Sectional wrestling outlooks

Postseason Outlook

Division I

Austintown Fitch Falcons

at Austintown Fitch sectional/Mentor district

Name Class Weight Record

Zach Mackall Jr. 145 38-9

It’s not easy to set a school record in wrestling at Austintown Fitch. The Falcons have one of the most storied and consistent programs in the area – one that includes four-time state champion Tony Jameson. That didn’t stop Zach Mackall. The junior set the mark for most pins in a single season during the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League Tournament. His 31 pins are three better than former state champion Greg Faunda, and he still has the entire postseason to wrestle. “He’s the best pinner I’ve coached,” Fitch coach Brett Powell said. “He wrestles like a knockout fighter. That’s the equivalent of a knockout is a pin. Plus, he’s strong, he’s quick and he has a nice skill set for what he does.” Mackall should definitely advance to the district tournament at Mentor High School, and he has an outside shot to reach the state tournament.

Camran Rezapourian Jr. 170 37-11

Rezapourian came back after taking his sophomore year off and has been impressive for the Falcons. Powell said he understands the sport as well as anyone on the team, and when he combines his physical skills, he has the potential to beat nearly anyone in the state. “He’s one of the best athletes at Fitch,” said Powell of Rezapourian, who also plays football and runs track and field. “The only kids who beat him this year were really good, so he has some quality losses, and he has even more quality wins. But when he’s on, he can beat anybody.” Rezapourian is in the same boat as Mackall – he’s almost certain to reach the district tournament, and with a great showing, he could qualify for the state tournament.

Tyler Bell Sr. 285 35-9

If work ethic alone took a wrestler to the state tournament, Powell said there’s no question Bell would be on his way to Columbus in March. The senior is a two-time EOWL finalist and has burst onto the scene after sitting behind former Fitch heavyweight Lenny McGeachy the past two years. He possesses great patience and positioning, key elements to wrestling at 285, but Powell said it’s Bell’s relentless approach that makes him special. “He’s a good hand-fighter, he’s deceptively quick and he’s hard to score on. He made some mistakes early in the season, but he’s learned from them, and his conditioning is better than most of the kids he wrestles because he works so hard in practice.” Bell probably has the best shot of anyone to reach the Schottenstein Center – the site for the state tournament – but he’s going to have to upset a few people along the way.

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Adam Koslik (Fr., 106), Austin Stevens (Fr., 113), Adam Green (Fr., 132).

Boardman Spartans

at Austintown Fitch sectional/Mentor district

Name Class Weight Record

Nick ManciniSr.11336-2

Mancini has been on a tear this season, with dominating performances at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament and the Eastern Ohio Wrestling Tournament, among others. He didn’t give up a single point at the Hephner, which boasted a very competitive field, and he became just the fourth person in EOWL history to win four consecutive titles at the prestigious tournament. He’s a two-time state qualifier who wrestled year-round in some of the nation’s toughest events to prepare for his senior season. His overall defense is spectacular, and when it’s combined with his technique and knowledge of the sports (he’s been wrestling since 5, and his dad, Dom Mancini, has coached at Boardman for 12 years), it’s not a stretch to say he could be the Spartans’ first state champion since Justin Powell in 2007. “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.”

Peter Ryan Sr. 126 25-10

Ryan possesses a very unorthodox – yet effective – style. His flexibility allows him to scramble out of a bad position and end up in a good one. He was the EOWL runner-up at 126 pounds, took fifth at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament and seventh at Top Gun (one of the hardest tournaments in the state), defeating a few state qualifiers along the way. He set two school records this year, quickest pin (4 seconds) and he’s also the school’s all-time reversal leader. Coach Dom Mancini isn’t putting a state berth past the unconventional senior, who’s also a two-time district qualifier. “He’s a kid who doesn’t have a ton of fundamentals, but I’ve seen him pin kids in situations that are just head scratching,” Mancini said. “A lot of his opponents aren’t ready for him because he can go from his back to flipping the other guy on his back.”

