GARFIELD HEIGHTS - It's the goal of every wrestling coach in the state of Ohio.
They design their practices certain ways, set their schedules up in a specific manner, all in hopes this comes to fruition.
It happened for Liberty coach Hadi A. Hadi and Jackson-Milton mentor Dave Tomaino. Both coaches said their kids are wrestling the best they have all year - and at just the right time.
"You always want your kids to be their best at the end of the year," said Hadi, whose Leopards still have all four of their wrestlers alive after the first day of the Division III district tournament at Garfield Heights High School. "It's nice when it actually happens."
Hadi specifically pointed to senior Brandon Jefferson, who pinned his first-round opponent, Dominic Wolf of Pymatuning Valley, in 5 minutes, 36 seconds. While he lost his quarterfinal match, Hadi said the earlier victory helped 145-pound Jefferson, who came into the tournament with a 17-14 record, realize that he can compete at the district level.
"We wrestled really good, overall, in the preliminary round," he said. "(Jefferson) is wrestling the best I've seen him wrestle in two years. He did everything right. He didn't give away any cheap points, and he capitalized on opportunities. That's how he pinned him."
Fellow Leopards Tyrell Jethrow (152), Cody BuCher (220) and Danaryl Green (285) also won a match and lost one on Friday.
Tomaino's Blue Jays have four of the seven wrestlers (Mitch Tikkanen, Devin Seka, Tyler Staton, Corley Lamb) they brought to the district tournament still in contention. Tikkanen, a sophomore, won twice to advance to the semifinals, where he'll face Sebastian Vidika (35-1) of Black River.
"It's going to be a good match," Tomaino said. "He has to win one of the next two to go to state. I love being in that position. Sometimes it's tough because you have those guys who are working their way back up from the consolations, and they have a little momentum, where as (the loser of the semifinal match) just lost and 45 minutes later you have to wrestle again. So, whatever happens, he has to keep his head screwed on straight."
Tomaino said he and his coaching staff are taking a different approach toward Tikkanen this weekend.
"We're not yelling moves out to him," he said. "All we're doing is cheering for him in the corner like all the fans. It worked good. He's not quite as nervous."
Two of Brookfield's three wrestlers are still wrestling - brothers Zach and David Jamieson. Zach, a 160-pound junior, lost his first match and won his second, while David, a 220-pound senior, won his first and lost his second. Garfield senior Kevin Stock, a state runner-up in 2012, won twice and is in the semifinals. The G-Men's Andy Anderson lost his first bout and won his second.
Wrestling resumes at 10 a.m. today. The top four placers in each weight class advance to the state tournament, which begins Thursday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.