Anthony Perrine has been on a mission all season.
After signing to wrestle with Gardner-Webb University in November, Nordonia's senior 195-pounder has had a singular focus: Winning the Knights' first state title in 18 years.
Based on his performance at the Division I district tournament at North Canton Hoover March 3 and 4, Perrine looks locked in.
Perrine won the 195-pound title at Hoover to earn his third straight trip to the Division I state tournament.
"This is about as good as I've seen him wrestle in the four years I've been coaching," said Nordonia coach Beau Polcen. "He definitely made a statement. That was a pretty deep field at 195 pounds. What's even more impressive is the way he won it. He put the second- and third-place finishers on their backs."
However, Perrine wasn't the only Knight to reach the podium at Hoover. Senior 132-pounder Tommy Masteller was able to take sixth place at districts. The top four placers in each weight class at districts advanced to states.
Nordonia finished 16th in the team race at Hoover with 35 points. Wadsworth won the district title with 193.5 points.
Perrine acknowledged the competition level at Hoover was off the charts, as he picked up the first district title of his career.
"It was a tough district this year," Perrine said. "One of my buddies, [Stow-Munroe Falls' Joe] Andrassy, didn't make it out and he was a state placer last year. There was a lot of tough competition. In the first couple matches, the coaches wanted me to get a workout in."
Perrine was in complete control of his first two matches, scoring major decision wins over Massillon Perry's Jarin Curtis (14-2) and Solon's Kennard Hairston (12-1). In the semifinal, Perrine scored another comfortable win, beating Louisville's Jimmy Leonard 8-2.
That set Perrine up to face Brunswick's Aaron Naples in the finals, setting up a rematch of the final from the season-opening Solon Comet Classic.
"I had wrestled most everybody from our district," Perrine said. "I kind of had a feeling it was going to be us in the final."
Perrine said he wanted to make sure Naples got no takedowns in the first period, which he prevented. In the second period, Perrine was able to roll Naples onto his back. While he didn't get the pin, Naples didn't recover, as Perrine scored a 6-2 win to take the title.
After failing to earn All-Ohio honors last season, Perrine said he's focused on the podium this week.
"It was really pushing me after a disappointing loss last year in the wrestlebacks," Perrine said. "There's no for sure thing this year, so I've got to take care of business."
The Division I state tournament will begin March 9 at Value City Arena in Columbus. Perrine will open the tournament by facing Ashton Spurgeon of Mount Vernon.
While noting he felt Delaware Hayes' Max Wright might be his toughest competition, he said his biggest opponent might be himself at states.
"i just can't hold myself back," Perrine said.
Polcen said he knows Perrine wants nothing more than be the Knights' first state champion since Ryan Lange in 1999, but noted his star is a bit looser heading into states.
"I think Anthony was feeling a lot of pressure last year," Polcen said. "I think this year he's enjoying competing. He's just having a lot of fun and wanted to enjoy everything states has to offer."
Meanwhile, Masteller opened his tournament by beating Medina's Tyler Wissel 12-6, but then ran into undefeated Jarrod Brezovec in the quarterfinals. Brezovec scored an 11-4 win.
Masteller came back by pinning Louisville's Carter Mickley in 3:51 and Barberton's Zack Scalf in 3:51.
That set Masteller up in the consolation semifinal, where victory would earn him a state berth. However, Masteller had to deal with Wadsworth's Luke Baughman, who scored a 13-5 major decision win.
In the fifth-place match, Masteller dropped a 5-2 decision to Kenston's Chris Pavone.
"Tommy,about a month ago, really started to turn the season around," Polcen said. "Like Anthony, he started to enjoy wrestling more. With Tommy, we always knew he had the ability. This was best he's ever wrestled. I'm proud of him."
Nordonia also had 120-pounder Jimmy Brenneman compete at districts, but a tough draw led to an 0-2 finish.
"He's got some work to do, but I'm proud of the improvement Jimmy made this season," Polcen said. "He went from a sub. 500 wrestler to an over .500 wrestler. He has nothing to be ashamed of."