Division I & II postseason wrestling outlook

This is a in-depth analysis of the individuals from area wrestling teams who have the best shot at advancing to the state tournament, according to Tribune Chronicle sports writer Joe Simon. The postseason starts today with the sectional tournament. The top four placers advance to the district tournament on Feb. 21-22, and the top four placers at the district move on to the state tournament, which is Feb. 27 through March 1 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus. A preview for Division III will be in Saturday’s edition of the Tribune Chronicle.

Division I

Austintown Fitch Falcons

at Austintown Fitch sectional/Mentor district

Zach Mackall, Sr., 145, 23-5: Mackall fractured his wrist while wrestling at the Top Gun Tournament in mid-January, but he continued to wrestle and nearly placed at what is widely considered one of the toughest tournaments in the state. He hasn’t wrestled since, but judging by his toughness at Top Gun and with this being his senior season, expect to see him at the sectional tournament. It’s difficult to forecast Mackall’s chances because of the injury. Prior to it, he had as good a chance as anyone on the Falcons at reaching the state tournament. He set the school record for pins last year (34) and was 23-5. If he can get his conditioning back to where it needs to be and can get used to wrestling with a brace of some sort, he still has a chance to advance to state.

Camran Rezapourian, Sr., 170, 41-8: It’s been a consistent season for Rezapourian, who endured some ups-and-downs last year after taking a year off from the sport as a sophomore. The senior placed at every tournament Fitch wrestled in, including a fifth-place finish at Top Gun, third at the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League Tournament and second at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament. He’s one of the better wrestlers in the area from the top position, and he’s improved from neutral, an area he struggled at last year. It’s imperative he continues to get better on his feet because it will be the key in him reaching the state tournament.

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Andrew Fairbanks (Fr., 106), Adam Koslik (So., 120), Austin Stevens (So., 132), Adam Green (So., 152), Isiah Jackson (So., 160), Tex Martin (So., 182).

Boardman Spartans

at Austintown Fitch sectional/Mentor district

Mario Graziani, So., 145, 30-5: Graziani has quietly put together one of the best seasons of anyone in the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League. He dominated the 145-pound weight class at the EOWL tournament, pinning his opponent in the finals. He placed fifth at the Top Gun Tournament and third at the Hephner. He is easily the Spartans’ best candidate to advance to the state tournament. His athleticism is incredible and his technique is nearly as impressive. That shouldn’t be a surprise considering he’s been wrestling since kindergarten and has been tutored by his father – a former Ohio state champion – since the age of 6. Considering the type of season he’s had, it would be be more surprising if Graziani – ranked 11th in the state – didn’t reach the Schottenstein Center than if he did.

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Billy Slipkovich (Sr., 138), Anthony Mancini (Jr., 152).

Division II

Canfield Cardinals

at West Branch sectional/Alliance district

Korey Frost, Sr., 113, 33-4: Frost’s career looked to be in jeopardy after he suffered three major injuries in less than a year. Two operations on his knee and a broken collarbone at last year’s district tournament could have derailed what appeared to be a promising career, but the former state qualifier has been outstanding as a senior. He very well could have been the MVP of the EOWL tournament, cruising to a title with three pins and a 12-1 victory in the finals over the very talented Travis Pidgeon of West Branch. Frost’s only losses have been narrow defeats to some of the top-ranked wrestlers in the state (including a last-second, one-point loss to the No. 2-rated wrestler), and Frost, ranked fifth in the state, has several victories over highly rated opponents. He qualified for state as a sophomore, so he knows how to perform in big matches, and if he can continue to wrestle as he has lately, he has a good chance to place high at the state tournament.

Georgio Poullas, Fr., 126, 33-2: Not many freshman in recent memory have enjoyed as much success as Georgio Poullas. He pinned his first three opponents at the EOWL Tournament and beat his finals opponent by technical fall, 23-8. Poullas, who placed third in the junior high state tournament in 2013, won titles at the Perry Pin City Tournament and Brian Davidson Memorial Tournament at Salem. He was second at the Bill Dies Memorial, losing by one point in the finals to the fifth-ranked wrestler in the state. He’s gotten better since then. Poullas, ranked sixth, is as polished a freshman as there’s been in the EOWL since John Dillon placed third in the state as a “rookie” for Boardman in 2009. Such a placement isn’t out of the question for Poullas either, but that’s asking a lot.

Stan Socha, Sr., 182, 29-6: Socha was another Canfield Cardinal who was dominant at the league tournament, pinning his first three opponents before winning 8-0 in the championship. Socha was tantalizingly close to reaching the state tournament last year, losing in overtime in the deciding match at the district tournament. He’s improved since then, especially from his feet, his weakest position last year. He’s very good from the top position and is equally effective on bottom. Socha, the No. 7-ranked wrestler in his weight class, won titles at Pin City, Brian Davidson Memorial and the EOWL and was fourth at the Bill Dies tournament. His goal is to reach the podium this year, and it’s definitely within reach.