Mario Graziani Fr. 132 27-10

Graziani is just a freshman, but he has quite the bloodline running through his veins. His brother, Nico Graziani, was a two-time state qualifier who placed fifth as a senior in 2012. His father, Luke, was a state runner-up as a junior and won a state title as a senior at Columbus DeSales. Mario seems to be on a similar path. He placed third at the EOWL, fifth at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament and was a match away from placing at Top Gun. Mancini raved about his physical skills and can’t wait to see how far Graziani can go. “Mario is going to end up being really special by the time he’s done just because of his athleticism. I can’t remember a freshman with that kind of athletic ability that I’ve ever had.”

Joe Cordova Sr. 182 25-5

Cordova was a relative unknown coming into the season, but he burst onto the scene as a senior after an offseason of traveling around the country with Mancini and wrestling at different tournaments. He really started to turn heads when he advanced to the finals at the Top Gun Tournament, pinning every opponent until the finals, where he ran into state-ranked Nate Hall of Olentangy. He placed third at the EOWL, just missing a shot at the finals with a last-second loss to eventual champion Glenn Zaller of Grand Valley. Mancini called him a “late bloomer” with an incredible work ethic and the ability to dominate an opponent from the neutral position. “He’s one of those kids that just works as hard as he possibly can,” he said. “He was 3-15 as a sophomore, and he was at 215 pounds. With all the time he spent working out with (assistant) coach Jack Raver, he’s brought his weight down and actually became a contender.”

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Matt Inghram (Sr., 138), Mike Caraballo (Sr., 195).

Division II

Canfield Cardinals

at West Branch sectional/Alliance district

Name Class Weight Record

Korey FrostJr.1130-0

Frost, a returning state qualifier, missed the entire season with a knee injury, but he’s been practicing for the last few weeks and appears ready to compete. It’s hard to know how affective he will be, but he has the skill-set and experience to be very competitive at this weight. He will be tested right away because the Cardinals are part of an extremely difficult sectional tournament at West Branch. Canfield coach Dean Conley said he, too, is “unsure of what to expect,” but he wouldn’t put another trip to the state tournament out of the conversation. “We know he’s a gifted kid,” Conley said. “And I think it matters more to him this year than last year. This time he wants to go down to Columbus and get on the podium.” Blessed with great balance and hip awareness, Frost is very good in scramble situations. He’s also strong from the top position, where he can use a number of pinning combinations. The biggest question will be how his knee holds up and how much stamina he possesses after sitting out for so long.

David Labra Fr.15221-3

Labra accomplished a rare feat of competing at a middle weight as a freshman. His three losses came to state-caliber wrestlers, and he won titles at the Salem Holiday Tournament and the Perry Pin City Invitational. If not for a late-season injury, he would have been a contender at the EOWL and Bill Dies tournaments. His lengthy build makes him a tough matchup for opposing wrestlers and allows him to execute upper-body moves and trips that most kids are hesitant to try, Conley said. However, he hasn’t wrestled in nearly two months because of an injury, and while he’s been able to practice for the past few weeks, Conley isn’t sure how great Labra’s conditioning will be in a brutal sectional tournament. “He’s been wrestling live for about two to three weeks, but that’s nothing like being out there. He’s wrestled so much over the past year and a half (in offseason tournaments), so it won’t be like he’ll be star struck by the postseason, but you just can’t recreate that competitive atmosphere.”

John PoullasSr.17038-3

Poullas has been one of the most consistent wrestlers in the area this season. The senior missed qualifying for the district tournament last year, so he spent the offseason in the gym with his father – a power lifter – and returned stronger and more focused than ever, Conley said. The hard work is obvious as he won championships at the Salem Holiday Tournament, Pin City Invitational and EOWL Tournament. He finished fifth at the Bill Dies Tournament, one of the toughest events in northeast Ohio, where he dropped close matches in both of his losses. He’s been nearly unstoppable from the top position with a devastating leg attack and the strength to pin anyone, and he’s very difficult to hold down on bottom. The overall talents make him a strong candidate to place at the state tournament. “He came back (after this offseason), and my goodness, I’m so proud of him that he figured it out, and I think he can go to Columbus and end up on the podium,” Conley said. “He’s tough to score on because he’s so athletic, and he’s so stinking strong that it compensates for a lot of bad positions he could get in.”

