AKRON — It’s just the first step of what expects to be a thrilling three-week journey.
But the Aurora wrestling team’s quest to a state championship is off to a blazing start.
The Greenmen easily won a 11-team Division II sectional tournament Saturday at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron.
Aurora, which dominated Suburban League American Conference opponents throughout the regular season, easily won the competition with 271 points. St. V-M was the runner-up with 231 points and Woodridge captured the bronze medal with 173 points.
"It was a good tournament," said senior Will McGhee, who was one of six champions for the Greenmen. "There are lots of hard teams here. St. V is always good. Streetsboro has some solid guys."
The top four wrestlers in each weight class advanced to the district competition, which is scheduled to take place March 1 (3 p.m.) and 2 (9:30 a.m.) at Alliance High School.
Let’s just say Aurora received quite a few invitations to northeast Stark County.
Try a mind-boggling 13 of them.
The Greenmen, who were the Division II runners-up at the state dual team tournament less than two weeks ago, will have a representative in every weight class but one in Alliance.
Aurora did not compete at 113 pounds.
“As a team, we’re wrestling well,” Greenmen head coach John Papesh said. “We have five days to get a little bit better.”
McGhee, who recently signed to continue his academic and wrestling careers at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, earned a hard-fought 5-3 victory over Streetsboro senior Chris Anderson in the 160-pound final. He also had a 37-second pin and earned an 18-4 major decision in his previous two matches.
“I just went out there and wrestled my matches,” McGhee said. “Obviously, districts are harder, but we can win districts easily.”
Freshman Dylan Fishback continued his impressive season.
He scored a 34-second pin and also earned a 14-3 major decision to reach the 152-pound title match.
The talented first-year varsity wrestler capped off a stellar day by cruising to an 11-1 major decision over Streetsboro senior Caiden Rodgers to claim the title.
“Right now, I think I’m starting to peak at the right time,” Fishback said. “I’m feeling pretty good.”
Seniors Jack Gorman, Andy Garr and Colin McNamara and another freshman sensation, Evan Anderson, captured championships in their respective weight classes.
Gorman, who missed a large portion of the season with an injury, had to overcome a very formidable opponent to win his championship.
In the end, though, Gorman, a Cleveland State University recruit, prevailed with a 7-6 win over St. V-M sophomore Sam Vansickle to win the 126-pound championship.
Gorman earned a pair of pins in 2:13 and 48 seconds, respectively, to get to the final.
The Greenmen’s other Division I recruit also took a gold medal home.
Garr, who plans to wrestle at Columbia University in New York City, left no doubt who was boss in the 145-pound bracket.
Garr cruised to the title after scoring a 13-0 major decision over St. V-M’s Jacob Potok. He added a two-minute pin and a 17-2 technical fall in his previous two matches.
McNamara, a three-sport standout who excels on the gridiron and the diamond as well, triumphed with a 2-0 win over St. V-M freshman George Linberger in the 195-pound final.
McNamara had a pin (1:43) in his semifinal match.
Anderson didn’t need to break a sweat to claim his championship.
Anderson’s opponent, St. V-M senior Anthony Ward, had to default the title match because of an injury. Anderson rolled to a 23-8 technical fall and a 59-second pin in his previous two matches.
Senior Kyle Petersen was the runner-up at 138 pounds with a pin (24 seconds) and a major decision (13-0). He lost a 9-3 decision to St. V-M senior Hunter Olson in the final.
Sophomore Robbie Sagaris (106) and junior Ethan Anderson (170) also captured second place for Aurora.
Robbie Sagaris won his semifinal match by pin (3:26) and then lost to St. V-M sophomore Kenneth Crosby 7-4 in the final.
Ethan Anderson lost a narrow 3-2 decision to Streetsboro senior Hank Carey in the final. Prior to the title match, the Greenman junior dominated with two pins (2:40 and 51 seconds, respectively).
Antwan Sagaris (120) and Dante Leone (220) received bronze medals for their work. Antwan Sagaris finished 3-1, which included a 16-0 technical fall. Leone earned two pins, including a 16-second masterpiece in his consolation semifinal match.
Also advancing for Aurora were sophomore Brian Kennedy (fourth, 132) and senior Marcus Baroun (fourth, heavyweight). Kennedy had two wins, including a 15-0 technical fall, and Baroun had two pins, including a resounding 18-second triumph.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, it has been quite a memorable season for the Greenmen.
But the work is far from finished, according to McGhee.
“There’s a huge sense of urgency for all of our seniors,” McGhee said. “We’re ready to take it all.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.