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Stephen Daprile (Sr., 132), C.J. Frost (So., 138), Shawn Williams (Sr., 145), Jaret Bunch (So., 195), Jacob Esarco (So., 220), Curtis Burns (Sr., 285).

Howland Tigers

at West Branch sectional/Alliance district

David-Brian Whisler, Jr., 152, 35-4: Whisler didn’t mince words early in the season when he said his goal was to win a state championship – and his aspiration isn’t far fetched. Whisler placed fourth in Division II at last year’s state tournament, and he’s the top-ranked wrestler at the same weight class this year. He won titles at the EOWL, Hudson Holiday Tournament and Howland Invitational. He combines speed and near-flawless technique to slowly break his opponents. His work ethic is extraordinary – he practices four or five hours a day on a regular basis and travels around the country in the offseason to refine his skills. This has led to longstanding stamina and a relentless attack that can find holes in even the highest levels of defense. He’s displayed improvement from the top and bottom positions this year, but these are areas he can still develop. Scoring from the top is something that could determine how far his title hopes go.

Jordan Radich, Jr., 160, 22-5: A first cousin of Whisler is junior Jordan Radich, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Radich is a returning state qualifier with state-championship aspirations as well. He’s already a two-time EOWL champion and was a few points away from placing at the state tournament last year. Radich, ranked fourth in the state, is strongest from the top position, but he’s also very effective escaping from bottom. He’s made strides on his feet and is now capable of taking down even the most elite wrestlers. He must continue to develop this area of his game as it will likely determine how far he goes in the postseason.

Mike Bell, Jr., 220, 28-4: Bell recently lost some weight to drop down a weight class to 220. The 285-pound weight class is a very difficult one at the Alliance district, so the move makes sense. Bell, who possesses great strength and deceptive speed, will have to become acclimated to the quickness of the wrestlers at 220. Bell looked impressive at the EOWL, losing only to the eventual champion by one point, and he was a state alternate in 2013, so he’s defeated top-notch wrestlers. His ability to adapt to a new weight class is the only barrier in his path to reach Columbus.

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Jimmy Lerakis (Jr., 126), Will Price (So., 182), .

Hubbard Eagles

at West Branch sectional/Alliance district

Tyler Whitacre, Jr., 195, 35-3: Whitacre always seems to fly under the radar when it comes to naming the top wrestlers in the area, but he’s as consistent as anyone around. He may get overlooked because he doesn’t possess a flashy, high-scoring style. He wins most of his matches by one or two points, and he doesn’t appear physically imposing, but the junior is stronger than he looks. He’s a two-time league finalist, won the Chippewa Invitational and was fifth at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament. He may need to open up his offense a little bit to reach state, but his conditioning and ability to stay in good position give him a shot.

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: C.J. Latronico (So., 106), Jarod Miscickia (So., 126), Ryan Bednarik (So., 220), Tyreek Daniels (So., 285).

Poland Bulldogs

at West Branch sectional/Alliance district

Dante Ginnetti, So., 106, 28-7: Ginnetti caught most of the area by surprise last year when he qualified for state as a freshman, and he has spent most of his sophomore season proving it wasn’t a fluke. He placed third at the EOWL Tournament, fifth at Top Gun, second at the Kenston Invitational and sixth at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament. The up-and-down placements show his talent but also his inconsistencies. He can pin almost anyone he wrestles with an array of offensive attacks, but he’s lost to inferior opponents, and it’s hard to understand why. Maybe it’s a lack of focus or just a bad day, but he can’t afford those type of slip-ups if he wants to return to state.

Anthony Audi, So., 160, 26-7: The younger of the Audis has followed up an impressive freshman season with an even better sophomore campaign. He took second at the league tournament, fourth at Kenston and the Hephner. His signature win came very early in the season when he beat Girard’s Nick Cardiero. He’s been close in several other marquee matchups, and if he can clean up a few areas of his wrestling and start scoring from all positions, he could be a darkhorse to reach the state tournament.

Mike Audi, Sr., 170, 30-4: Anthony’s older brother Mike has put together an incredible senior season, with titles at EOWL and the Hephner. He was second at Kenston and fourth at Top Gun, where he easily could have reached the finals but lost in overtime in the semifinals. Audi has ridiculous quickness for a 170-pound wrestler, and it allows him to dominate most opponents from the neutral position. Maybe even more important is that he’s improved from bottom. He can now escape against nearly anyone, which allows him to get to his feet, where, again, he can use his speed to control the match. His ability to dominate from the neutral position cannot be overstated as it gives him a chance to beat even the most elite wrestlers. Audi can absolutely place at state, and if the cards fall right, and he continues to wrestle at a high level, a run at a title isn’t out of the question.

OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Darren Goodin (So., 120), Bruno Spottleson (Jr., 138), Abe Kassem (Sr., 195).