High Noon at the Schott- Division I Weight Class 106-138 Previews
2010 was without question the most riveting Division I state finals I’ve ever witnessed, with drama in every match unfolding as the Wadsworth Grizzlies hunted down the St. Edward Eagles. Fast forward to 2011, and we saw the least interesting state finals I can recall. With a talent thing senior class in Division I- the good wrestlers that remained seemed to avoid each other by almost a “gentleman’s agreement” in the preseason, and what few good match-ups did seem to be in the works were foiled by upsets. I mean- Shivener vs. Burrows at 135 didn’t exactly make anyone forget Steve St. John vs. Roger Chandler in 1991, nor did Lemmon vs. Delande remind anyone of Bolyard vs. Yetzer in 2001. Say what you want about the disastrous weight class changes (and they are awful), but we have some highly interesting scenarios playing out this year in the 106-138 lb. weight classes. What follows is a roadmap to the Division I state wrestling tournament:
Ohio Wrestling Site 106 lbs. Preview
We open with one of the most interesting weights in Division I. Back in the day- the opening weight of 103 (and before that, 98) was the “weak sister” of wrestling weight classes. No more. The shift of the weight class to 106 with the two pound weight allowance has made this weight class 108 for all intents and purpose, and the net effect is that it’s basically become a combined weight of the old 103 and 112’s fields. No question, if this was still a true 103 with no weight allowance, half of these guys would not be at this weight, and as a result, you have a loaded field. Even with Armando Torres out with an injury before Districts, you still have nine or ten very good competitors in this weight class.
The upper half of the bracket is reasonably straightforward. State Runner-up David Bavery should clear one of the quarterbrackets with relative ease. He does have returning state placer Gutierrez in the first round, but he won a match-up between them 14-2 at Medina. A great quarterfinal match-up will take place between LJ Bentley and Taleb Rahmani. Bentley has improved greatly in the St. Edward room over the course of the year and is far better than his #13 record in the Brakeman Report would suggest. As an example, he lost in overtime to Davis of Clay in the first dual meets of the year, and just beat him 12-1 at Districts. Rahmani can run hot and cold at times, but he does have a number of great wins including over Burcher, Mancini, and Riley. Rahmani won 9-0 over Bentley two years ago at Junior High State, and for that reason I am going with him in this match-up, but no question Bentley has closed the gap.
In the bottom half, there are as many as five possible finalists, almost all of whom have never faced each other. Assad is a cadet national finalist who missed the first half of the season due to injury, and the layoff showed when he opened the season at Bill Dies. Mancini, Noble, and Riley are the three upperclassmen veterans who wrestled part of the season at 113. The size and strength alone of all three is likely to give underclassmen like Rahmani and Bentley difficulties (both wrestled 90 at Junior High States last year). Mancini is a quick pin specialist who is not only the most dangerous wrestler in the field, but who can also be very dominant. The biggest challenge for him seems to be translating his dominance against “very good” wrestlers to wins against “great” wrestlers. Riley has been particularly impressive since dropping to 106- including a major of Rahmani at Sectionals (reversed last week by a 5-4 score) a major of Nace, a pin against Davis, and a win over the excellent Keller of Delta. He’s my pick to make the finals by the narrowest of margins. Noble is a 2010 State Placer who has won by five twice over 2x state qualifier Ziegler, but he had some shaky losses up at 113. Even Wimer is a possibility that I would not have considered before Districts, but there he went into overtime with Rahmani and had impressive wins over Gutierrez and Nace.
Ohio Wrestling Site Final Projections: David Bavery dec. Dakota Riley
Most Underrated in Brakeman Report: LJ Bentley, #13. Bentley is a almost a certain placer and a possible finalist in my view.
1. David Bavery
2. Dakota Riley
3. Austin Assad
4. Nick Mancini
5. Taleb Rahmani
6. LJ Bentley
7. Eddie Noble
8. Josh Wimer
Ohio Wrestling Site 113 lbs. Preview
Aaron Assad-shown here against Tommy Zeigler- hopes that the move from Chanel to Brecksville leads him up one spot on the podium. Photo Credit: Cleveland.com
I said at the beginning of the year that this weight class is a three man battle, and that remains true today- with Brandon Thompson, Alex Moore, and Aaron Assad all in the hunt for a title. However, the title picture between the three is just as unclear as it was then. Moore has two wins over Assad, but they were razor-thin, and Thompson also beat Assad last year (though Assad has beaten Thompson in freestyle in the past). Thompson has been very dominant in Ohio, but has not yet faced any of the top seven this year and was unspectacular against out of state competition at Powerade. At the end of the day, there are three factors that make me go with Moore:
1. He is a huge 113, which always helps on Saturday night (not that Thompson is exactly a small 113).
2. A belief that it’s always easier to win that first title than to defend;
3. Most importantly, either Assad or Thompson will have to defeat both of the other two of the “big three” to get to the finals, whereas Moore has a (relatively) clear path to the finals.
