BOARDMAN - Winning four consecutive Eastern Ohio Wrestling League titles didn't come easy to Boardman's Nick Mancini - he just made it look that way.
The 120-pound senior came into the league tournament as a heavy favorite to win another championship, but in a league where some of the top wrestlers in the state loom, Mancini had to earn it.
He did just that.
Mancini continued to add to an already outstanding career Saturday by beating Travis Pidgeon of West Branch, 3-2, in the finals of the EOWL Tournament. Mancini became just the fourth wrestler in the history of the league to win it all four years, joining the likes of Adam Hoppel (Beaver Local), Nick Bodnar (Austintown Fitch) and Tony Jameson (Austintown Fitch).
"It was awesome, especially to win it in my own gym" said Mancini, a two-time state qualifier who currently owns a 36-2 record. "It was just an amazing feeling, and it's great company to be in. There's five or six state titles between those guys. That's unbelievable."
Mancini, who was named the tournament's MVP, gave up just a single takedown in four matches at the tournament. Last week at the Josh Hephner Memorial Tournament, he didn't yield a point in becoming the champion. Through it all, he's done it with his father in his corner.
Boardman coach Dom Mancini helped groom Nick into the elite wrestler he's become over the last four years. Nick said he travels all over the country to different tournaments during the offseason, and the high level of competition along with the overall experience played an integral role in his development.
"I love having him in the corner," Nick said. "It shows how much he's invested in me. He takes me on all these trips during the summer, he's always there with me and it's just fun that we can do it together."
Nick was able to accomplish such a feat thanks to an array of overall skills, Dom said. He possesses patience and timing on his feet to take an opponent down. He can use a variety of moves from the top position to turn his foe, and he's nearly impossible to hold down on bottom.
Yet, it's an uncanny understanding of the sport, which also stemmed from years of wrestling, that sets him apart from others.
"The biggest asset he has is that he's so smart about the sport," Dom said. "He knows what to do and when to do it, and the only way you get to that point is by wrestling a ton of matches and putting yourself in a lot of different situations, and that's what he's done."
From a physical standpoint, Nick's ability to fend off just about any attack can frustrate an opponent to the point that he places himself in a bad position, and that's when Mancini takes advantage. It's a mindset that was instilled by Dom, and one Nick has grasped perfectly.
"A lot of people in wrestling are so concerned about attacking the legs, but my philosophy has always been that you need to defend your legs first," Dom said. "Nick is a phenomenal defensive wrestler, and that actually opens up his offense. It's against the grain a little bit because most coaches like their kids attacking all the time. Nick doesn't do that, but what he can do is defend his legs, and I think that's been a key to his success over the years."
Nick now wants to join Hoppel and Jameson in another elite group: state champions. He's missed out on placing the last two years, but he's defeated some of the top wrestlers in the state over the past two years and is primed for a run at the state tournament. To reach his goal, he said it's vital he continues to improve.
"I have to get over this (victory)," he said. "I have to work on getting my shot, so I can get my stuff on top working, and I'll be good coming down the stretch."
For now, he and dad are going to enjoy a well-deserved victory. It didn't come easy, as Mancini had to fight off a last-minute flurry by Pidgeon, but he finished the match just like he did four years ago: on top.
"I was more happy that he was able to pull it off than anything," Dom said. "Being his coach and his dad, there are a lot of different emotions that you go through. You have your coach part where you have to get all the technical things down before the match, and then you have the dad part that is really all emotional. It's a lot of pressure on him, it's a lot of pressure on me, I'm just happy he was able to rise above it all and etch his name in the record books."