Heading into his team's dual meet with Wadsworth, Nordonia wrestling coach Audie Atienza tried to downplay the contest as "just another match."

Yeah, right.

"What I meant was we didn't want to prepare any differently than what we usually do," Atienza said. "We knew it was a big match. We knew the implications and meaning in terms of the league."

Nordonia took the Grizzlies down to the wire Jan. 17 at home, but fell just short of scoring the win.

Wadsworth squeezed out a 31-22 win over the Knights, giving the Grizzlies the Suburban League dual-meet title.

Wadsworth improved to 12-1, 7-0 in the Suburban League, while Nordonia fell to 15-2, 6-1 in the league.

Nordonia's upperweights made things very interesting late in the match.

The Knights got a 12-3 major decision from 182-pounder Eric Claren, a 5-3 decision win from 195-pounder Nick Bina over Jack Bertuzzi and a pin in 55 seconds from 220-pounder Alex Woicehovich over Chris George.

"We wanted to get bonus points in the upperweights," Atienza said. "They delivered for us."

Woicehovich's pin cut the deficit to 25-22 heading into the heavyweight match. Atienza said he would have loved to have Brandon Ren available for the contest.

"We literally got him back a day before the match," Atienza said, as Ren was returning from a knee injury suffered during football season. "He wasn't in shape, plus we didn't know how much stress his knee could handle. I think it would have been a competitive match with Brandon in there."

Instead, Alec Camelli stepped up for the Knights. Camelli was game, but he was giving up about 60 pounds to Wadsworth's Daryk Maki. Maki scored the pin in 22 seconds, sealing the win for the Grizzlies.

Atienza also praised 113-pounder Andrew Coghill and 145-pounder Jake Urich.

Coghill scored a 5-0 win over Wadsworth's Corey Riggenbach, while Urich squeezed out a 2-0 win over Abdulhabib Abdulha.

"Andrew's a small 113-pounder," Atienza said. "He went out there and he stayed aggressive. He came out on top and he wrestled a really smart match.

"Jake's got a lot of wins, but he hasn't had a match where he beat anybody in the upper echelon before," Atienza added. "Abdulha is in that class."

Nordonia also got a win from 132-pounder Heath Phillibert, who defeated Devon Gilkerson 8-4.

Atienza noted that one of the turning points of the match was the fact both Decesare brothers lost for the first time in a dual meet this season -- and each to wrestlers they beat at the Brecksville Holiday Invitational Tournament.

Tony Decesare lost at 106 pounds to Noah Baughman 4-3, while Mike Decesare lost 8-3 to Mathias Zollinger at 138 pounds.

"We do what we do at Brecksville and we win the match going away,"Atienza said. "Still, Baughman and Zollinger are very tough kids. These are the kind of matches we need to win to get to states."

Despite the loss, Atienza remains confident that the Knights can compete with the Grizzlies at the Suburban League Tournament, which will take place Feb. 2 at Green.

If the Knights were to win the tournament, they would split the overall Suburban League title with the Grizzlies.

Nordonia has a full week this week, beginning with the Knights hosting opening night of the Division I state team wrestling tournament.

The Knights will host Medina Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. to open the state duals.

On Jan. 26, the Knights will participate in the annual Cable 9 tri-meet at Aurora. First match is set for 11 a.m.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442