Girard’s DelGarbino has an eye for pain

Staff photo / Joe Simon Girard’s Alex DelGarbino, left, tangles with Medina’s Quentin Whitehill in the 138-pound championship match at the Joshua Hephner Memorial on Saturday at Austintown Fitch High School.

AUSTINTOWN — Go ahead and say hello to Alex DelGarbino. Shake his hand, share a laugh and maybe even talk to him about computer engineering, one of his future goals.

He’s a mild-mannered, polite and friendly senior at Girard High School.

Once he sets foot on a wrestling mat, run and hide.

DelGarbino minced, mashed and borderline tortured opponents on his way to a 138-pound championship at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament on Saturday at Austintown Fitch High School.

DelGarbino walks a fine line as he attempts to balance a brutally aggressive style with following the guidelines of a physical sport.

Staff photo / Joe Simon Girard’s Alex DelGarbino, right, controls Medina’s Quentin Whitehill in the 138-pound championship match at the Hephner Invitational Saturday at Austintown Fitch High School.

“He’s the nicest kid you’ll ever meet, but on the mat, he’s mean,” Girard coach Jim Cardiero said. “He does it within the rules though. It hurts, it’s painful, but you hear these kids exhaling and screaming and stuff, so obviously their wind pipe is not closed off. I mean, I wouldn’t want him doing it to me, but he’s not doing it outside the rules.”

Just barely.

His championship match with Medina’s Quentin Whitehill had to be stopped on a couple occasions. The second stoppage was because Whitehill, who could be heard squealing in pain throughout the match, had blood coming from his face. Exactly where he was bleeding from was hard to tell because most of his face was covered.

“If it’s legal, I’m going to do it,” DelGarbino said with a grin. “And I don’t know, I just really like headlocks. As long as I have that arm (it’s legal).”

DelGarbino is no stranger to pain.

For one, he had to wear a mask Saturday after he took another blow to his eye, which was already swelled and black and blue after a match last week. The busted eye grew even more throughout the two-day long Hephner tournament, which includes some of the state’s strongest teams, and had to be covered to keep it from bleeding.

That feeling is nothing to what DelGarbino went through last year. Then a junior, he was wrestling in the sectional final at West Branch when he suffered a hip fracture. The tendon actually ripped part of the bone off his hip, and he had to be carted off.

He obviously missed the district tournament the following week along with a chance to qualify for the state tournament for the first time. It was a frustrating time for him.

“It was a while,” said DelGarbino of when he could start doing normal exercises again. “We immediately starting doing physical therapy. Thank God I didn’t have to get a screw (surgically implanted) or anything. After that it was keeping weight off it and doing light (exercises). By late June, early July we started getting ready for this upcoming season.”

He follows a similar offseason routine as his brother, Jack DelGarbino, who graduated last year after finishing a decorated career that included Girard’s first state title.

Alex, who credits much of his tenacity to scrapping with his two brothers (Jack and Andrew), went to a few nationally recognized tournaments in the summer and continued a rigorous lifting regiment. His hard work, while delayed, paid off.

He’s currently 29-3 and coming off the first Hephner title of his career. While his physical style plays a large part in his success, it wouldn’t do much for him if he didn’t have strength, technique and acute wrestling smarts.

“You’re not going to see a lot of fancy stuff from Alex,” Cardiero said. “He’s pretty basic, but what he does, he does well, and he’s confident in it. And we’re confident in what he’s doing.”

The brutality can be an X-factor, intimidating an opponent to the point of avoiding their best moves.

“That’s just human nature,” Cardiero said. “When somebody gets a hold of your head, and you feel that strength he has, it makes you think twice about getting in there and giving him a chance at doing it again.”

Now back to 100 percent and rising to the highest level of his career, DelGarbino, ranked eighth in the state in Division II, said his goal is to get to the state tournament. If he achieves that goal, he and Cardiero know anything can happen.

“I still say the sky is the limit,” Cardiero said. “He can beat anybody in the state. If he gets down there, we’re not looking to just make it, we’re looking to get as high on the podium as we can, which I think everybody says. But, at his best, I don’t think there’s anybody that can stop him, but on a bad day, anybody can stop him.”

Luckily for DelGarbino, he doesn’t have many bad days.