Stow wrestling set to tangle with National Conference's best
Tyler Backwater thought that his Stow-Munroe Falls wrestling team had made some serious progress over the last two years.
Then COVID-19 threw a wrench into everything.
The pandemic caused Stow three-time state qualifier Daniel Page's career to end prematurely, as the OHSAA state tournament was cancelled.
Then, much of the Bulldogs off-season work was canceled due to restrictions.
Given all this, Buckwalter noted the Bulldogs have responded well.
"It’s definitely been a different kind of offseason," Buckwalter said. "Guys had to do a lot on their own. In a way, it was different just in that we didn't have any tournaments to go through.
"When we were able to start working out, the guys were hungry and they really got after it," he added. "Having that to me is a very good sign."
Buckwalter begins his third year in charge of Bulldogs with what he calls his most consistent team from top to bottom. The Bulldogs went 10-4 in dual meets last year, including 4-3 in the Suburban League National Conference.
"I thought we had a lot to build off from last year," Buckwalter said. "Dual meet wise it was some of the best we've ever done. Making it to the [regional] final against Brecksville was a great experience.
"We didn’t quite the get the finishes we wanted from all our guys, but I was pleased with the effort of the whole team," he added. "It’s exciting to see what they do."
Buckwalter believes Wadsworth and Brecksville will once again be the standard bearers for the National Conference.
"They have the bar set super high," Buckwalter said. "I wouldn’t have it any other way. Making that your goal to compete with those teams makes better.
Stow's assistant coaches this year are JR Stewart and James Branchik, The Bulldogs will have 25 wrestlers in the room this season.
Along with Page, who ls now wrestling with Cleveland State, Stow lost Josh Andrassy, and Josh Lundstrom to graduation.
Stow will open the season without a 106-pound wrestler
Freshman Robert Dave could make an immediate impact at 113 pounds.
"I'm super excited about him," Buckwalter said. "He was a Kimpton wrestler. He placed at the TAB tournament last year.
There's a serious fight brewing to start at 120 pounds between freshman Joey Ward and sophomores Chase Mygrants and Micah Bentley.
Junior district qualifier Luke Marconi has grown a bit this season and will start at 126 pounds.
"He shot up over the summer," Buckwalter said. "We’re excited to see what he can do."
The starting spot at 132 pounds could be subject to year-long battle between juniors Brian Kinsman and Jason Baughman and senior Nathan Craft.
Thing are much more settled at 138 pounds, as junior Vince Randall is back after going 2-2 at districts last year. Buckwalter said Randall is trying to develop his takedown game to complement one of the nastiest cradles in Northeast Ohio.
"He’s definitely been one of those guys right on the bubble [of making states]," Buckwalter said. "We’re just developing a couple of things with him"
Sophomore 145 pounder Blake Kaminski peaked at the right time last year as he qualified for districts.
"He really kind of a took a little white to figure things out," Buckwalter said. "He had a great sectional tournament."
Senior Brayden Cowger will provide depth in the middleweights.
Filling the spot at 152 pounds will be a trio of wrestlers in senior John Fraley, sophomore JT Hill and junior Zach Duffy.
Junior JR Reed was another who just missed qualifying for states last year. He moves up to 160 pounds this winter.
"We thought had the potential to be state qualifiers last year," Buckwalter said. "JR got a lot bigger. He feels really good there at 160. He's got a lot of experience.:
Senior district qualifier Ty Bukowski is back at 170 pounds.
"It’s another guy in certain positions who can do a lot," Buckwalter said. "He I think will have a decent year."
After suffering through some injuries last year, junior Will Edmonson could be do for a big year at 182 pounds.
Injuries forced Zach DiGiamarino to forego wrestling each of the last two season. Buckwalter was happy to see DiGiamarino back for his senior year at 195 pounds.
Sophomore Teddy Gregory was in every match he wrestled last season, despite being a heavy freshman. Now wrestling at 220, Buckwalter said Gregory has "breakout season" written all over him."
"He’s one of those guys will a lot of stuff to offer," Buckwalter said. "He's such a great athletes. We just need to get him a little more technique. He expects to win an you can't teach that."
After an excellent season on the offensive line at Stow junior Mason Minnell at heavyweight, as he weighs every bit of the 285-pound weight limit.
"We're excited to have have him," Buckwalter said. "He’s smart and he works hard. You can tell he's a smart kid. He's going to grow."
Sophomore Courtney Reynolds also has joined the Bulldogs at heavyweight.
Stow was set to open the season Dec. 5 at the Boardman Duals, where it will face the likes of Allianze, Boardman, Austintown-Fitch, West Holmes and Jefferson Area.
The Bulldogs home opener will be Dec. 17 at 7 p.m vs. Revere.