ALLIANCE - It never gets any easier for Bill Beasom, Dean Conley or Tony Stellato to watch as one of their senior's career comes to an end, but they don't have time to dwell on it.
The trio of coaches have been enduring the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in a matter of minutes at the Division II District Wrestling Tournament at Alliance High School this weekend. Seconds after watching a kid they've spent the last four years mentoring and building a relationship with lose, they must move on and coach the next kid at the upcoming weight class.
"It's tough," said Conley, Canfield's head coach. "Not many people have an appreciation for what the postseason is like in wrestling. I told (Canfield football coach) Mike Pavlansky once, I was trying to explain this to him, and I said, 'Here's an example of the district tournament for us: You're playing overtime in football - in the playoffs - 14 times in a row. And then you do it another round.'
"That's what this is - it's an emotional rollercoaster."
Conley and the Cardinals, once again, endured their ups and downs on the first day of the double-elimination tournament, where the top four placers advance to next week's state tournament.
Reaching the semifinals for Canfield were senior Korey Frost (120 pounds) and sophomore Jacob Esarco (220). Cardinal wrestlers who won once and lost once were Georgio Poullas (126), C.J. Frost (138), Stan Socha (182), Jaret Bunch (195) and Curtis Burns (285). Two seniors' careers ended, however.
"It's just difficult with seniors because you can see (the disappointment) on their face," Conley said. "They pour their hearts into your program for four years, and then in 30 seconds you have to forget about that and give all of your effort and energy to another kid and pretend like that last match didn't bother you."
Beasom and his Howland Tigers were fortunate enough to have all four wrestlers win at least one match, but only David-Brian Whisler, the top-ranked 152-pound wrestler in the state, reached the semifinals. Jimmy Lerakis (126), Jordan Radich (160) and Will Price (182) each won one match and lost one.
"Overall, I thought we wrestled well," said Beasom, who was especially pleased with Price and Lerakis, both first-time district qualifiers. "For (Price) and Jimmy to come down here and get wins is humongous for them and our program. Sometimes kids come down here, and just the fact that they're wrestling in the district tournament puts added pressure on them, but they did well."
He too understands the difficulty of balancing emotions.
"It's very hard, but in the same breath, you have to make sure you're there for the kids who are still wrestling," Beasom said. "Even though you might have an upsetting loss or something didn't go your way, you don't have a choice but to move on, especially at the district tournament."
Poland enjoyed a rather successful first day as well. Senior Mike Audi, a returning state qualifier, is in the semifinals at 170 pounds, with pins in his first two matches. Sophomore Dante Ginnetti, another returning state qualifier, also reached the semifinal round. He was losing his quarterfinal match in the third period before securing a pin. Those types of matches are another way to put a coach's stomach in knots.
"When you've got one kid on an extreme high and then another who's going through the opposite, it's emotionally and physically draining," Stellato said. "Parents have one or two kids, but as a coach, you have 14 wrestlers, or however many you have at the tournament, and your heart's beating for everyone one of them."
Hubbard's Tyler Whitacre won his first match and lost his second, so he will be part of Day 2. The scrutiny will only intensify today when it's decided who advances to the state tournament.
"It's a brutal district," Conley said, "but our kids are going down swinging."
Canfield is in eighth place in the in the team standings with 30.5 points. Poland is in ninth with 29 points, and Howland, which is without 220-pound junior Mike Bell who suffered a leg injury this week in practice, is 20th with 16 points. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary leads with 66.5 points, followed by Perry (64) and West Branch (60).
Wrestling continues today at 10 a.m. The finals start at 6 p.m.