Varsity wrestling season previews
By Ryan Kaczmarski
BAY’s wrestling team has started the season off right, with a second-place team finish at Avon Lake’s Knights of Columbus tournament over the weekend.
The Rockets are coming off a 2011-12 season in which it went 3-4 in the West Shore Conference (8-13 overall), and finished fourth in the WSC tournament.
“Last season was a down year for us,” Rockets head coach Ryan Cover said. “Not only did we have three open weight classes, but we had several injuries to key wrestlers that kept them out for a good portion of the year.”
Bay does have 11 returning letter winners, including Ben Tepper (113), Adam Tepper (120), Max Langer (145), Joe Kubinski (152), Dom Ruma (170), Cody Wright (182) and Matt Spies (195).
“We expect big things out of all of them,” Cover said. “We have a very experienced senior class that the young guys can look up to and learn from.”
Cover sees the matches against Avon and Midview as the biggest on the schedule this season.
Although the Rockets have a good amount of upperclassmen on the roster, there are still some holes that need to be filled.
“We have low numbers in the lightweights and a few freshmen will have to step in and wrestle throughout the season,” Cover stated. “We want to win the WSC and have guys wrestling at the state tournament at the end of the season.”
ROCKY RIVER was dead even at 3-3 last season with a very young squad, and hopes are that the lumps the Pirates took last season should pay off with a lot of experience this year.
There are 12 returning letter winners for Rocky River, including Dan Mahoney, Brad Sprau, Travis Smith, Jimi Smith, Seamus Kilbane, Enli Hamzai and Jesse Singler.
“They all look stronger and more polished (this year),” Pirates head coach Eric Tuokkola said.
Tuokkola thinks winning the conference matches against Avon, Midview and North Ridgeville will be key for Rocky River to come out on top at the end of the season. He also thinks that the team’s depth and consistency will help the Pirates, but they lack a star wrestler, so everyone will have to step up this year.
LAKEWOOD finished with a conference record of 7-6 last season, but you can throw that record out with the Rangers joining the WSC this year.
“We will have two kids graduate who will be hard to replace in William Abdel-Salam and Adam Feckley,” Lakewood head coach Vincent Curiale said.
The key returning wrestlers are Yassir Abdel-Salam (138), Ralph Johnson (170) and heavy weight Roberto Sclimenti.
The biggest matches will be against North Ridgeville and Midview.
“We are very young and inexperienced this year,” Curiale said. “Our strengths will come out as the season moves along. We just need mat time.”
WESTLAKE finished at .500 with an 8-8 record last season, and coach Jed Failor is looking to his big guys to lead the way for the Demons to take the Southwestern Conference title.
“We have a great upper weight class returning this year in Alex Busser, Ahmed Mustafa and Ismael Shafei,” he said.
The other key returning wrestlers are Logan Paul, a state qualifier last season, Josh Pappas, a district qualifier as a freshman, Asam Zayed, Conner Moutoux, Kevin Kruger and Jake Paul.
“We are a young team, but we have some very good wrestlers returning this year,” Failor said. “We have a very good eighth-grade class coming up this year to the high school. Our team is very coachable, with good leadership and a strong work ethic.
“We should have a strong lineup this year and we should do well in all the tournaments and duals, and have some wrestlers do well in sectionals, districts and hopefully in states.”
OLMSTED FALLS has a new head coach for the first time since 1986 in Bryce Burkhard, who took over for retired Hall of Famer Bill McGrain, and he has the task of improving a team that went 21-1 overall in 2011-12.
“Last year’s team set a school record for dual meet victories,” Burkhard said. “We graduated a very talented group – seven starters overall, with most being three- or four-year lettermen. Also, would-be junior David Lance moved to Minnesota, so that’s an eighth starter to replace.”
The returning letter winners are Danny Cuellar (120), Chase DuPratt (126), Adam Salti (132), L.J. Yurick (138), Mike Hansinger (160), Richie Rader (195) and Jordan Lee (285).
“Chase DuPratt – a state placer last season – will be looking to get back on the state podium,” Burkhard said. “Senior captains L.J. Yurick and Chase DuPratt will provide that great leadership on and off the mat all year long.
“Freshmen Noel Caraballo and Michael Iller were junior high state qualifiers and we’re looking for them to take the next step.”
Burkhard sees all of the conference matches as being important, along with trying to repeat as champions of the Bowling Green and Findlay tournaments (the Bulldogs have won the Findlay tournament for the last four years).
“We are good in numbers, with over 40 in the room, and a lot of depth in the mid-upper weights,” Burkhard said. “Lots of kids were junior varsity last year behind that good senior class, but they are ready to take the varsity role.
“I’m excited for my first year at the helm,” he added. “Our kids have brought a good attitude every day and have been working real hard in the room.”
LUTHERAN WEST had an impressive record of 14-6 last season, and will be looking for improvement this year.
The Longhorns return almost the whole lineup from last year, minus district qualifier Ryan Rusnak. Tim Mecklinburg (120, state qualifier last season), Bryce Deblock (126), Chance Huey (138) and Andrew Liese (182) will anchor the team this season.
The team won its fourth-straight Longhorn Superquad over the weekend, and it is looking to sweep through the season.
“We have 28 on the roster and good senior leadership,” Lutheran West head coach Dave Ressler said. “We have a lot of inexperienced wrestlers, but we are getting more wrestlers with experience through our youth program reaching high school every year.”
FAIRVIEW will have to replace Matt Wallace, Mahmoud Awad and Kevin Thomas, who were lost to graduation and represented 85 match victories last season.
“This season, four of our seniors – Ben Kost (138), Mitch Minnich (160-171), Wilfredo Lopez (160-171) and Tyler Keating (195) – will be the foundation of our team,” Warriors head coach Dave LeBrun said. “Tyler Keating is a returning district qualifier and his goal is to qualify for the state tournament in Columbus.
“They will be supported by junior Jacob Tayor (145).”
LeBrun is looking to the Independence dual meet to tell him a lot about his team.
“We work hard and are doing the things in practice every day that we need to get better,” he said. “Fourteen of 19 kids were fall athletes, so we are shaking off some injuries from that season, and it is going to take us a while to get down to our proper weights, get everybody spread and out to where they need to be.”
NORTH OLMSTED did not reply in time for this article.