Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy wrestling entered a new postseason era Feb. 29 at the Division II sectional tournament at Canal Fulton Northwest.

For the first time in years, CVCA did not have a returning state champion or state favorite on their squad. That doesn’t mean the Royals had a bad sectional by any means. 

CVCA finished third in the team race at Nortwest with 164 points. Division II state dual meet champion Louisville dominated the tournament with 292 points, while Norton was runner-up with 177 points. 

More importantly, the Royals advanced seven wrestlers to the district tournament, including three weight class champions. The top four placers in each weight class at Northwest advanced to districts.

"I feel pretty good with that, based on where we are," said CVCA coach Dave Bergen. "We’ve got three freshman moving on. That’s a big thing given how young we are. It’s a tough sectional, there’s no doubt about that." 

CVCA most satisfying win at Northwest came from senior 132-pounder Matt Wiliams. The Royals’ lone returning All-Ohioan pinned Cloverleaf’s Cade Cass in the semifinal in 2:11, setting up a showdown with defending state champion Davin Rhoads of Louisville.

Rhoads had beaten Williams in their previous three matches this season, but Williams got the win this time with a 7-4 decision.

"There’s a likelyhood they are going to see each other two more times this year," Bergen said. "tThis is a good win for Matt."

Returning state qualifier Austin Pownall won his weight class at 145 pounds. Pownall pinned Norton’s Cory Beddow in 2:23, stuck Cloverleaf’s Cameron Arthur in 49 seconds and pinned Cloverleaf’s Colby Simon in 1:02 to reach the final.

Pownall was tested a bit in the final by Fairless’ Max Kirby, but he scored a 6-4 decision to take the title.

"He’s so darn consistent," Bergen said. "He’s been on a roll lately."

Also winning his weight class was CVCA freshman 182-pounder Kyle Snider. Snider pinned Springfield’s David Delisi in 56 seconds and Norton’s Jakob Hopkins in 1:23 before winning a pair of scrambles to defeat Tallmadge’s Jesse Kanatzar 7-3 in the final.

"It was a solid victory," Bergen said. "He’s coming on strong. He’s a student of the game and he works so hard."

CVCA had two other wrestlers reach the final at Northwest. Freshman 106-pounder Anthony Perez lost a tight 5-3 decision to Cloverleaf’s Jake Arnold in his title match, while 138-pounder Caiden Scarbrough also lost a tight 4-2 decision to Louisville’s Carter Mickley.

Bergen noted CVCA 126-pounder T.J Sarkiewicz earning third place was a big deal, as he defeated Cloverleaf’s Josh Dunn 5-2 in his third-place match. The Royals also had 120-pounder Braden Hahlen advance to districts in fourth place.

After a career that was decimated by injuries, Bergen said he was happy to see senior heavyweight Matt Holman get back on the mat. Holman finished in sixth place for the Royals, as did 113-pounder Owen Nelson, 170-pounder Niall Walker and 220-pounder Seth Nerone.

The Division II district tournament at Alliance was set for Friday and Saturday with the top four placers in each weight class advancing to the state tournament. Count Bergen among those who think Alliance is the toughest district in Ohio, regardless of division.

"That district is off the charts," Bergen said. "I think what OHSAA is doing by putting all those guys together is just not right. I think they need to split us up somehow."

Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, mleonard@recordpub.com or @MLeonard_GHO