BAINBRIDGE — Nordonia wrestling has an unusual strategy to prepare for the postseason: Coach Jason Walters decided to hold his best wrestlers out of the Suburban League Tournament Feb. 16.
Walters noted there was a method to his madness.
"I wanted them healthy for the postseason," Walters said. "I heard about it, but my job is to get this team in the best position it can be for the state tournament."
Needless to say, Walters put everything into preparing for the Division I sectional tournament at Kenston on Saturday.
"The whole season started today," Walters said.
And that season couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start.
Nordonia repeated as champion at Kenston sectional, winning the team title with 221.5 points. Maple Heights was second with 206 points.
More importantly, of the 13 Knights that competed at Kenston, 11 advanced to the district tournament with one other earning an alternate spot. The top four placers at Kenston advanced to districts.
"Overall, the guys did what they had to do this week," Walters said. "This is all about getting to next week."
Here’s the vindication of Walters’ strategy: All the wrestlers who he chose to hold out of the league tournament, all but one reached the finals at Kenston.
That included Nordona’s "Big Three," as 132-pounder Jaivon Jones, 138-pounder Mitch Collica and 160-pounder Sal Perrine, who all won their second straight title at Kenston.
Jones will head to districts at 40-0 for the season, as he dominated his bracket. He pinned Roosevelt’s Jason Ponick in 32 seconds and scored a 20-2 technical fall over Kenston’s Seth Samidan to reach the final.
In the final, Jones controlled Walsh Jesuit’s Chase Henderson and won a 13-3 major decision.
Meanwhile, Collica put up two straight technical falls on his way to the final, beating Stow’s Jake Bukowski 17-1 and Kenston’s Frank DiMarco 16-0.
In the final, however, Collica had to fight for a 3-0 tight victory over Solon’s Trysten Zahoransky.
As for Perrine, his title came with a case of deja vu. The 160-pound final turned into a rematch of the finals from the Kenston Invitational Tournament, which saw Perrine defeat Kenston’s Joe Koplow.
The two went at each other for the full six minutes, but Perrine scored an 11-6 win.
Nordonia got one other title at Kenston, as senior 182-pounder Justin Olszko also repeated as champion. Olszko got the Knights’ lone pin in a title match, as he stuck Bedford’s William Speight in 3:15.
"It feels good, especially because I was able to repeat," Olszko said. "My freshman year, we weren’t that good a team. It’s good to see how far Nordonia wrestling had come."
The most dramatic final for the Knights came at 220 pounds, as senior Ryan Lee got a takedown in the last 10 seconds on Maple’s Charles Medley to force overtime. In the sudden victory period, however, Medley took Lee right to his back and got the pin in 6:47.
At 145 pounds, sophomore Tyler Angus went right at Stow All-Ohioan Daniel Patten in his final, but Angus lost a 2-0 decsion.
At 113 pounds, senior Nick Hamad was a bit overpowered in his final with Maple’s Kolin Howard as he lost a 10-2 major decision.
Finally at heavyweight, senior Blaine Morganstern attempted to roll Roosevetl’s Brandon Wagner onto his back, but ended up getting caught himself and pinned in 1:57.
Nordonia also got a third-place finish from 195-pounder Carl Schaub, while 152-pounder Dominic Mannion and 170-pounder Collin Flynn each finished fourth.
Nordonia 120-pounder Trevor Stautihar will serve as a district alternate, as he finished in fifth place.
Walters made it clear he believes the Division I district tournament at Norton Canton Hoover will be tough. The tournament takes place Friday and Saturday with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to states.
"It will be rough, but if you make it through there, you’ve got a good chance to get on the podium at states" Walters said. "You don’t run from the tough competition, you run to it."