Pride of the Cardiero

COLUMBUS – The next family function should be a fun one at the Cardiero household, and so should several others after that one.

They’ve created enough memories over the last few days at the State Wrestling Tournament to last quite a while.

Girard senior Nick Cardiero finished off his career with one of his best performances, placing fifth at 170 pounds in Division III. He beat Ben Miller of Covington, 9-2, in the fifth-place match, and he did it with his uncle, Girard coach Jim Cardiero, and father, Mike, in the corner and his family in the stands.

“It was great,” said Nick of wrestling at the Jerome Schottenstein Center, a place he has hoped to reach since he started wrestling in first grade. “It’s a different world wrestling down here. You just want to go out there and win so bad. All these people drove three hours just to watch me wrestle one or two matches, so you don’t want to send them home without knowing that you won. But mainly it’s for me. I wanted to make sure I went out on a good note. I wrestled the best I could have.”

Jim Cardiero tried his best to hide it, but his grin was a little bigger this week. Cardiero has coached Girard for 23 years and mentored several state placers – including another nephew, Tony Cardiero , who placed seventh in 2009 – but this one was special.

“I have the same passion for every kid who wears a Girard singlet,” he said. “But at the end of the day, when he’s standing on that podium and they say that last name Cardiero, sure it feels good. I never had a chance to have a son, so that’s big for me.”

Jim and his brother, Mike Cardiero, have been grooming the Indians for years. Mike leads the junior high program and has for 14 years, so he had a part in molding Nick’s wrestling style. He also had a chance to watch it culminate at the grandest of stages. Mike, the big brother, was at a loss for words in trying to explain the emotions of the last three days.

“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “It’s been exciting.”

Mike then paused and looked at Nick as he stood on the podium.

“I always told my kids that hard work pays off, and there it is,” he said.

What made the occasion even better was that Cardiero wrestled better than he has at any point in his career. Jim said he designs his practices and schedule in a way that facilitates that process. The competition of the Indians’ gradually increases as the season goes on, and Nick said the better wrestling helped him realize his faults and improve on them.

“You wrestle better kids at the end of the year, so you’re getting better experience for when you go to sectionals and districts,” Nick said. “Once you hit state, everyone is good, and beating those better kids gave me more confidence.”

Cardiero ends his career with a 127-21 record, the third most victories in Girard history, five behind his brother’s 132 and one behind his cousin, Nico Francis’ 128. His fifth-place finish was the second highest in school history, and the win over Miller gave him a victory in his final match.

“That’s how you’ve got to do it,” he said with a grin. “I had a lot of fun. It was my goal to place, but I didn’t know I’d be finishing fifth. It’s something I was really looking forward to, getting a high placement on that podium. I did it, so I’m proud of my career. I don’t regret anything. I had fun out there and I tried my hardest in every match that I could.”