Howland's wrestling team is simply rolling this season.
On their way through a perfect regular season in dual meets, the Tigers won their own Howland Invitational Tournament, as well as the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League Tournament.
Now, the Tigers will look to continue their ride in the Division II sectional tournament, where the environs won't be as friendly as they were at HIT.
On Friday, the Tigers travel to West Branch High School, the home of their chief nemesis at the EOWL tournament, where the teams collided in two championship matches. Senior Robby Klose (145) and freshman David Brian Whisler (152) each won close decisions that eventually gave the Tigers the title.
"This time of the season is really more about individual achievement, so I really want our guys concentrated on going out there and wrestling smart, hard matches," Howland coach Bill Beasom said. "It would still be nice to win the tournament this weekend. At the beginning of the year, I thought it was a goal we could achieve, and our wrestlers have lived up to those expectations."
Senior J.R. Perry, who qualified for state last year, and has won 100 matches in his career, didn't compete at EOWL due to a knee injury.
Considering he was a favorite to win the tourney, his absence could've made the final result closer than it should have been.
Last season, Klose and Perry were two of seven Tigers to move on to districts. This weekend, juniors Alex Cornicelli (126), Cody Davis (152), Tyler Drass (170), Nico Lucarelli (106), and Gabe Stark (138) will also look to make return trips to districts. Klose and Perry have qualified for districts each of the last three seasons.
"It really helps to have the experience of wrestling in the sectionals and districts," Beasom said. "What's really great about it is that those guys pass on what they've learned to the other guys each and every day in practice."
Seniors Andrew Hamilton (132) and junior Tyler Drass (170) have improved this year, and look to take their first steps into the district tournament.
The Tigers will also look to freshmen Aaron Jackson (113) and Whisler (152) to contribute this weekend.
Whisler won a state title in junior high, which will help him in the next couple weeks.
"David Brian Whisler is everything you want in a wrestler," Beasom said. "He's smart, agressive, very mature, and a great leader. His father (Dave) was a great wrestler at Howland, so we're very happy he's here to carry on that tradition."
While Howland and West Branch are expected to make waves this weekend, no one should look past Canfield, which has a roster of young, talented wrestlers that helped the Cardinals finish third at the EOWL tournament.
"We're a very young team, so we're looking to improve as the season progresses," Canfield coach Dean Conley said.
"Howland is obviously very talented and experienced, so we want to get better as we head into sectionals and districts, so we can do better against them."
In Division I, Austintown Fitch will look benefit from the comforts of home to make its way through a stacked field including rival Boardman.
"It's definitely a little bit of an advantage for us to be at home," Fitch coach Brett Powell said.
"We wrestled here for the Josh Hephner and the league tournaments, so our guys will go a little harder in their gym."
Powell said Solon is a favorite, but he likes his team's chances. He expects Rick Ague (106), Zilch Mackall (132), Kyle Rocco (138), Donniee Free (182), and Lennie McGeachy to do well this weekend.
Boardman will send EOWL winners Nick Mancini (113) and Nice Graziani (160) into the tournament. Graziani was the EOWL tournament's MVP.
In the Division III Rootstown sectional, Liberty will look to continue the momentum it established last week when it defeated rival Girard to capture the EOWL dual title. It's the Leopards' first league crown since 1998.
Liberty will look to Cody Bucher (220), who finished second at EOWL; Fred Clark (285), who finished thirdL; and C.J. Edmonds (182), who finished sixth at to contribute this weekend.
Liberty defeated Poland in dual competition, but the Bulldogs won the EOWL tournament in only their second year in existence. Poland's Tad Duran (120) finished second at EOWL, Mike Audi (160) finished third, and Anthony Mancini (138) fiished fifth. They'll all be looked on to push into districts next weekend.
Girard will also be there with Nick Cardiero (145), a fifth-place finisher at EOWL; Matt Deal (152), who finished sixth, and Jacob Carpenter (138).