, which was top-ranked. The Eagles, who eventually had two champs — including OW Dean Heil — and 11 placewinners, actually took a brief lead during the semifinals.
But Blair’s guys — three champs and 13 placewinners — had a steady pace with both top-end talent scoring major points, and in their balance with lower placers contributing as well.
Day I was relatively quiet. Upsets were less prevalent than last year, when there just happened to be a glut of talented freshmen who went unseeded and upset the apple cart. But, like always, the quarterfinals on Day II started the fireworks. There were dominating performances, upsets, and pivotal scrambles all in the center of raucous fans.
The following are the weight-by-weight recaps.
Championship: Zahid Valencia (St. John Bosco, Calif.) dec. Matthew Kolodzik (Miami Valley School, Ohio), 3-2 — Valencia, who was ranked at 113 pounds, dropped down and was never really in trouble against Kolodzik. Valencia wasn’t flashy, but he showed perseverance uncommon for a freshman. He trailed in several bouts, only to rally late and get his hand raised.
“There was some pressure, sure,” said Valencia. “But I’ve wrestled in a lot of big tournaments growing up. So I was used to it.”
Notes: The California boys, Zahid Valencia and a Johnson Mai, each posted two falls on the first day; • Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s Vincenzo Joseph recorded the biggest upset by pinning the fifth-seed Tommy Pawelski.
Championship: Nathan Tomasello (CV Calif., Ohio) dec. Joey McKenna (Blair Academy, N.J.), 3-2 — Tomasello started the scoring with a big double that slammed McKenna to the mat. He then fended off a near takedown on an inside trip by McKenna late in the bout, and held on for his second Ironman title.
“I train to grind out matches,” said Tomasello, “I can win late because I strive to be in the better shape than my opponents, and it came into play here.”
Notes: Zeke Moisey of Bethlehem, Pa., looked good in beating Illinois state champ Johnny Jimenez. He looked to have a good shot at the finals after hitting a standing cradle on Tomasello in the semis. But Tomasello stormed back to win after digging out of a 5-0 hole.
• Second-seeded J.R. Wert of Christiansburg, Va., was upset by Aaron Assad of Brecksville, Ohio.
Championship: George DiCamillo (St. Ignatius, Ohio) dec. Ryan Taylor (St. Paris Graham, Ohio), 11-4 — DiCamillo and Taylor have wrestled many times, including in last year’s Ironman finals. So most expected this to be a close, tentative bout. But DiCamillo came out guns blazing. He used a couple sets of back points to open things up, ultimately earning an 11-4 victory.
“I feel a lot different than last year,” said DiCamillo, who signed with the University of Virginia. “The pressure is off. I just want to go out on the mat and have fun. And that’s what I did.” DiCamillo joins an elite fraternity of three-time Ironman champions.
Notes: Third-place Ivan McClay of Washington, Ohio, was the surprise semifinalist, beating Walsh’s Cory Stainbrook in quarters. McClay then had a valiant effort in a 1-0 semis loss to DiCamillo.
• Fifth-place finisher Godwin Nyama had a terrific first day. First, he took out Blair’s PJ Klee in an opening round. Then, he majored Montini’s Kevon Powell.
Championship: Dean Heil (St. Edward, Ohio) pinned Jimmy Gulibon (Derry Area, Pa.), 4:19 — Trailing 4-3 halfway through the third period, Heil countered a Gulibon shot and stepped over him for the fall and Outstanding Wrestling honors in upsetting the top-ranked Gulibon.
“I trained the same way, who failed to place last year after reaching the Ironman finals in 2009, when he lost to DiCamillo. “But I scouted, I prepared. And I was focused. I thought if I could win this tournament, I could get the No. 1 ranking.”
Notes: The hot-and-cold Dean Heil was scalding this weekend. He had the only takedown in a 3-1 win over Joey Dance of Christiansburg, Va.. Then used a four-point move to knock out Cox, Va., native Brandon Jeske, 4-2. Before the finals, Gulibon was dominant with a fall, two techs, and a 10-3 win over Nathan Kraisser of Centennial, Md.
• A talented sophomore, Walsh’s Mike Kostandaras upset previous Ironman placer, David Jeffery, of Parkersburg South, W. Va.. Blair Academy’s Max Hvolbeck, who finished seventh, and used two nearfall points to edge Micah Jordan of St. Paris, Graham.
