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By Willie Saylor
Across the busy championship season, there’s no shortage of storylines from both the team and individual perspectives. With all states wrapped up, save Pennsylvania, we’ll highlight some of the interesting nuggets from the individual side of things.
With sibling wrestlers often close in age, there’s bound to be families which bridge both the high school and college levels. This year EIWA wrestlers particularly saw success with their younger legacies.
Winston — For Rutgers, Scott (165) made it back to the EIWA finals and qualified for the NCAA tournament this month. Brother Dallas won the state title for Jackson Memorial at 182 pounds.
Simaz — 197-pound Cam (Cornell) became the 11th wrestler in EIWA history to win four conference titles. His brother Taylor won a state title this weekend for Allegan (Mich.) while Kyle, just a sophomore, finished as runner-up.
Ashnault — Another Rutgers Scarlet Knights family had a good weekend. Billy finished fourth and qualified for the NCAA tournament. Anthony won his third straight state title for South Plainfield (N.J.).
Kolodzik — Wrestling at home, Daniel of Princeton earned a spot at Nationals with a fourth-place finish at EIWAs. His brother, Matt, won a state title as a freshman in Ohio.
Clovis’ Zach Nevills entered the state tournament as a rare three-time state medalist. But the gold has always eluded him. Nevills wrestled in each of his first three state tournaments, and as a senior, he was at 170 pounds looking for his state title.
In one of the deepest brackets of any state tournament in the country, Nevills made his way to the finals where he would face Silas Nacita of Bakersfield, a wrestler who had beaten Nevills three times this season. But Nevills wouldn’t be denied. He won the bout, 7-5, and grabbed the gold in his final high school bout.
Looking to become just California’s second-ever four-time state champion, Alex Cisneros battled through a beastly bracket to once again reach the finals. Cisneros had a 3-0 lead late in the match against Gilroy’s Nikko Villareal, an opponent he’d beat twice previously this year.
But Villareal hit a late five-point move to cause a stunning upset. Despite the loss, Cisneros will go down as one of the greatest wrestlers in the storied history of California wrestling.
Weight-cutting or gaining can be tough, especially when a young wrestler pushes himself to a new level. But that challenge is easier when it affects a teammate. That is what happened in at least three weights this high school postseason.
In Wisconsin, Roland Dunlap of Muskego has a buddy: consensus No. 1-ranked wrestler Devin Peterson (Wisconsin Rapids). Last year, they were in the same 189-pound bracket. But Peterson was upset in the semifinals and Dunlap won.
Despite Peterson’s long and illustrious career which includes the last four Fargo stop signs, there is one thing it lacked: a state title.
So, being the good friend that Dunlap is, he decided that defending his title would be more appropriate at 182, and would allow both pals a shot at state gold without going through each other.
So Dunlap sucked his way down to 182, with Peterson wrestling 195, and the two buds each captured gold.
In Michigan, Detroit Catholic Central’s Alec Mooradian, a three-time state champ was looking for his fourth title. But his teammate had grown to the point that making 140 pounds was a detriment. So the unselfish Mooradian bumped up to 152 despite chasing state immortality.
Mooradian made it to the finals, but for the first time in his career, lost in a state match.
In South Dakota, Napolean’s Jared Reis, a 145-pound, multiple-time state champion thought by moving up to 152 he’d be helping his team. Napolean had another 145-pounder who might be able to win the state title himself.
So Reis was going to move up to 152. But the same scenario occurred at that weight. Move up to 160? That is his buddy’s weight. He couldn’t move all the way up to 170, could he?
He did, and won the state title anyway. His teammate at 160 pounds did in fact win the state title as well.
Tip of the cap to all the individuals who sacrificed for their teams and friends.
South Plainfield Five
The New Jersey power came into the state tournament with a five-weight run of title contenders from 120 to 145 pounds. Their collective season record entering the tournament was 196-4, with three of them still undefeated.
Troy Heilman (120, 37-3) finished as runner-up. Anthony Ashnault (126, 40-0), and Scott Delvecchio (132, 40-0) were champs. At 138, Tyler Hunt (40-0) was a runner-up. And Casey Stasenko (145, 39-1) finished sixth.
It was an incredible run of elite wrestlers made even more impressive considering the Garden State employs a one-class system. And four of the five will be back next year; only Hunt is a senior.
Ashnault, who won his third state title, remained undefeated for his entire career.
Wisconsin Rapids Run
Appearing in the national rankings for the last few years prior to this season, Wisconsin Rapids sort of flew under the radar this season because of a reduced national schedule and a line-up that was not very dual friendly.
But they flexed their muscles at the state tournament. Starting at 138 pounds, the Red Raiders put a wrestler in the finals at seven straight weights as Rylan Lubeck (145) and Peterson (195) won titles.