By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
All of the weight loss, the daily battles with teammates, the weekly tournaments have led area wrestlers to one path — the one that leads to glory or heartbreak.
Area grapplers will begin their yearly battle to reach the state tournament in Columbus later today with sectional tournaments.
In Division I, Lakeside will be the first area team on the mat when the Austintown-Fitch sectional begins at 3:45 p.m. Riverside and Madison, also in Division I but wrestling at the South sectional, will begin at 5 p.m.
Edgewood, Conneaut, Jefferson, Geneva and Perry will get going in the Division II sectional at Lake Catholic at 5 p.m.
Pymatuning Valley and Grand Valley will be at the Division III sectional at Beachwood and will be the last teams to get going with a 6:30 p.m. start.
Madison fell to Mentor when the teams met in a dual match early in the season. The Blue Streaks could gain a measure of revenge at South.
At 138 and 145 pounds respectively, Nick Montgomery and Bo Ransom will spearhead the Madison assault. Ryan Montgomery (126) and Jarrad Lasko (132) and Aaron Sweeney (152) won’t be far behind as the Blue Streaks’ middle weights should make quite a statement. Tim Streisel (170), Drew Schiemann (182) and Joe Bashore (220) should also find spots in the top four.
Riverside, the area’s other team at the South sectional, boasts one of the state’s most formidable wrestlers in Evan Rosborough (195). Rosborough is being forecast as a state runner up.
Joining Rosborough in the top four of one of the weaker sectional tournaments could be Nick Boggs (138), Conner Rigsby (152) and Jake Denman (160).
The Dragons have a two-headed monster in heavyweight Chuck Morgan and 195-pounder Kyle Conel. The pair spent the majority of the season unbeaten and Morgan, at one point, was the top-rated big man in the state. It should be child’s play for the duo to reach the Mentor district.
Tyler Vines (113), Keith Griffin (132), and Otis Conel (182) could be on their way to the district, as well.
The team championship at Lake Catholic will probably be a two-horse race between Perry and the host Cougars. The Pirates have a leg up in that competition, at least as it pertains to the sectional championship.
The real drama might in be the jockeying for third place. A dark horse there may be Jefferson.
As far as individuals are concerned, this could shape up to be a good weekend in Mentor.
The Pirates, who have had 26 state placers, seven state runners up, but no state champions, should be contending for sectional championships up and down the lineup.
Heavyweight Billy Miller is not only a favorite to win a sectional title, but also the school’s first state championship. Also advancing to the district tournament at Alliance could be Collin Dees (113), Aaran Gessic (132), Alec Schenk (160), Ryan Sill (170) and Evan Nichols (195). Brady Toth (106), Cory Gramberg (126) and Josh Romano (132) may also stand a shot to advance to the district at Alliance.
The Falcons are an intriguing bunch. They lack the sheer volume of wrestlers to contend for the team championship, but they have enough good wrestlers to raise some eyebrows.
Joey Baitt (126) and Ricker Maple (138) should be high on the medal stand, despite wrestling in extremely difficult weight classes. Rocky Tripodi (170) and Blake Perry (182) have been solid all season and should extend their seasons at another week. Troy Stitt (160) is a good candidate to join them.
The two who have the best chances to advance for Conneaut bookend the lineup. Alesha Zappitella (106) is fighting to become just the second girl to wrestle at the state tournament and Billy Post (220) has been stellar all season. R.J. Nelson (160), C.J. Rice (170) and Austin Sherman (152) all have reasonably good opportunities to advance.
Dakota Brininger (132), Tyler Cross (145) and Matt Kozlowski (220) have chances to move on for Geneva.
Tanner Perry (106) and Kiel Dickey (113) represent Edgewood’s best chance to keep wrestling another week.
The Mustangs and Lakers might wind up battling each other for the sectional crown, or one of the rivals may end up helping the other to win the title. Either way, both will be contenders.
Glenn Zaller (182) and Sean Szitas (152) have long-range goals of returning to Columbus for Grand Valley and should be in the top four. Travis Pelles (138), Heath Martin (120) and Jason Takacs (heavyweight) will all be in the hunt to do the same.
Zach Campbell (132) is fighting to reach the state tourney for a third straight year and would be a virtual lock to advance to the district at Garfield Heights, except he’s been battling an injury all season and has been in and out of the lineup. Even so, Campbell should advance. With a chance to join him are Kris Leonard (126), Cody Miller (138) and Kegen Hoopes (106).
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.