Championship: Randy Cruz (Bethlehem Catholic, Pa.) dec. Edgar Bright (St. Edward, Ohio), 5-2 — In a match with two proficient riders, Cruz was always in control, using a nice deep single early and shutting Bright down the rest of the way.
“I always think I’ve had the ability,” said Cruz, won the Medoza Award for most team points accrued by an individual, posting three falls, a major and two decisions. “I just kept working hard and it’s finally paid off.”
Notes: Blair Academy’s Mark Grey, who finished fourth, controlled Joey Ward of Moeller, Ohio, in a high-profile match-up. Cruz then did the unthinkable and took out Grey. Using a great leg ride in which he scored nearfall, Cruz was able to shut down Grey, to the tune of a 9-4 win.
• In the semis, Bright controlled the match with three-time California state champ, Alex Cisneros of Selma High before a late point put it into overtime. In the ultimate tie-break, and in one of the most suspenseful bouts, Bright sunk a half in to get nearfall points and the win.
Championship: Nate Skonieczny (Walsh Jesuit, Ohio) pinned No. 16 Austin Matthews (Reynolds, Pa.), 4:42 — Mathews is known for his scrambling ability. But Skonieczny wouldn’t let that be a factor. After a couple of takedowns, Skon was in on another shot when Mathews tried to funk. At 4:42 in the third, a non-controlled fall was called while in neutral.
On wrestling Mathews unorthodox style, Skonieczny said, “I’ve seen him wrestle a bunch of times at club duals. I wanted to create clean angles and finish quick to stop him from scrambling.”
Notes: Skonieczny has finished first, third and first in his last three Ironmans.
• Angelo Amenta, a returning placer from Oregon Clay, Ohio, took out Marmion, Ill., native Angelo Silvestro, who was third at Fargo this summer.
• Mathews rolled back a nearside cradle on Oklahoma State-signee Chase Ferman of Broken Arrow, Okla., for the fall.
Championship: Dylan Milonas (Blair Academy, N.J.) dec. Blake Kastl (St. Paris Graham, Ohio), 5-3 OT — In a gutsy performance, Milonas just wouldn’t be denied. Trailing 3-1 in the third, he had what looked like to be a sure takedown not called. That would have broken the spirits of most. But Milonas kept attacking and got the tying score with just five seconds remaining to force overtime, where he kept the pressure on and got the win.
“I stay focused in tight matches,” said Milonas, who did not place last year. “I have the endurance from working out with the best training partners in the country. I just have to stay focused and everything will take care of itself.”
Notes: In one of the bigger surprises of the quarters, Jake Faust of Lexington, Ohio, handled Joey Lavallee of Reno, Nev., 7-1. But Blake Kastl would win that side of the bracket in a tight semi with Faust, 3-1.
• In a match-up of talented sophomores, Milonas rode out the third period for a 1-0 win over Jack Clark of McDonogh, Md.. He then ousted Ohio state champion, Zach Dailey, 7-5.
Championship: Bo Jordan (St. Paris Graham, Ohio) dec. Isaiah Martinez (Lemoore, Calif.), 2-0 — In a battle of two supremely offensive wrestlers, neither could get much going. Martinez threw the kitchen sink at Bo, but Jordan’s length was to his advantage. Each wrestler took neutral with their respective choices and a second-period Jordan takedown was the only score of the bout.
“I knew (Martinez) was dangerous in upper-body situations,” said Jordan. “My match plan was to get him tired and capitalize on an opening. I was able to do that with a head-inside single in the second period.”
Notes: St. Ed’s Matt Van Curen knocked off No. 4-seed Nick Babcock of Broomfield, Colo. The top three seeds rolled, racking up bonus-point wins in a number of matches.
Championship: Isaac Jordan (St. Paris Graham, Ohio) dec. Geordan Speiller (Pine Castle Christian, FL), 5-2 — Isaac became the second Jordan in a row to win the title. He wrestled soundly and was in little danger in the final.
“I felt great,” Jordan said. “Last year I had a hamstring problem, but this year I was completely healthy. I have great workout partners to make me better, and I was prepared for this tournament.”
Notes: There were many kids that struggled making weight for the first time. One of which was Hopewell, Va., native Cody Allala, who became the tournament’s biggest Day I sacrifice. He looked dominant early, but utterly faded as the match wore on, losing 7-5 to Massillon’s Josh Arrendale, one match before the quarterfinals.
