Twinsburg wrestling's long-delayed season set to start
After 36 years in charge of Twinsburg wrestling, coach Dave Mariola knows how to deal with every situation on the mat.
Even Mariola, however, couldn't anticipate what would happen with COVID-19, beginning with the cancellation of the 2020 state tournament.
Mariola admitted he's still grumpy about that cancellation due to the fact it robbed Twinsburg's Aidan Corrigan of his first state berth.
"Like I said, I'm here to take care of the kids. I’ve always done that either here or in any of my other jobs," Mariola said. "I think the governor jumped the gun at that time. Just look at how bad [COVID-19] is now."
Corrigan said he experienced the best and worst days of his life last March, as he qualified for state and then had his chance ripped away in less than a week's time.
"Nothing is guaranteed," Mariola said. "Our last state champion, Mike Baker, won a state title as a junior, but didn't win as a senior. When you have an opportunity at states, you have to take it."
More recently, Twinsburg City School District's decision to suspend all sports kept the Tigers out of the wrestling room until Dec. 19.
When Twinsburg started practice, Mariola did so with fewer wrestlers than expected, as several opted out of the season.
Twinsburg has only 12 wrestlers after Mariola expected around 20 to participate.
"The one thing I can say is we have no bad apples in that room," Mariola said. "The quality of the individuals is really strong. We have a lot of work to do, but they're willing to do it."
Mariola said this group stands in a bit of contrast to last year's team, which he believed underachieved.
"I thought we would have got more out of our seniors last year," Mariola said. "I think they were content just to wrestle each other. Our goals are always to get a kid to state."
Mariola said COVID-19 also has forced the cancellation of all major tournaments, which could have an effect on his team's development.
"We will not be in any tournaments," Mariola said. "It’s going to make it extremely hard for your better kids to get in against quality competition. Some kids might not see top level competition maybe until the sectional.
"We’re running all over the place to get dual meets. We’re trying to wrestle two times a week every week to catch up."
Twinsburg's assistant coaches include Chris Mohnacky and Ed Lipnos.
The Tigers lost eight seniors to graduation, led by district qualifiers Ricky DiTurno and Jack Turle III.
"The funny part of it is, we may be able to put out 11 weight classes despite only have 12 guys," Mariola said.
Twinsburg's lineup opens with Ricky DiTurno's younger brother, freshman 106-pounder Nick DiTurno.
"He's a full-sized 106," Mariola said. "He’s got experience, but he’s a freshman, He wrestled for the middle school and club."
Sophomore Colin Grady returns to start at 113 pounds.
"He’s got a lot of talent," Mariola said. "Last year, he was a little undersized."
After open slots at 120 and 126 pounds, junior Nick Cusma gets the nod at 132 pounds after starting at 120 last year.
"Nick shows a lot of ability," Mariola said. "He just doesn’t have the mental or physical stamina for the full six minutes yet. We need him to get mentally tough."
Freshman Isaac Cantor is another wrestler who came up through the Tigers' youth and middle school program.
The spots at 145 and 152 pounds could be filled by a combination of sophomore Ryan Lipnos and freshman Aidan Stuczynski.
"Ryan finished about .500 last season," Mariola said. "He showed signs of being a dangerous wrestler. He kind of likes to come from behind.
"Aidan came out of the pee wee program. His dad was a very good wrestler. I think he has a lot of ability.
Junior Matt Atienza will start the season at 160 pounds, but could cut down by the season's end.
"Matt started coming on pretty strong late last year," Mariola said. "He’s a lot bigger right now. You can see he has a lot of natural ability. Now that he’s maturing, he could be ready for big things."
If Atienza cuts down, junior Matt Collica could step into the void at 160.
Corrigan will be Twinsburg's lone senior year. He looks to return to the state meet at 170 pounds.
"Last year, he broke the school record for wins, matches and pins in a season," Mariola said. "He just needs to wrestle as hard as he can. Hopefully, he'll be able to get back down to states."
Following an excellent football season, junior Joe Bova will get the nod at 182 pounds.
"He's a very good athlete," Mariola said. "From last year to this year, he’s shown a lot of physical flexibility. Last year, he was a little stiff."
Freshman Cade McLafferty could also see time at 182 or 195 pounds
"He’s very flexible for a big kid," Mariola said. "I don’t think he’s seen the big kids at this level yet. Aidan will make him grow up really quickly."
With 220 pounds open, junior Edward Hopson will get the nod at heavyweight. Weighing it at 235 pounds, Mariola said his big man just needs more mat time.
Mariola wasn't kidding about the Tigers going all over to find matches.
Twinsburg will open their season with a double dual Saturday at Ridgewood High School in Coshoctan County. The Tigers will face Malvern and Tusky Valley