Alliance -- Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy wrestling coach Dave Bergen describes his team's effort at the Division II district tournament at Alliance as "tremendous."

CVCA won the team title at Alliance with 174 points. Perry finished as runner-up with 151.5.

More important, the Royals advanced eight wrestlers to the Division II state tournament -- the same number as defending Division II state champion St. Paris Graham.

The Royals were set to begin their state tournament run Feb. 28 at Value City Arena in Columbus (see story, Page 40).

Bergen said he was very happy with his squad, as he noted Alliance was far and away the toughest Division II district.

"It's a beast," Bergen said. "This is a tough, tough district. It was an aggressive, hard-nosed effort from our guys. I was proud of every one of our guys for what they did."

CVCA finished with two individual champions at Alliance, beginning with 113-pounder Ryan Bennett. Bennett pinned Howland's Nico Lucarelli in 3:01, scored a 16-0 technical fall over Harvey's Willie McClain and beat Crestwood's Jake Zemaitis 9-2 to reach the final.

In the final, Bennett was slowed down a bit by Perry's Collin Dees, but still won a 3-1 decision.

"Ryan is such an unflappable kid," Bergen said, noting a state title is "very possible" for the sophomore.

Meanwhile, senior 120-pounder Nate Tomasello was his usual dominant self.

Tomasello scored two pins and a technical fall on his way to the final, where he faced Crestwood's Conner Nemec.

Nemec attempted to slow down Tomasello in the first period, but Tomasello hit a beautiful single-leg pickup and put Nemec right onto his back. Tomasello got the pin at 2:51.

Tomasello takes a record of 47-0 in the state tournament as he looks to join the ranks of Ohio's four-time state champions.

Elsewhere, the 126-pound bracket was thought to be the toughest at Alliance, as five returning All-Ohio wrestlers were vying for four state berths.

That's the field senior Josh Decatur had to deal with, but Decatur earned his third straight trip to Columbus by reaching the final. Decatur scored major decisions over Field's Jarrett Trautman (10-2) and Jefferson's Joey Baitt (12-1) and then got past Canton South All-Ohioan D.J. Schoeppner 5-2.

In the final, Decatur couldn't get his offense going, despite taking numerous shots on Lake Catholic's Anthony Tutolo. Tutolo pulled out a tight 3-2 win, but Bergen wasn't too concerned.

"It's a heartbreaker for any of the kids who didn't get out of that bracket," Bergen said. "If Josh wrestles like he did this weekend, I'm excited about what he can do in Columbus."

CVCA had one other finalist in 145-pounder Jeff Hojnacki.

Hojnacki cruised into the final, pinning Akron Buchtel's William Wilson in 3:29 and Perry's Drew Jones in 3:55 before beating Northwest's Kyle Harris 8-0 in the semifinal.

In the final, however, Hojnacki found his offense smothered by Howland's Gabe Stark. Stark won a 4-1 decision to take the title.

CVCA also had four other wrestlers reach the state meet with third-place finishes, including both of the Dobben brothers.

At 132 pounds, sophomore Andy Dobben lost a tight 3-2 decision in the semifinals to eventual champion Aaron Gessic of Perry. However, he punched his ticket to states with a 3-1 win over Lake Catholic's Nick Wrobel and then claimed third with an 8-3 win over St. Vincent-St. Mary's Walter Gibson.

At 152 pounds, senior Matt Dobben took a similar route, as he lost 6-4 to Field's Zach Ladich in the semis. He rebounded with a 9-4 win over Fairless' Tyler Shephard and then beat West Branch's Ken Faulkner 5-1 to take third.

Junior 170 pounder Tyler Maclellan had the toughest road to states, after he lost in the quarterfinals to Poland Seminary's Mike Audi 6-3.

Needing three straight wins to qualify for states, Maclellan did just that. He scored a 16-0 technical fall over Harvey's Joey Guajardo, beat Norton's Mike Dyer 4-2 and beat Lake Catholic's Kaz Struna 4-3 to punch his ticket.

Maclellan then got his revenge on Audi, beating him 1-0 in the third-place match.

CVCA's final qualifier was senior 195-pounder Nick Havener. Haverner looked to be giving up a substantial weight disadvantage to Lake Catholic's Jimmy Szep in the semifinal, as lost 7-2.

However, Havener left no doubt in the consolation matches, as he beat Field's Matt Hettick 8-1 and pinned Woodridge's Cody Jenkins in 42 seconds to claim third place.

The one disappointment on the weekend for CVCA was the result from 138-pounder Ricky Simonelli. Simonelli reached the semifinals easily, but was bested there by SVSM's Ryan Skonieczny 14-6.

In the consolation semifinal, Simonelli faced Woodridge's Pat Dickinson, whom he defeated 13-2 in the sectional final the previous week.

This time, however, Dickinson wrestled a cautious match, scored the lone takedown in the match and won 3-0. Simonelli then defaulted in the fifth-place match due to injury.

Heading into states, Bergen said his goals were clear.

"We want to continue to work for the state meet," Bergen said. "We're going to have two hard days of work and then slow down Wednesday. I'm confident every one of these guys will place at states."


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