Hudson wrestling looks to make run at state tournament

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Hudson senior Brendan Demuynck grapples with Tallmadge's Jesse Kanatzar during a match last winter.
Hudson 160-pounder Aidan McStay grapples with Shaker Heights' Eli Meinhard during a match last season.

After coaching Hudson wrestling for a quarter of a century, Joe Caniglia may have thought ha had seen it all.

Then, 2020 happened.

The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into the Exploerers off-season workouts and and has forced Hudson to hold three practice sessions a day to separate its wrestlers for protocols.

The new rules have forced Caniglia and his charges to be flexible.

"Health and safety of the kids is the most important thing," Caniglia said. "In a normal year, you’re focused on there technique and they conditioning. This year, if you’re not safe, you’re not going to have a season.

"Splitting into three groups has some advantages. You're able to give more individualized attention. I think you’re going to see a difference between the guys that are disciplined and the guys that weren't during the time off."

Caniglia enters his 25th year in charge of Hudson with a veteran squad that went 8-4 in dual meet last winter. Hudson finished fifth in the Suburban League National Conference.

"We have nine seniors and eight juniors," Caniglia said. "One of the biggest things is they're committed to the sport. They're good students and good kids with a great work ethnic. I think we have the chance to do some things when we get to the postseason."

Caniglia acknowledges just getting to the postseason might be an accomplishment this winter.

"That's he thing were talking about a lot is every practice," Caniglia said. "So much of this is out of our hands. I’m hoping that there will be a postseason."

"For the benefit of the kids, you want things to work out alright," he added. "There’s a lot of things that could be done. You could run a state tournament at three different locations if you needed."

Regarding the National Conference, Caniglia said it will be another grind against conference foes.

"It’s a very competitive wrestling conference at the high school level," Caniglia said. "I'm glad we have a chance to go against such good competition. It makes us better."

Caniglia's assistant coaches include Tyler Peacock, Addison Carbone, Garrett Giradi and former Nordonia head coach Gary Kanaga.

With only two wrestlers lost to graduation last winter, Hudson will have a deep squad with 47 wrestlers in the room.

"We’ve got great kids," Caniglia said. "Our lightweights are a little more inexperienced. One thing is we’ve got the nucleus of the offensive line with us this winter.

Sophomore Aidan Johnson looks to get the nod at 106 pounds this winter.

"He was a bit undersized last year," Caniglia said. "This year he's grown into the spot. He's a very sound, smart wrestler."

The starting spot at 113 pounds will be a toss up between two freshmen Grayson Polak and Cruz Halter.

At 120 pounds, junior Sean Nowicki will step up from the junior varsity squad, while freshmen Hayden Hrach and Adam Dzierwa will provide depth.

Hudson's most experienced lights is four-year varsity senior Matt Hartle, who qualified for districts last year.

"He has show considerable improvement," Caniglia said. "He’s one of those who you look where he was as a freshman and where he is now and you smile."

Sophomore Zach Dzierwa will move up from JV to start at 132 pounds, but freshman Owen Hall has been pushing hard.

Hudson has a logjam of talent at 138 pounds, beginning with senior returning starter Will Davis. Senior Michael Johnson is pushing to start, as are junior Will Brodbeck and Grant Hall. Sophomore Ty Denison will provide depth.

Senior 145-punder Gavin Wervey was one of three Explorers who finished one win shy of making the state tournament, taking sixth at districts last year at 145.

"He’s very focused right now," Caniglia said. "He's a senior, so his thinking I've got to be I’ve got to be ready.

Junior Ben Romano will also see time at 145.

At 152 pounds sophomores Noah Batcher and Zane Zarges will step up from the JV team, while freshman Noah Broski also could see time.

Junior 160-pounder Aidan McStay was Hudson's most improved wrestler last season, finishing sixth at districts after not making it out of sectionals as freshman.

"He’s really the catalyst for us," Caniglia said. "He’s the guy who get the rest of the team going. He wants to wrestle in college."

Junior Cash Halter and senior Ethan Forrest will provide depth at 160 and 170, as junior Ian Kraus looks to have the nod at 170.

Things are competitive at 182 pounds with junior Josh Brewer, sophomore Zach Heist  and freshman Collin Baughman all are in the mix.

At 195 pounds, senior Brendan "Hulk Smash" Demuynck is back after going 2-2 at districts last year.

"He's a big, physical kid," Caniglia said. "A lot of it is just experience for him. Going through that experience and knowing you’re close, I think the knows what he has to do."

Seniors Nick Jackson and Joey Brainard are in the mix at 220 pounds, along with sophomore Logan Hensel and Michael Pery.

Hudson lost two heavyweight seniors to graduation, but as Canglia mentioned, the starting lineup of Hudson football's offensive line is in the room this winter.

Senior Sam Harvey (270 pounds) looks to have the edge to start, but sophomores Max Bucks (250), Nick Pery (255), John Campa and freshman Tommy Richard are all competing.

The annual Hudson Holiday Tournament has been cancelled due to COVID-19, but the Explores will host a pair of dual meet sessions to open the season in its place.

The Explorers will host a quad meet with Fairview, New Concord John Glenn and Kent Roosevelt Dec. 18, followed by a five-team dual tournament  Dec. 19 with Maple Heights, Canton GlenOak, Amherst Steels and Woodridge.