COLUMBUS - Moving on after losing a match at the state wrestling tournament is no easy task.
As Boardman's Nick Mancini said, every kid comes into the week hoping to become a state champion, but only one of the 16 wrestlers in each weight class earns that title.
It was a reality that Mancini and Howland's David Brian Whisler had to accept after losing close matches on Friday and missing out on their goal. Yet instead of sulking in defeat, they fought back and earned high placements in their respective weight classes at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.
Mancini, a senior, finished his career in style as he dominated his Division I, 113-pound third-place final. He beat Greg Brusco of Delaware Hayes, 16-3, to become the 10th wrestler in Boardman history to finish in the top three in the state.
"It feels good to go out like that," he said. "I wanted to come back. Unfortunately it wasn't for first, but I'm not going to take sixth just because I lost one match. You still have to come out firing and win, so it was a good finish."
Mancini, who will attend Cleveland State on a wrestling scholarship, leaves as one of the most decorated wrestlers in school history. His 143 career wins shattered the all-time record of 127 set by 2007 Boardman graduate Justin Powell, a former state champion. He also fell just short of another school record. Mancini's 81 pins were two short of Powell's mark of 83.
- 145: Gabe Stark (Howland) dec. Shelden Struble (Bryan), 4-2
- 113: Nick Mancini (Boardman)dec. Dakota Riley (Mount Vernon), 6-3
- 152: David Brian Whisler (Howland) dec. Blake Miller (Clyde), 6-5
- 113: Nick Mancini (Boardman) maj. dec. Greg Brusco (Delaware Hayes), 16-3
- 152: Ben Schram (Bellbrook) dec. David Brian Whisler (Howland), 5-3
- 170: John Poullas (Canfield) pins Jimmy Spieth (Liberty Center), 1:28
OTHER EASTERN OHIO WRESTLING LEAGUE PARTICIPANTS
- Division II, consolation semifinal: 152 pounds Kenneth Faulkner (West Branch) default Zach Ladich (Field); 285 pounds Connor Sharp (West Branch) pins Dustin Kuhlwein (Jonathan Alder), 7:56 OT
- Division III, consolation semifinals: 170 pounds Zach Mays (Nelsonville-York) dec. Matt Hardenbrook (Columbiana Crestview), 6-4.
- Division II, third-place finals: 285 pounds Chase Henderson (Franklin) dec. Connor Sharp (West Branch), 2-1 OT
- Division III, fifth-place finals: 170 pounds Matt Hardenbrook (Crestview) maj. dec. Dom Johns (Coshocton), 16-7
Mancini said it was nice to be in such company, but the most gratifying parts to his finish were having his father, Boardman coach Dom Mancini, in his corner and understanding that the hard work he put in over the last few years was worth the time and effort.
"That's the best part of it," said Nick, whose senior record was 49-3. "I thoroughly believe that you get what you put into something. It's an input-output type of thing. I've wrestled 300 matches the last three offseasons so I could be ready for this last tournament. It's a great feeling that it all paid off."
Whisler, a sophomore, is another wrestler who spent countless hours at tournaments this offseason. His work ethic was evident in his final two matches, as he took fourth place in Division II at 152 pounds. Whisler reached the third-place finals in spectacular fashion. He trailed Clyde's Blake Miller, 4-0, after the first period, but he battled back and trailed 5-4 late in the third period. Whisler attempted a lateral drop with about 5 seconds left, and while he wasn't able to finish the move, he kept his hips and feet moving and circled around Miller for two points and a thrilling 6-5 victory.
"No matter what happens, points wise, the match is never over until time is out," Whisler said. "You have to be relentless, no matter what the score is because guys will break, and that guy stopped wrestling in the last 8 seconds, and I took advantage of it."
Whisler, who lost, 5-3, in overtime to Ben Schram of Bellbrook in his third-place final, is only the second sophomore in school history to finish in the top four of the state. He joined Howland legend Brad Gintert, a two-time state champion who also placed second as a sophomore in 1982. His ability to wrestle at such a high level as an underclassman makes Howland coach Bill Beasom believe even bigger things are to come for Whisler.
"He was telling me, 'This is a stepping stone. I'm going to keep taking each step at a time,' " Beasom said. "Even though he didn't get to where he wanted to be he went out there, and this was some of the best wrestling he did all year."
Beasom was most impressed with Whisler's even-keel attitude. Most wrestlers are intimidated by the the Schottenstein Center the size, amount of fans and intensity of the wrestling but Beasom said that didn't affect Whisler. He wrestled the same way in Columbus that he did at the friendly confines of Howland High School, finishing with a 34-7 record after going 4-2 at the state tournament.
"He has an ability to just be non-flappable," Beasom said. "He's never too high or too low. You see him in his consolation semifinal match where he was down, but he just kept plugging away, fighting and fighting, and it ended up working out for him. I told him that good things happen to good kids, and he's a great kid, and good things happened to him this weekend."
Whisler said the weekend was an experience he'll never forget, and he's looking forward to an even better one next year.
"I'm proud of myself for coming out here for the first time and placing in the top four, but I'm definitely far from satisfied," he said.
CANFIELD'S POULLAS PINS IN FINAL MATCH: John Poullas of Canfield also went out with a bang literally. He ended his career with the sound of the referee pounding the mat, signifying Poullas' pin of Jimmy Spieth of Liberty Center in the seventh-place final. Poullas finished with a 47-7 record. He also helped lead the Cardinals to dual meet titles in the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League and All-American Conference. Canfield also finished first in Division I at the EOWL Tournament, where Poullas earned first place.