The regular-season dual meets are dwindling, the postseason tournaments are just around the corner and the next two weekends will be filled with some exciting conference tournaments.
The action begins tonight in Garfield Heights as the Northeast Ohio Conference holds its inaugural tournament, and fittingly there is a three-way tie atop the Valley Division — the league’s strongest division — with Elyria, Strongsville and Mayfield all holding 4-1 regular-season records.
Elyria Catholic will compete in the North Coast League tournament and Southview will battle in the Lake Erie League Lake Division Duals on Saturday.
“The tournament outlook is foggy at best,” Pioneers coach Erik Burnett said. “The team with the best overall performance — the most placers, not necessarily the most champions — will have an excellent shot at winning the tournament.”
The NOC doesn’t keep the three divisions divided — all 18 schools in the league battle it out in a huge field. Elyria’s wrestlers could face off against Lake Division and River Division opponents throughout the event, which doesn’t necessarily mean Elyria would be at an advantage.
“At this point, it would be difficult to predict a winner,” Burnett said. “The conference seems to have tremendous balance.”
The Panthers will also be in a “battle royal” of sorts, as all 10 NCL teams will face off in the tournament for a winner-take-all championship. Unlike the NOC, the NCL teams didn’t meet during the regular season.
“Holy Name has a pretty good shot of repeating,” Panthers coach Kent Horton said.
The Panthers have several strong individual wrestlers, but it takes a team effort to finish high in a tournament.
“If they split the field, I think we’d do well in the small-school division,” Horton said. “Top to bottom, this is the best wrestling conference in the area.”
The Saints follow the NCL format in that the schools don’t meet during the regular season, but the LEL teams meet in dual-meet format during the league tournament to determine a conference champion. The Saints will face host Maple Heights at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Mentor at 12:15 p.m., Cleveland Heights at 1:30 p.m. and Shaker Heights at 3 p.m.
“We square up with Maple in the very first match,” first-year coach Billy Kopp said. “We have some history with Maple Heights. We had battles with them when I wrestled for Southview.”
The always-popular Brakeman Report was released Wednesday evening and several area wrestlers made the list. Here are the area wrestlers expected to be competing in Columbus — ranked in the top 16 — at the end of February, according to Brian Brakeman, the author of the annual report:
103: Uland Ralston, Southview, No. 11; 112: Steve Mitcheff, Elyria, No. 3; Narcisco Inchaurregui, Southview, No. 12; Conner Dempsey, Westlake, No. 16; 119: Nick Lawrence, Westlake, No. 5; John Cobos, St. Edward (Avon Lake), No. 16; 125: Anthony Salupo, St. Edward (Westlake), No. 7; Mike Varga, Olmsted Falls, No. 11; Zeno Inchaurregui, Southview, No. 14; 130: Dalton McHenry, Elyria, No. 12; 135: Collin Palmer, St. Edward (Columbia Station), No. 1; 152: Zack Goins, Elyria, No. 3; Devin Henry, Westlake, No. 11; 160: Mark Tomanek, Avon Lake, No. 13; 171: Aaron Winemiller, Amherst, No. 3; Jose Martinez, Southview, No. 11; 189: Ryan Nelisse, Elyria, No. 10; HVY: Greg Byrd, North Ridgeville, No. 10.
135: Brad Wukie, University School (Elyria), No. 2.
119: Colin Dennis, Lutheran West, No. 10; 135: Josh Malave, Lutheran West, No. 4; 140: Josh Pfister, Black River, No. 6.
A look back at the area’s state champions on their anniversary:
30 years ago … NAME: John McNulty; SCHOOL: Elyria; CLASS: AAA; WEIGHT: 132 pounds; OTHERS: Michael Gerken (Class AAA 105-pound champ from Vermilion), Ray Tusick (CLASS AAA 155-pound champ from North Olmsted) and Mark Allison (Class AA 98-pound champ from Olmsted Falls); WHERE ARE THEY NOW? McNulty retired from coaching Elyria Catholic’s program after last season and resides in Tucson, Ariz. MCNULTY’S MEMORIES: “It was awesome for me. The year before I got disqualified and it should have been my second one. It was a goal of mine to win a state championship since I was a little kid, so it was like a dream come true.”
20 years ago … NAME: Billy Kopp; SCHOOL: Southview; DIVISION: I; WEIGHT: 125 pounds; OTHER: Rich Frimel (Division I heavyweight champ from North Olmsted); WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Kopp has taken over the Saints program after many years as an assistant coach. KOPP’S MEMORIES: “That was a feeling all to its own — you really can’t explain the state title. I went undefeated that year, so it was a tremendous accomplishment for me. Twenty years later, I’m the coach of the program so I’m hoping good things keep happening. I just hope it doesn’t take another 20 years for more good things to happen.”
10 years ago … NAME: Scott Burnett; SCHOOL: Elyria Catholic; DIVISION: III; WEIGHT: 130 pounds; OTHERS: Mark Jayne (Division I 112-pound champ and Elyria resident from St. Edward), Joe Hughes (Division III 119-pound champ from Black River) and Ryan Myers (Division III 215-pound champ from Wellington); WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Burnett is brother Erik’s assistant at Elyria High.
Week in review
Olmsted Falls finished second, North Ridgeville finished seventh and Avon finished ninth at the John Matteucci Memorial at Eastlake North on Saturday.
Winning individual championships for the Bulldogs were Mike Varga at 125 pounds, Cliff Hickerson at 145 and Jerry Knapp at 215.
l Elyria Catholic finished 26th out of 32 teams at the Thunderbird Invitational in Lima. The Panthers split their varsity roster between the Lima event and the Falcon Invitational at Firelands High. Elyria Catholic’s lone placer in Lima was Dane Szente, who finished third at 171 pounds.
l Avon Lake finished fourth and Keystone finished 10th at the West Holmes Invitational. Winning individual titles for the Shoremen were Kevin Brunner at 119 pounds, Danny Urbin at 125 and Mark Tomanek at 160.
l Brookside placed fourth and Columbia placed fifth at the Western Reserve Academy Invitational. Winning an individual championship for the Raiders was Steve Selage at 140 pounds.
Nick Nelson — Bay’s senior 119-pounder — became the third Rocket to earn career victory No. 100 Thursday night in a dual meet against visiting Avon.
l Heavyweight Greg Byrd and 145-pounder Mike Mendez rejoined the North Ridgeville lineup this week.
l Black River has been bit hard by the injury bug down the stretch. Brian Bush is done for season with an ACL tear, Josh Pfister is out for the season with an MCL tear — he’s is expected to have surgery Tuesday — and Tylor Hall has already missed four weeks with an MCL injury, and could be lost for the season.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or email@example.com.