• Speaking of fading, two-time Illinois state champ, Dylan Reel of Washington, Ill., was taken to overtime by St. Ed’s Jacob Davis. Reel looked fatigued as he gave up a takedown from front headlock rather easily. Pine Castle’s Geordan Speiller, a Fargo Greco-Roman Champ, then took out Davis, 9-2.
Championship: Mark Martin (St. Edward, Ohio) dec. Eric Morris (Wyoming Seminary, Pa.), 2-1 — Morris rode out the entire second period and looked to have an Ironman title all wrapped up. With under ten seconds remaining, Morris seemingly relaxed for a moment when Martin shot a double for the winning score.
“He’s (Morris) strong, and great defensively. He’s hard to get out of position,” Martin said. “I tried to get him to open up, and the shot came late in the match. I did what I do best, shoot a double.”
Notes: Morris, adjusting to his new, higher weight class, had a couple of close bouts in outlasting two Pennsylvania state placewinners. First he beat Austin Coniker of Pitt CC, 1-0. And in a tense semifinal, Elliott Riddick of Bethlehem, Pa., scored the only takedown before the match went to overtime tied at 2-2. In the tiebreaker, Morris was on bottom and forced a reversal for the win.
• Riddick had the most takedowns in the tournament: 29.
Championship: Huston Evans (St. Paris Graham, Ohio) dec. Domenic Abounader (St. Edward, Ohio), 3-2 — Evans won a close 3-2 affair, but was never in trouble. He controlled the bout.
“I took second last year. So it was good to get a title,” said Evans, who is down a weight this year. “I feel good. I’m not cutting much at all. I feel quicker, stronger and I have all my stamina.”
Notes: B.J. Toal, brother of University of Missouri starter, Zach, was a game opponent for Evans in the semis. The Troy Christian (Ohio) prep held Evans to a 5-2 decision before losing.
• Abounader, who recently came off of football, looked a little rusty. But didn’t face much resistance in getting to the finals, especially after Chaz Gresham of Goshen, Ohio, was injured in his Round of 16 victory. An ankle injury kept him from competing in the quarters on Day II.
Championship: Frank Mattiace (Blair Academy, N.J.) dec. Seth Calvert (Broken Arrow, Okla.), 6-1 — Mattiace parlayed a first-period five-pointer into a championship.
“He went low ankle and when I countered, the cradle was there,” Mattiace said of his big move.” When asked on his improvement, he noted the change of environment, “Over the past year at Blair, I’ve really picked it up. I love the school and the atmosphere in the room. It gives me confidence.”
Notes: The match of the semifinals at this weight was James Suvak of St. Eds edging Massillon Perry’s JoJo Tayse, 1-0, in what could be a prelude to the Ohio state finals.
Championship: Kyle Snyder (Good Counsel, Md.) dec. AJ Vizcarrando (Wyoming Seminary, Pa.), 3-2 — Snyder had beaten Vizcarrando in both National Prep and Mount Mat Madness finals last year. They know each other well. Snyder was able to make his lone takedown hold up.
“People think it makes it tougher for me because he learns what I do,” said Snyder, who hasn’t lost a match in high school. His only loss ever came in the Fargo Greco finals.
“But I learned about him too. I know his technique more. He’s good, so we’re always going to have good matches.”
Notes: In an odd bout in the semis, Ty Walz of St. Eds was close to scoring over and over again. But when Vizcarrando looked dead-to-rights, he managed to get out of danger at the last moment. Late in the third, he used an arm drag and big mat return to score the decisive points.
Championship: Brooks Black (Blair Academy, N.J.) dec. Greg Kuhar (St. Edward, Ohio), 3-1: Black ran his all-time record vs. Kuhar to 5-0, with his second Ironman title.
“It was good to double up here at Ironman,” Black said. “It’s one of the best tournaments and one of my biggest goals. I wanted to go out there and push the pace and I think I did that in every match.”
Notes: In what might be some kind of Ironman record, Black pinned his way to the finals.
• Kuhar majored Wyoming Seminary’s fab freshman Michael Johnson, the Fargo finalist.
(This article appeared in the December 23, 2011 issue of WIN. Click on “Subcribe to WIN” button or call our office at 1-888-305-0606 to order a subscription.)