Feb. 26—BY MIKE SHAFFER
It’s been nearly a year since the pandemic caused by COVID-19 shut down the sports world. Among the first casualties was the Ohio High School Athletic Association wrestling tournament, thus crashing the dream of seven Ashtabula County wrestlers.
The pandemic may have robbed a few — including Lakeside’s Jacob Lagoa and St John’s Ethan Ducca — of the chance to wrestle for a state title. Others such as Pymatuning Valley’s Jake Edelman lost out on their last chance to place while still others, such as Grand Valley’s Mason Shreeve lost out on their only chance to compete at the state tournament.
This season, the pandemic has hit some mat programs harder than it has others. Schools such as Edgewood and Conneaut have struggled to get matches in, while others such as Jefferson and Geneva have been more fortunate.
As the road to Columbus begins again this weekend with the sectional tournaments, the best news is that the past will just be that, the past. Wrestlers who were denied a chance to compete at the State tournament a year ago, whether because of a pandemic or because they were not good enough, will have that chance once again.
The mats will be rolled out at Berkshire where Conneaut, GV, Jefferson, and PV will compete in the Division III tournament The county’s other Division III school, St John will travel to Independence. Edgewood will be at Lake Catholic and Geneva at Painesville Harvey for Division II slates, while Lakeside and Madison will head to Brecksville for Division I.
Here is a quick look at a few wrestlers to keep an eye for this weekend, as well as possibly the next two.
Jefferson-Colt Edgar (160) — Not your prototypical wrestler, Edgar may be built more like a basketball player, but he is strong and he knows how to use his length and leverage to create advantages for himself. He placed sixth at the Garfield Districts a year ago. This season, he is 30-5 and has an Eastern Ohio Wrestling League (EOWL) championship under his belt.
The Falcons also return Brent Dietrich (170) who was a district qualifier a year ago and is 28-8 on the season. Evan Smock (132) is 16-14, with most of his losses coming outside of his weight class.
Pymatuning Valley-Victor Verba (285) — A state-alternate a year ago, Verba was hindered this season, not only by Covid’s effect on the Lakers team but he also had to get his weight down from what he played football at. He enters the postseason with a record of 14-2. Also for PV, keep an eye on newcomer Tyler Bean (170) who enters the postseason with a mark of 20-6.
Conneaut-Amari Bowers (126) — A sophomore that had tremendous success at the junior high level, Bowers went 2-2 at the Garfield District a year ago. This season he is 12-1 and will no doubt be looking to get a little bit further.
A few others that could make some noise for the Spartans; Anthony Nunes (138) and Logan Pinkerton (145) are both 10-2, Nate Coy (152) is 9-4 and Daren Christine (285) is 8-2.
Grand Valley-Chase Cottrell (220) — A senior who has not wrestled in the postseason since his freshman year due to injuries. Cottrell can be described as just a hard-working kid that is finally healthy. He’s put it all together this season as evidenced by his record of 25-2.
St John-Ryan Elrod (285) — The only wrestler in the county with state tournament experience. Elrod appeared in the state tournament as a freshman before having his sophomore season end early last year with an injury. This season he’s gone 29-2 and ranked third in the state according to Borofan.net. Also for the Heralds, Tyler Cathcart (132) is 21-12, and Ian Fuentes (113) could make a lot of noise also.
Geneva-Caleb Selman (160) — Only three county wrestlers in the last five years have gotten out of the Alliance Division II District. Selman has a great chance to add to the list. He won two matches at Alliance a year ago and enters the postseason with an unblemished record of 27-0 including his second straight Chagrin Valley Conference championship. He’ll lead a host of Eagles into the postseason including Jesse McElroy (145) who is 20-6 and Alex Kreig (195) who is 18-3.
Edgewood-Kyle Biller (138) — It’s been more than a few years since Edgewood has sent anyone to Columbus, but last year they had a few guys knocking on the door. Biller took sixth at Alliance a year ago and is 6-1 this season. Joey Jaraface (106) also won two matches at Alliance before getting knocked out by the eventual fourth place finisher, Jaraface is 6-1 this season. Also for Edgewood, Jared Biller (126) and Kurt Corrigan (132) are both 6-1, and Troy Peterson (220) is 5-2.
Lakeside-Ethan Wannett (138) — Qualified for the State tournament a year ago by placing second at the Mentor Division I District tournament, after losing his go-to match the year before as a sophomore. Now a senior, Wannett has been dominant this winter, compiling a record of 17-1 including a CVC title. The Dragons also return Kaleb Scaine who went two and out at Mentor a year ago but has come back strong this season going 13-4.
Also watch for Lucas Eland (106) who has gone 12-6 and Garrette Siebeneck (182) who is 9-4.