The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

February 26, 2014

Powerhouse Perry contender for team title in Division II

Perry wrestling coach Dave Rowan wants his wrestlers to dream big. He believes that’s the way to reach greatness.

“That’s what we preach,” Rowan said. “We talk about setting dreams. Everybody’s dream should be to be a state champion. Somehow, they’ve got to be inspired. You have to have dreams to do something special.

“If you tell them they’re going to be average, they’re not going to be state champs, they shouldn’t even come in the room.”

To that end, Rowan treats every man on his roster the same.

“They’re all the same,” he said. “(Undefeated heavyweight and defending state champion) Billy (Miller) has as good a chance as anybody. That’s how I coach. We try to preach that everybody has the same opportunities. It’s up to them if they want to take advantage.

“I treat them all the same whether they’re a state champ or JV wrestler.”

The Pirates will chase their biggest dreams, on the both the team and individual levels, at the 77th Ohio State Wrestling Tournament starting Thursday with the opening of the Division II event at 4:10 p.m.

“I treat them all the same whether they’re a state champ or JV wrestler.”

The Pirates will chase their biggest dreams, on the both the team and individual levels, at the 77th Ohio State Wrestling Tournament starting Thursday with the opening of the Division II event at 4:10 p.m.

Brady Toth (106), Collin Dees (120), Aaran Gessic (132), Alec Schenk (182), Kyle Kremiller (195) and Miller will chase those dreams for Perry.

Joining the Pirates are senior Joey Baitt (132) of Jefferson and sophomore Isaiah Ngiraingas (120) of Conneaut.

The Pirates had dreamed of claiming state titles in the State Dual Tournament. They fell just shy in each of the last two seasons. A state team championship would be a nice replacement prize.

“After the state duals, we had a team meeting,” Rowan said. “We talked about not reaching our goal and how that happens in life. We talked about how what matters is how we come back after not reaching that goal.

“Every dream is not going to come true, but we have to look ahead to the next dream. Hopefully, they’re hungry and we’ll come back and win the state team title and the individual state titles.”

Standing in Perry’s way, however, is D-II power St. Paris Graham, who is chasing a bit of history. The team is in pursuit of its 16th state championship and 14th in a row. Should it succeed, it will surpass Lakewood St. Ed’s state-record 13 straight titles between 1997 and 2009.

The Falcons qualified wrestlers in the first 12 weights and all of them wrestled for district titles. Eight succeeded.

“I think one of the team goals is to do the best we can at the state tournament,” Rowan said. “We’re not looking to take 2nd. We’re looking to win. That’s the ultimate goal and that’s the way it will be until the day I retire.

“You’ve got to have dreams right? If you don’t have dreams, you’ll never accomplish everything.”

Toth (31-16) will take on Justin Stickley (39-4) of St. Paris Graham, Dees (35-9) has Chance Haynes (22-6) of Delaware Buckeye Valley and Gessic (41-5) opens with Chandler Golec (18-18) of Urichsville Claymont. Schenk (38-6) faces Jordan Leasure (47-3) of Amanda Clearcreek, Kremiller (35-9) battles James Ritchie (26-11) of Carlisle and Miller (40-0) has Brandon Pahl (47-6) of Vincent Warren.      

Baitt has won more than 150 matches in his career in one of the toughest weight classes in any division in the state, and has dreamed of wrestling on the mats at Value City Arena every step of the way. He will finally get that chance.

“There are a lot of guys who have wrestled for me,” Jefferson coach Tom Avsec said. “A guy like Joey, to see him finally accomplish that, it was pretty emotional. I was so happy for him. All he wanted was to get through the last couple years. He was sort of by himself this years.

“He was friends with those guys last year — Ricker (Maple), Blake (Perry), Rocky (Tripodi) and all of those guys. His best friends were gone from the school (because of graduation). They were a close group. I know how hard it was for Joey.”

A season ago, Baitt had about as good a year as a wrestler could have and not make the state tournament.

“Last year was such a disappointment for him,” Avsec said. “He only lost 4 matches, but those 4 matches kept him from the state tournament.

“On Saturday, he figured he had to do this and he gave it his best shot.”

Baitt won’t just be happy to be in the arena. He wants more from his trip south.

“It hit me that I made it,” he said. “Then I wasn’t settled with that. I want more now. I don’t want to settle for just making it to state. I want to be on the podium.”

Baitt (45-7) will open with Bret Yutzy (45-4) of Plain City Jonathan Alder.

Conneaut coach Matt Bidwell had made a habit of saying Ngiraingas had yet to reach his potential this season. In qualifying for the dance, he finally reached that potential.

“He’s definitely finally getting there,” Bidwell said. “He’s peaking at the right time of the season. I think he can only grow as a wrestler.”

Ngiraingas got better as the season progressed and a good reason for that was he took control of his own destiny.

“He was one, as the season went on, who turned it on at practice. He worked harder. He drilled harder. I pushed him, but that’s him. He was the one who needed to have that work ethic.”

Ngiraingas (26-13) will take on Dustin Warner (28-8) of Urichsville Claymont.

“(We know) very little,” Bidwell said.

“I always liked that approach. I tell every kid not to worry about who they were wrestling. Just go out and do the best you can personally.”

Bidwell has advised his pupil to enjoy the moment, but not too much. After all, he is pretty young.

“Saturday after he won, I told him to enjoy it Saturday night and Sunday. Then we were back it. He should definitely enjoy the experience, not many can say they got to state tournament, let alone as a sophomore.”

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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