Hayden SmithSr.19523-6

Smith has been battling with fellow senior Sam Conner for the right to wrestle at 182 pounds. Both are in the same weight class and are very good wrestlers (Conner won the EOWL). Smith, who twice tore ligaments in his knee and missed two full season, earned the honors for the sectional tournament. “Either way that was going to be a tough way for one of their seasons to end,” Conley said. “They were both productive for us all year.” Smith, a team captain, placed fourth at the Perry Pin City Invitational. He possesses great upper-body strength, several attacks on his feet and a non-stop, in-your-face style that is becoming a trend with the Cardinals. With his knee finally healthy, Conley said he’s shown great progress throughout the second half of the season, mainly because of his work ethic. “He just works extremely hard,” Conley said. “He’s very coachable, he stays after practice and he’s always in the weight room. Everyone goes home, and he’s still in there banging weights.”

Curtis BurnsJr.28537-5

Burns has quickly become one of the premier heavyweights in the area. He was a district qualifier as a sophomore at 220 pounds, and Conley said he’s learned how to wrestle like a heavyweight throughout the season. He must catch on quick because he placed third at the EOWL tournament, third at the Pin City Invitational and fifth at the Bill Dies Memorial – all of which are very difficult tournaments. A team captain, Burns demonstrates a hard-working attitude and a determination to succeed, Conley said. “He’s real coachable and has a great attitude,” he said. “The nice thing about Curtis is that he shoots a lot for a heavyweight, and that will put him in a position to win. Plus, his conditioning is good.” Burns has a tough district, but Conley said “he has a shot” to advance to the state tournament if he wrestles well.

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Stephen Daprile (Jr., 120), Shawn Williams (Jr., 138), Stan Socha (Jr., 182), Jacob Esarco (Fr., 220).

Howland Tigers

at West Branch sectional/Alliance district

Name Class Weight Record

Alex CornicelliSr.12627-7

Cornicelli has been a mainstay for the Tigers since he was a freshman, evident by him recording his 100th victory at the EOWL Tournament, where he finished third. The senior captain also placed third at the Hudson Holiday Tournament, the Wadsworth Grizzly Invitational, an extremely tough tournament with numerous state-ranked teams, and he won the Howland Invitational – his third straight title. Aside from being a team leader and captain, Cornicelli showcases an aggressive mentality in which he’ll attack with an array of moves, and he’s fundamentally sound, so he executes his offense in a tactical manner. He has plenty of postseason experience, and Howland coach Bill Beasom believes Cornicelli is ready to advance to the next level. “He’s kind of just like a brawler,” Beasom said. “He’s not afraid to go after things. If there’s a move there, he’s going to hit it. He’s good on bottom, and he’s strong on top. He’s gotten a lot of pins for us, and he’s pretty good in all three phases of wrestling.”

Gabe StarkSr.14530-3

Stark’s senior campaign has been one of the best around, and the best could be yet to come. He won titles at the EOWL Tournament, the Hudson Holiday Tournament, the Howland Invitational, finished second at the Wadsworth Grizzly Invitational and third at the Tool City Tournament in Pennsylvania (one of the state’s most grueling events). Stark is the only returning wrestler from Trumbull or Mahoning County who placed at state last year (he was fifth at 138 pounds), and he’s ranked as high as second in the state by some publications this season. Stark can dominate an opponent from the top position, where he deploys numerous pinning combinations, and he’s become equally impressive on his feet and on bottom. If he can put it all together, he has a chance to stand at the top of the podium at the state tournament. “The sky is the limit for him,” Beasom said. “He has really stepped up his workouts the last few weeks, and he’s starting to peek where he needs to peek, so he’s looking good right now.”

