CVCA wrestling looks to quality over quantity approach

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies

Every sports team has suffered at the hands of COVID-19, but Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy wrestling has been hit particularly hard.

Of course, the original COVID restrictions cancelled the OHSAA state wrestling tournament in March, which two Royals were set to compete in.

Then in November, Royals head coach Dave Bergen was diagnosed with COVID.

CVCA Austin Pownall attempts to escapre from Aurora's Andy Garr during the 2019 Division II Alliance district meet.

"My symptoms were pretty minor," Bergen said. "Other than that, I feel very blessed to make it through without any major problems, because I know a lot of people are struggling. We’re doing all the protocols as best we can. I’m thankful my symptoms came when they did, because the team didn’t have to quarantine."

Thus, as Bergen begins the eighth year of his second tour of duty as CVCA head coach, the Royals seem to be in a decent starting spot.  

"We qualified two guys to state last year," Bergen said. "Assessing the strength of that district, it was as tough as any I've seen. We only got rid of one senior. 

"We’re still young. We’ve got mostly freshmen, sophomores and juniors."

Bergen said he didn't see the field at the Division II Alliance district tournament being any easier this winter.

"We weren’t able to do what we normally do in the offseason," Bergen said. "We followed the guidelines of the law as best we can. Our guys were working as much as possible.

"There’s a lot of teams that haven't been able to get going yet," Bergen said. "Our schedule is basically dual meets because the tournaments have been cancelled.  We’re still trying to fill a few holes in our schedules."

Bergen said he believes the Royals should be among the favorites again in the Principal's Athletic Conference.

The core of CVCA's coaching staff remains intact, as Paul Charvot, Steve Mitcheff, and Tim Hinman return as assistant coaches. 

CVCA lost only one senior, but Matt Williams was a big loss as he is now wrestling at  the United States Military West Point, CVCA has 17 wrestlers in this year's room. 

Bergen notes CVCA has never had a huge team and hopes the quality of his wrestlers overcomes the lack of quantity.

"I’d like to see guys make it down [to states]," Bergen said. "We has a lot of guys who lost in the blood round last year who know that they can get there."

At 106 pounds sophomore Owen Nelson will start.

"He was a tiny guy last year," Bergen said. "He's a solid 106 this year. We're excited to see what he can do." 

Sophomore 113-pounder Braden Halhen will start.  

"He’s wrestling tough. He won some preseason tournaments, so we want to see what he can do," Bergen said.   

Sophomore 120-pounder Anthony Perez just missed reaching states last year, as he finished sixth at 106 pounds at Alliance.

"He’s had a ton of wrestling experience," Bergen said. "He knows what he needs to do."

Bergen called freshman 126-pounder Aiden King "still a bit of an unproven commodity," although he did qualify for the OAC Junior High state championships last year. 

Senior 132 pounder TJ Sarkiewicz qualified for districts last year and will push for a spot in Columbus.

While CVCA will be open at 138 and 145, there is some strength in its middleweights.  

Senior two-time district qualifier Caden Scarborough will look to break through to states at 152 pounds.

"He’s one that we’re hoping will finish out the season down in Columbus," Begen said.

After qualifying for states as a sophomore, senior 160-pounder Austin Pownall just missed reaching states last year.

"He’s been working hard in the offseason to get back there," Bergen said. "He just trained all summer long."

After an open spot at 170 pounds, sophomores Naill Walker and Seth Nerone will compete to start at 182 pounds.

Junior Jackson Kipp will get the starting nod at 195 pounds. 

Sophomore 220-pounder Kyle Snider is CVCA's lone returning state qualifier from last year. After a brilliant football season, Bergen sees Snider among the favorites to win the Division II 220-pound state title.

"The script has to be written, but he’s still quick and strong as anyone at that weight class," Bergen said. "I certainly expect him to be near the top of the podium in Columbus. I know he wants that. 

Sophomore Tony Collins enters his second year of wrestling after an all-district season on the offensive line for the Royals. 

":It’s a great year for young guys to get lots of matches," Bergen said. "We're interested to see what Tony can do. He's pretty quick for a heavyweight." 

CVCA was set to open the season with a home tri-meet with Brunswick and Chardon. First match is at 9 a.m.

The Royals will travel to Beaver Local Dec. 12 for a quad meet, along with St. Vincent-St. Mary and West Virginia powerhouse Parkersburg South.