SOLON — After spending his first two years of high school at Walsh Jesuit, Mitch Collica chose to come home to Nordonia this year.
One week into his first wrestling season as a Knight, the junior already has been rewarded for his decision.
Collica’s first tournament back in Nordonia saw him win the 138-pound title Saturday at the Solon Comet Classic.
That victory was the highlight of weekend for Nordonia, as the Knights finished 12th at Solon with 84.5 points. Oregon Clay won the title with 175 points, rallying past Mentor Lake Catholic (171.5 points) in Saturday night’s final round.
Though Nordonia didn’t reach coach Jason Walters’ goal of having all its wrestlers on the podium at Solon, Walters said his kids get what he’s aiming at.
"I’m pretty happy," Walters said. "There’s guys who didn’t do what we thought they could, partially because they weren’t working hard enough in the room. We lost five placement matches that we should have won."
"The buzz is there," he added. "We already had a team meeting and they all said they understand what they need to do. That’s a good thing."
After finishing second last year at the Comet Classic with Walsh, Collica said he was determined to finish atop the podium. He started well, winning at 17-2 technical fall over Canfield’s Gionvanni Dunlap, but then had to win a pair of close decisions over Green’s Tyler Kaminski (3-1) in the quarterfinals and St. Ignatius’ Patrick McGraw (5-2) in the semifinal.
In the final, Collica tangled with Strongville’s Ben Blickle. Collica got a takedown off a scramble in the first period, followed by a double-leg takedown in the second period to lead 4-1 after two periods.
Although he was penalized a point for unnecessary roughness, Collica hit two more takedowns to claim a 8-3 win and the title.
"That was my goal: To get back to the final and win it this time," Collica said. "I wanted to show everyone that I can win it."
Collica thanked his coaches and family for getting him ready for the tournament, noting his transition to the Knights wrestling squad has been nearly seemless.
"So far, it’s been pretty good," Collica said. "At Nordonia, we have a full team. It’s like a family and they’ve welcomed me with open arms."
"He’s definitely on the up" Walters said of Collica. "In his semifinal match, he was a bit too conservative. I told him if he wants to win that state title, he can’t hold anything back. He’s a leader. He’s still working on things."
Nordonia had one other wrestler reach the final four at Solon, as senior 132-pounder Jimmy Brennenman finished in fourth place.
Brenneman’s nemesis on the weekend was St. Ignatius’ DJ Huff. After Huff defeated Brenneman Saturday in the quarterfinal, Brenneman won three straight matches to get back to the third-place match.
Huff was waiting for Brenneman in that match and won by a 16-0 technical fall.
"We’re extremely proud of Jimmy," Walters said. "His work ethic is second to none and his performance shows that it pays off. Mitch is pushing him in the room."
Nordonia had three others reach the podium at Solon as freshman 145-pounder Sal Perrine took eighth, sophomore 195-pounder Jaret Maciejowski placed eighth and junior heavyweight Blaine Morganstern took seventh. Morganstern pinned Twinsburg’s DeVion Copeland in 50 seconds in the seventh-place match.
Up next the Knights will participate in North Coast Classic at Independence next Friday and Saturday.