David Brian Whisler So.15224-3

Stark isn’t the only Tiger with state-champion aspirations. Whisler, who missed out on a trip to state by four points as a freshman last year, has been equally impressive this season. Whisler claimed tournament titles at the EOWL, Hudson Holiday Tournament, Howland Invitational and the Wadsworth Grizzly Invitational – and he’s only a sophomore. He too has been rated as the No. 2 wrestler in the state at his weight class, and he might be better than that. Beasom raved about the unbelievable work ethic Whisler demonstrates on a daily basis. Whisler, who trains year-round and goes to camps all over the nation, will sometimes practice with the Tigers, and then go train for another two hours somewhere else, Beasom said. Simply put by Beasom, “He’s more advanced than anyone I’ve ever seen at the sophomore level.” He’s deadly from he neutral position, where he has a devastating combination of speed and technique. Beasom said he’s improved on top and bottom, and his overall knowledge of the sport is as good as anyone on the team. Even more important, Beasom said, is his attitude. “He never gets too high or too low,” he said. “He’s even-keeled during matches, and his work ethic is unbelievable. I hope all the kids see the work Gabe and David Brian put into it. To be where they want to be, you have to put in the time like they do.”

Jordan RadichSo.16022-6

Radich is another sophomore sensation for the Tigers. He’s been wrestling since he was in elementary school, so he understands the sport as well as Whisler and Stark. He also works out with them on a daily basis, which has been a tremendous advantage for the first-year starter. Radich won titles at the EOWL and the Howland Invitational and was second at the Grizzly Invitational. Beasom said the victories at Howland and the EOWL were important for Radich’s confidence. “For a while, we had a log jam of good wrestlers (at his weight),” said Beasom, who pointed out that Radich was stuck between two state qualifiers and Whisler last year. “He stuck with it, and he’s done great this year. He’s placed high at almost every tournament we’ve gone to.” Radich, like so many Howland wrestlers, is tough from the top position, and he’s made huge strides on his feet. If he keeps improving, Beasom said “he has a real shot” at making the state tournament.

Josh GrodeskySr.18224-11

Grodesky is one of Howland’s most-improved wrestlers from a season ago, Beasom said. He was solid as a junior, placing third at the sectional tournament, but he’s been much more consistent this year and has been in close matches with some of the state’s best wrestlers. He was runner-up at the EOWL and Howland Invitational, finished sixth at the Tool City Tournament and the Grizzly Invitational. One of his best attributes is the non-stop style he unleashes for all three periods. Beasom said the senior works harder than anyone on the team during conditioning and has improved in all three phases (top, bottom, neutral) of the sport. “He’s such a great kid and has come a long way,” Beasom said. “He just needs to relax and go wrestle. He works hard and he pushes himself harder than anyone. He’s really improved on his feet and he’s better on top, and I don’t think anyone’s really held him down this year.”

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Nico Lucarelli (Sr., 113), Andrew Rolfe (Sr., 195), Mike Bell (So., 285).

Hubbard Eagles

at West Branch sectional/Alliance district

Name Class Weight Record

Tyler WhitacreSo.19527-7

Whitacre surprised a lot of people last year with an impressive freshman campaign in which he qualified for the district tournament. Advancing to the districts at 195 pounds is unheard of for most freshman, but Hubbard coach Don Newell said Whitacre, now a sophomore, is such a student of the game he was able to outsmart a lot of opponents. His knowledge extends to his wrestling as well, where he uses patience and positioning to score at opportune times. Those smarts helped him finish second at the EOWL Tournament and fifth at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament. Newell said Whitacre may not be flashy, but he has the skill and experience to win against tough opponents. “He has good balance, he’s a good wrestler and he times the match well,” Newell said. “He’s just a good all-around wrestler, whether he’s on his feet or on the bottom. He has real good mat sense. Whatever position he’s in, he knows when to protect or attack, and he’s always aware of the time and the score. He controls the match well.”

