When Dave Mariola Jr. took over the Walsh Jesuit wrestling program, he knew he wasn’t looking at a one-year rebuild, especially if he wanted to lead the Warriors back to their glory days.
Still, after missing out on the state tournament last year, getting three Warriors back to state tournament qualifies as a good first step.
Walsh Jesuit saw 126-pounder Dyvaire "Boots" VanDyke, 132-pounder Chase Henderson and 152-pounder Adam Salek each advance to states via the Division I district tournament at Mentor, which concluded Saturday. The top four placers in each weight class at ‘The Mentor Meatgrinder" advanced to states.
Walsh earned a top 10 finish in the team race at Mentor, taking eighth place with 66.5 points. Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Wadsworth tied for the team district title with 233 points each.
Elsewhere at Mentor, Cuyahoga Falls saw its season come to an end. The Black Tigers finished with two team points, taking 37th overall.
The Division I state tournament is set to begin Friday at 5:40 p.m. at Value City Arena in Columbus.
VanDyke earned his way to Columbus by reaching the final at Mentor.
VanDyke scored a 22-12 major decision over Hoover’s Ian King and a 10-3 win over Nordonia’s Trevor Stautihar to reach the semifinals. In the semifinal, he squeezed out a 4-2 win over Wadsworth’s Landon Hacker, booking his trip to states.
In the final, VanDyke suffered an tight 8-5 loss to Austintown-Fitch’s Colin Roberts.
Meanwhile, Salek followed a similar path at 152. After opening with a 6-4 win over Medina’s Matt Hamula, Salek squeezed out a 3-2 win over Boardman’s Nathan Thompson and then scored a 4-2 win over Wadsworth’s Jacob Wash, booking his place in the finals and the state tournament.
Salek’s opponent in the finals was very familiar. In fact, he and Stow-Munroe Falls Daniel Patten were drill partners at Walsh during their freshman years.
Patten got the lone takedown in the match in the first period and rode Salek out in the second period to hand him a 3-1 loss.
Meanwhile, Henderson had to earn his place at states via the consolation bracket after losing his quarterfinal match by pin to Riverside’s Tyler Wittreich.
Henderson scored a 16-0 technical fall over Maple Heights’ Jameel Smith, beat Stow’s Vince Randall 17-6 and then claimed his spot with a 9-2 win over Uniontown Lake’s Josh Futo.
In his third place match, Henderson lost 12-4 to Wadsworth’s Hunter Griffin and settled for fourth place.
Walsh had hoped senior 106-pounder Jack Schmidt also would advance to states, but Schmidt loss his consolation semifinal in heartbreaking fashion, losing 4-2 to Mayfield’s Vinnie D’Alessandro in the sudden victory period.
Schmidt then settled for sixth place when he lost 3-0 to Kent Roosevelt’s Sam Tillett in the fifth-place match.
Walsh 138-pounder Zach Wiseman finished 2-2 at Mentor, while 145-pounder Ronnie Romanini and 160-pounder Michael Leonard each went 0-2.
Meanwhile, Falls coach Jim Benson got his first exposure to Mentor after years of coaching. He noted the district lived up to its nickname.
"It was pretty tough. You’ve got a lot of kids that are trying to get to states," Benson said. "There’s a lot of good wrestlers there. I’m not disappointed with our kids’ effort at all."
Falls took a hit before the tournament started, as 220-pounder Gabe Hardman was unable to wrestle due to a nagging hip injury.
Falls 145-pounder Isaac Puchajda wrestled what Benson called "his best match in two years" when he beat Mentor’s Tyler Renick 7-0 in the opening round. However, Puchajda then lost a 16-0 technical fall to Kenston’s Nick Nastasi and was then eliminated with a 5-3 loss to Hoover’s Logan Daubenspeck.
Falls also had 132-pounder Noah McClendon finish 0-2, while senior 113-pounder Billie Ferrell also went 0-2, ending his high school career.
"It’s tough for any senior. Very few seniors go out on a winning note," Benson said. "He’s been a solid leader. I have the upmost respect for him for everything that he’s done for us."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO.