It's called "The Sectional for Hell" for a reason.

Getting out the Division I sectional tournament at Medina is an accomplishment in itself.

So, the fact Nordonia advanced nine wrestlers through Medina to the district tournament is a positive thing, right?

Only if you don't have the high expectations that Knight wrestling has.

Nordonia finished third as a team at the Medina sectional, which took place Feb. 15 and 16. The Knights finished with 187 points, trailing champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights (296 points) and runner-up Wadsworth (225).

Nordonia coach Audie Atienza saw positives and negatives in the tournament.

"It's good and bad," Atienza said. "You always want to have more guys out than you get, but we wrestled well. Just like in any tournament, the further you advance, the tougher the competition gets. Advancing is the key. It's always nicer to advance as a champion than to advance as second place."

While noting the Knights could have won at most other sectionals, he said he always wants his team to wrestle top competition.

"We live in the Northeast Ohio," Atienza said. "It's getting bad because you want to wrestle the best. But when you wrestle the best, more losses are going to happen."

Nordonia's lone individual champion at Medina was 182-pounder Eric "Pretty Boy" Claren.

Claren was given the No. 1 seed at 182 and wrestled a strong tournament. He pinned Medina's Austin Peak in 1:33, defeated Copley's Gabe Dorsey by default and won the title with a 5-1 win over Wadsworth's Alex Carrell.

"Now that he's at the right weight and he's feeling pretty healthy, he's looked very good," Atienza said of Claren. "There's no doubt we're looking for him to go far."

Nordonia had three other wrestlers reach the final.

At 138 pounds, all signs pointed to another showdown between the Knights' Mike Decesare and his arch rival: Wadsworth's Mathias Zollinger.

Decesare was seeded second and made his was to the final by beating Brecksville's Grayson Davis 6-1 and Brunswick's Austin Fallon 11-5.

In the final with Zollinger, a takedown on the edge gave Zollinger a 3-2 win.

"It was another one-point match," Atienza said. "I think they know each other well enough to know the one who makes a mistake will come out on top."

Hopes were high junior 220-pounder Alex Woicehovich also could win his bracket, as he was given the No. 1 seed. "Wojo" looked sharp early, earning a 19-5 technical fall over Copley's Arman Sarnouk and pinning Firestone's Edmund Williams.

In the final, Woicehovich wrestled a very tight match with Brecksville's Austin Linden. Linden squeezed out a 2-1 win.

"They met last year and Alex won by one point in overtime," Atienza said. "This time, Linden came out on top by a point.

There were some things that we saw in the match that we can improve on. Alex definitely wants that match."

Nordonia's last finalist was heavyweight Brandon Rem. Rem pulled out a pair of close wins, beating second-seeded Chris Burke of Copley 2-1 and Brecksville's Rich LeAnza 2-1 in overtime.

Although Rem was pinned by Darky Maki in 1:33 in the title match, Atienza was very pleased with his heavyweight's efforts.

"That was the first finals that Brandon has ever made," Atienza said. "He's choosing the right time to do his best wrestling. He avenged a loss he had [to Burke] at the Suburban League Tournament."

Atienza said the bracket at 106 pounds was a nightmare. Freshman Tony Decesare managed to take third. The younger Decesare brother opened with a 17-2 technical fall over Tanmay Shah of Copley, but lost a tight 2-1 decision to Brunswick's Josh Heil.

"It's razor thin, the difference between those two," Atienza said.

Decesare rebounded with a 5-0 win over Medina's Danny Gannon and then avenged three earlier losses to Wadsworth's Noah Baughman by beating him 5-0 in the third-place match.

Nordonia also got third-place finishes from 120-pounder Nick Collica, 132-pounder Heath Phillibert and 195-pounder Nick Bina, while 145-pounder Jake Urich took fourth.

Also finishing on the podium were 113-pounder Andrew Coghill in fifth place, as well as 126-pounder Trevon Berry and 160-pounder Ryan Taylor.

Things don't get any easier for Nordonia this week, as the nine advancing Knights will participate in the Division I district tournament at Cleveland State University's Woodling Gymnasium Feb. 22 and 23. Wrestling begins Feb. 22 at 4 p.m.

"It doesn't any easier, no matter what district we're at," Atienza said.


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