Tyreek DanielsFr.28530-9

No one outside of Hubbard knew just how talented Daniels was coming into his freshman season. The heavyweight has amassed an incredible 30 wins and narrowly lost to some state’s best 285-pound wrestlers. He placed third at the EOWL and sixth at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for with incredible athleticism, Newell said. And he’s learned from a former Hubbard standout in Alan Charity, now an assistant for the Eagles. “A lot of people see him as short, light heavyweight, and they kind of underestimate his strength and his speed,” Newell said Daniels. “He’s an unbelievable athlete, but he’s at a learning stage, and it’s kind of hard to teach that weight class. That’s why I have Alan working with him. He’s his workout partner, and I have to give Alan most of the credit.”

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Anthony Mierzwa (Jr., 170).

Poland Bulldogs

at West Branch sectional/Alliance district

Name Class Weight Record

Dante GinnettiFr.10631-8

Ginnetti didn’t let being a freshman slow him down after qualifying for the junior high state tournament last year. His 31 wins are the most on the team, and he’s placed at every tournament the Bulldogs have wrestled in except for the Top Gun – one of the most difficult tournaments in northeast Ohio. He was third at the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League Tournament, fifth at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament and sixth at the Kenston Invitational. Poland coach Tony Stellato said his wide-open style is fun to watch, and his ability to wrestle at a high level for 6 minutes gives him a chance against almost anyone. He added that Ginnetti has pinned several opponents who were beating him when they were pinned. “He’s always got a few tricks up his sleeve,” Stellato said. “He just doesn’t stop. He’s going to wrestle you in all positions. He’s solid all around. You can put him anywhere, and I’m confident he can score.”

Tad DuranSr.12624-11

Duran has put together a solid senior season, placing fourth at the EOWL Tournament and seventh at the Hephner. His brawling style can intimidate a lot of opponents, and his athleticism makes him a tough matchup, Stellato said. He missed out on qualifying for the district tournament last year, and that’s motivated him to work even harder this season. “He’s very goal oriented,” Stellato said. “He wants to do well this weekend, and ultimately, like every wrestler, move on to the state tournament. He’s a strong, very athletic kid. He’s constantly moving and doing something, and he’s very hard working and very determined. He’s a kid who you know is going to give you 100 percent every match.”

Anthony AudiFr.16028-8

Audi is another freshman who hasn’t been fazed by the increased level of wrestling in high school. He was the runner-up at the EOWL Tournament and sixth at the Hephner. He’s made huge strides as the season has went on, Stellato said, mainly because of the guys he works with at practice. The Bulldogs possess several good middleweight wrestlers, and Audi works with them at practice on a daily basis. “Obviously with his older brother (Mike Audi), and (Anthony) Mancini and John Berndt, those four guys are working out together, and they’re constantly learning from each other and helping each other grow as competitors.” Stellato said he hopes Audi’s performance at the league tournament is a sign that he’s starting to put it all together. He already has great athleticism and overall physical skills, and Stellato said his desire to win is unmatched by most opponents. “He’s got a lot of gas in the tank. He’s an undersized 160, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in heart. He wills his way to a win in matches.”

Mike AudiJr.17028-6

Mike, Anthony’s older brother, has been one of the more impressive wrestlers in the area this season. He narrowly missed out on a trip to the state tournament last year, but he returned bigger and better. He was third at the Kenston Invitational, second at the Top Gun, second at the EOWL and sixth at the Hephner. His quickness for a 170-pound wrestler is tough to defend, and his lanky build makes him hard to score on. He’s facing a very difficult weight class at both the sectional and district tournaments, but Stellato said there’s no reason to think he can’t place in the top four at both. “The main point is just continuing to advance each week,” Stellato said. “It doesn’t matter what happened in the EOWL or a dual match – that’s all done. If you beat someone or you lost to them, it doesn’t matter. It’s all 0-0 now. He just has to wrestle solid and not make mistakes. Any type of high-caliber wrestler is going to make you pay for any little mistake you make.” His overall conditioning is as good or better than anyone on the team, Stellato added, so he wins a lot of close matches. His experience at the district tournament last year could be the edge he needs to make it out this season.

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Darren Goodin (Fr., 113), Bruno Spottleson (So., 132), Anthony Mancini (So., 145), John Berndt (So., 152), Abe Kassem (Jr., 195).