New coach takes over young Tallmadge wrestling team

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Tallmadge's Gus Fortseras  wrestles against White of Theodore-Roosevelt during the Hudson Holiday Wrestling Tournament last season

It's been quite the tumultuous off-season for the Tallmadge wrestling squad.

First, long-time head coach Jason Shaw was not brought back and Jeremy Clark was selected as coach during the summer.

However, Clark resigned his position the week before the season was set to start.

"Coach Clark ended up having to resign for some personal reasons and we wish him the best," Tallmadge athletic director Tim Mosher. "There's no animosity in any way. Fortunatey, we were able to get Josh Potok."

Potok is a 2016 Tallmade graduate, who studying middle childhood education at Kent State University. He also has served as the Tallmadge Middle School head coach the last two years.

"A week before the season started, Mr. Mosher called me and asked if i was interested," Potok said. "I said 'absolutely.' It happened in the first week of November."

Just as Potok and his team was getting down to business, however, Tallmadge decided to suspend all sport activities on Nov. 25 to COVID-19 concerns.

"Given these circumstances, it's goign to be tough for a coach in any sport," Potok said. "We're not in the room right now. This biggest thing for us is staying in shape. I'm staying in touch with these guys every day and giving them that push. We're supposed to be back into it sometime next week."

When Tallmadge does open its season, the team will be like its coach: Young.

"Numbers are super low this year," Potok said. "We don't have any seniors. There's a lot of room to work on. I've got some guys I've been working with the last few years at the middle school. I have every confidence in them."

Potok knows life in the Suburban League American Conference can be trying.

"The Suburban League is tough," Potok said. "We've got a team like Aurora who's been going to the state dual finals in recent years. There's a lot of work to do. I really believe we have the talent to do it. I see us right in the mix of everything."

Potok's assistant cocahed includu Gus Fortseras, Dimitri Fortseras and Mike Finney,

Tallmadge did lose two of its leaders to graduation in Jesse Kanatzar and Ben Blankenship and will have only 12 kids in the room this winter.

One of Potok's pupils to come up from up from the middle school is freshman 106-pounder Zach Brewer.

"I have a lot of faith in Zach," Potok said. "He's one of the hardest workers on the team. He's going to give it everything he's got every time."

Tallmadge will again have large holes in its lineup with 113, 120 and 126 pounds open.

Sophomore Nathan Rollyson its back at 132 pounds.

"I believe last year was his first year wrestling," Potok said. "I think this year will be a turnaround year for him."

Potok is very high on freshman 138-pounder Justin Leonard, who qualified for the junior high state meet last season.

"I've been training Justin for three years," Potok said. "The leaps he's made have been amazing. He wants to be successful and I believe he will be.

Sophomore Elijah Pownall will look to rebound from a tough freshmn season at 145 pounds.

"I think he willl make his mark this year. He's been training hard," Potok said. "You'll see his name a lot this season."

Juniors Josh Berkey and Rajan Lambu will add depth in the middle of the lineup.

Junior 152-pounder Gus Fortseras could be due for a breakout year.

"He's been a part of this program since her was four years old," Potok said. "He's made giant leaps as a freshman and a sophomore. I think he wants to make a run at states this year.

Potok scored a bit of a coup by getting his younger brother — sophomore Jayden Potok — to return to wrestling after playing basketball last year for the Blue Devils. The youngest Potok brother will start at 160 pounds.

"I'm really glad that he decided to come back to wrestling," coach Potok said. "All through the summer, he's been working with me and my brother. He's been hitting the weights. I think he's going to surprise a lot of people."

Junior 170-pounder Aden Schwartz ran into the some injury problems that cut his season short. Now healthy, Potok said Schwartz has a chance to shine.

"He's a super athlete," Potok said. "He's been part of Tallmadge wrestling since her was a kid. He's good leader on our team."

Freshman Jeremiah Berkey will start at 182 pounds.

"He's another guy whose been in this program for yaers," Potok said. "He's grown so much physically in the last couple years."

After an open slot at 195 pounds, junior Max Blondin will start at 220 pounds after being stuck at junior varsity his last two seasons.

"I think Max is ready to step into the varsity role," Potok said. "You can tell he's hit the weights. He's worked really hard this off-season."

Tallmadge enters the season with no heavyweights.

"With holes in the lineup like that, it's hard to win any dual meets," Potok said. "We giving up 30 points off the bat. I have a small lineup, but I have full belief they're going to be doing great."

Tallmadge was set to open the season Dec. 9 against Valley Forge, but that match was cancelled due to Tallmadge's COVID pause, while both the North Coast Classic and Hudson Holiday Tournament also have cancelled.

As of now, Tallmadge will open the Dec. 23 at 6 p.m. with a tri-meet at Rootstown with West Branch.