Roberts, much older & wiser, meets Hafizov again in Final X
Photo: Dalton Roberts (left) beat Ildar Hafizov at the 2023 U.S. Open...
By Jeff Shain
For WIN Magazine
Based on geography alone, Middle Atlantic Wrestling’s Norm Palovcsik can be confident of taking a potent developmental team to compete at the AAU’s Disney Duals. The only question to settle on the mat is just how powerful.
Suffice it to say the 2015 squad will provide a tough measuring stick for future squads.
MAWA Red steamrolled anyone in its way on the path to a second consecutive developmental crown, capped by a 50-12 dismantling of Ohio’s SEO Wrestling in the final.
“We come into the Developmental division each year knowing we come from a rich tradition of wrestling in Pennsylvania,” Palovcsik said. “We have a lot of talented young men and so we had a pretty dominant run though the division.”
Consider that Palovcsik fielded 10 unbeaten wrestlers in his line-up, all but one making at least seven starts. Four others earned silver medals, losing just once. That list might have grown by one, too, if 138-pounder Dylan Henry hadn’t suffered a broken jaw on the first day.
In all, MAWA compiled an individual match record of 113-12 for the tournament. Take out the 138-pound class, where Henry’s loss led to two forfeits before one of Palovcsik’s reserves stepped in to wrestle above his weight, and MAWA dropped only six matches the entire tournament.
“We knew it was a tall task,” SEO coach David Ratliff said. They crushed everyone all tournament long.”
The Developmental division is restricted to wrestlers who did not place at their state tournament. In a state like Pennsylvania, though, there are state qualifiers who haven’t placed at states who have the talent and savvy to win a state title elsewhere.
“That happens,” said Palovcsik, whose club attracts talent from the eastern half of the state. “Pennsylvania wrestlers have gone to Georgia and Virginia and were state champions, though they didn’t even qualify for the state tournament in Pennsylvania. This state just has strong coaching, and we’re very fortunate.”
MAWA’s Dylan Chatterton (145) was named the division’s outstanding wrestler after finishing unbeaten for the second consecutive year. At Central York High, though, his best finish has been the state quarterfinals.
Ryan Anderson (106) never had to go the distance in his 9-0 tournament run, pinning six opponents and winning the rest on technical falls. Derek Spachman (182) was nearly as efficient, pinning his first seven opponents before a 7-0 decision in the final over SEO’s Sam Allen.
Adam Soldridge (160) only went the distance once in his 7-0 run, saving his best for last when he pinned unbeaten foes in both the semifinals and final.
“Very tough customer,” Palovcsik said.
Jordan Gessner (120), Xavier Ferrizzi (195) and Ethan Budd (220) also compiled 9-0 records, with Ferrizzi and Budd each pinning seven opponents. Cole Karam (145) went 8-0 for the week and James Hoffman (132) was 7-0.
“We have a lot of talented young men,” Palovcsik said.
In the end, the only foes to get the best of MAWA were the bandits who stole seven bags out of one of the team vans while the squad had stopped for a celebratory dinner after the meet. Cell phones and wallets were the primary losses, along with several pairs of wrestling shoes.
“They probably did it all in 30 seconds,” Palovcsik said. “We’ll do some itemizing and submit it to our insurance and see what happens. But all that stuff’s replaceable. No one got hurt. We’re good to go.
“We won early,” he added, “and lost late.”
SEO, based in a three-county area about 90 minutes southeast of Columbus, managed to see one wrestler go unbeaten for the week. Dimitri Williams went 9-0 at 170 pounds, capped by a 2-1 overtime win in the final over MAWA’s Frank Guida.
Andrew Spicer (132) and Kevin Beal (145) had unbeaten records until losing to MAWA wrestlers in the final.
“We fought and fought and fought. You can’t ask for anything else,” said Ratliff, noting that the runner-up finish is SEO’s best in three years of bringing a Developmental squad.
Ratliff compared the final to the uphill task his wrestlers face back home, where Ohio powerhouse St. Paris Graham happens to be in the same district.
“If you don’t wrestle against the best, you’re never going to beat them,” he said. “So we wanted to wrestle [MAWA], whether we won the match or lost.”
Palovcsik also was quick to note Ohio’s own strong wrestling tradition, pointing out that 13 of last year’s NCAA Division I All-Americans were from Pennsylvania and 10 from Ohio.
“That’s 23 out of 80,” the MAWA coach said. “They’re just strong wrestling states.”