By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
The 15th annual Star Beacon-Mike Scully Senior Classic was a way for the area’s wrestlers to let off a bit of steam after all the hard work and preparation they’d put in for the last six months.
It was also a chance to show off just a bit Monday night at Lakeside Gymnasium.
It isn’t often a wrestling fan will see matches where both grapplers are scoring in double digits, but that was the norm in this event for this season’s special seniors.
Dakota Brininger of Geneva and Ricker Maple of Jefferson got things rolling after Nathan Jernigan of Andover got everybody going with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.
In a series of gymnastic tumbles over the course of six minutes, Maple managed to come out on top in a 19-16 match that showcased each wrestler’s athletic ability.
Throws and twisting moves always seemed to have their endings with the wrestlers on their feet or in position for their next moves.
Jefferson teammates Rocky Tripodi and Blake Perry followed that with the battle of Falcons.
Tripodi, in his dashing black fishnet stockings, and Perry, in a beautiful shade of black and yellow striped leggings, went back and forth in a superb routine, almost by accident, Tripodi got Blake into a less-than-serious predicament with an elbow drop to record a very loose “pin” in 5:46.
Cody Ellis of Pymatuning Valley and Otis Conel of Lakeside were next on the list, and while not going at each other with much serious intent, they did show some very good wrestling holds before Conel came out on top, 10-9.
In an evening when volunteeer official Roger Sherman may have put himself into a position to file a workmen’s comp claim for shoulder problems after signalling one point for escape so often, Conel did score exactly that to win his match just as the six minutes were up.
For Conel, it was a good time to recover after joining friends and family over the weekend in Columbus as his younger brother, Kyle, came up a match short of a state title.
“It was really cool to see my younger brother, Kyle, wrestling at state,” Conel said. “It is something special to remember for a long time. I had a good season and career, too. I’ve looked at some offers to wrestle in college, but I haven’t made up my mind yet on what I want to do.”
Then came what may have proven to be the most unique battle of the night. Conneaut teammates Alesha Zappitella, who toiled at 106 pounds all season, and Billy Post, who was at the other of the spectrum at 220.
Zappitella, who had a stellar career featuring 142 wins and four district tournament appearances, felt justifyably proud of her efforts while keeping a positive spin on her matchup with Post, a state placer.
“I have had a pretty good career wrestling, I’d say above average,” Zappitella said. “Billy and I are really good friends. They call us the ‘bookends’ because we are at opposite ends of the lineup, but we really care about each other as teammates and friends.”
“We look out for each other,” he said. “I was glad to have wrestled a kid who finished second in the state. It’s an honor to get that far in such intense competition. Tonight, it was just fun to show some moves with Alesha and have a good time.
“The reason for a night like this is to relax, especially after a tough weekend in Columbus, have some fun, and enjoy ourselves.”
The evening closed out with Maple beating Austin Sherman of Conneaut, in a 12-9 decision that featured some slick athletic moves, some almost purposely in slow motion.
The sport itself is a great way to prepare for other sports as well.
“This year went by a lot faster than others,” Ellis said. “I broke an ankle in football, but was fortunate enough to heal in time to wrestle. I fell short of some of my goals, but it was really a lot of fun with my team and for my teammates and family.”
His coach, David Miller, agreed.
“I can still remember Cody from his first varsity practices,” Miller said. “I remember when he moved here from Alabama. I remember the Alabama twang he had. He just worked so hard. I’m really going to miss him. He was a big part of making our program so solid while providing a foundation for the younger kids.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.