Next best is the quartet of Anthony Milano, Jacob Spearman, Richie Screptock, and Ryan Hornack. Milano is far better than his #15 ranking from Brakeman suggests and he is one of the most improved wrestlers in the state. Screptock is a freshman mat wrestling specialist who always seems to pull the surprise win, most recently over Hornack at Districts. Spearman is very solid on his feet and in my mind, one of the most underrated wrestlers in the state and the best of this group. Hornack has been up and down this year, but if he can turn it on this weekend the way he did at state last year he will be ok.
Ohio Wrestling Site Final Projections: Alex Moore dec. Brandon Thompson
Most underrated in the Brakeman Report: Anthony Milano, #15. Clearly Milano has benefitted from having Max Byrd as a workout partner and could crack the top four.
1. Alex Moore
2. Brandon Thompson
3. Aaron Assad
4. Jacob Spearman
5. Anthony Milano
6. Richie Screptock
7. Ryan Hornack
8. Tommy Zeigler
Ohio Wrestling Site 120lbs. Preview
This is the first weight where things get much more predictable. George Dicamillo is considered the best 120 not only in Ohio, but in the entire nation. Dicamillo is like a Russian Chessmaster when it comes to technique and strategy. Yes, Ivan McClay will wrestle him tough for what seems like the 800th time, but at the end of the day, Dicamillo does not blow matches that he should win. Should Max Byrd upset McClay (unlikely, but possible) we will likely see Dicamillo open up and win a much more entertaining state final.
I also look for a high place finish from Matt Canon of Elyria here- one of the most improved wrestlers in the state. Canon has big wins over Matos and Heffernan (by fall) the last two weeks.
Ohio Wrestling Site Final Projections: George Dicamillo dec. Ivan McClay
Most Underrated in Brakeman Report: Nobody. I think he’s pretty much dead-on for the top ten guys, except that Windsor is ranked a bit too high. Perhaps Zollinger of Wadsworth. because he was not ranked at all.
1. George Dicamillo
2. Ivan McClay
3. Max Byrd
4. Matt Canon
5. Collin Heffernan
6. Marcus Windsor
7. Mark Matos
8. Reed Shump
Ohio Wrestling Site 126 lbs. Preview
This is the third weight in a row where Ohio can boast arguably the nation’s best wrestler (Tomasello at 113 and Dicamillo at 120 being the other two of course). Dean Heil has put up one of the most impressive seasons an Ohio wrestler has ever had, in terms of the number of top quality national wrestlers beaten, highlighted by Ironman where he beat the nation’s top three ranked wrestlers at the time in the same day. He should defeat all opposition here in convincing fashion.
In the other semi, Michael Screptock or Trevor Fiorucci will make the finals- which one is anyone’s guess. This is the classic takedown artist versus mat wrestler bout- Fiorucci (the takedown artist) is a three-time state placer and 2010 finalist- Screptock (the mat wrestler) surprised many by taking 4th last year in a tough weight, but he’s proven this year that 2011 was no fluke. I am taking Fiorucci by the narrowest of margins- his convincing wins over Murdock and Bast put him over the top in my view.
Cobey Fehr is actually the 2nd best guy here in my eyes (beating Screptock at Brecksville and beating Fiorucci over the summer as I understand it) but unfortunately, he faces Heil in the semis. Fehr was no superstar coming into high school, but just seems to get better from season to season, and as this season goes he gets that much more dominant- with wins over Spangler, Montgomery (up a weight), Screptock, and Kowalski to his credit. An excellent college wrestling prospect, I look for him to take a solid 3rd.
Ohio Wrestling Site Final Projections: Dean Heil major decisions Trevor Fiorucci
Most Underrated in Brakeman Report: Tyler Ziegler, #13. Ziegler has lost a lot of close bouts to top guys, but his great showing at Super 32 in the preseason tells me that he is capable of big things. Also #7 Michael Screptock is a potential finalist in my opinion.
1. Dean Heil
2. Trevor Fiorucci
3. Cobey Fehr
4. Michael Screptock
5. Ryan Murdock
6. Tyler Ziegler
7. Jordan Branham
8. Brandon Jones
Ohio Wrestling Site 132 lbs. Preview
This is the weight that everyone is waiting for- with an outstanding trio of competitors, all of whom are the nation’s best, and a deep field behind them.
My pick is Edgar Bright. A State Runner-up and cadet national finalist a year ago, Bright has elevated his game to an entirely different level this year. Not only has he beaten Squire twice now, he owns a close win over state champ Joey Ward. Even more impressive, he beat Alex Cisneros at Ironman- Cisneros is about to become the 2nd 4x California State Champ in history- and all but defeated Mark Grey (he was completely robbed) in the Blair-St. Edward dual. Grey is ranked #1 in the nation at 132 lbs. and going into this season was considered the nation’s top wrestler by some. A young junior, Bright just keeps getting better and better, and in my opinion, he is one of the best collegiate wrestling prospects in Ohio regardless of weight class and grade.
Like Bright, Joey Ward has improved by leaps and bounds the past two years. Not even a state placer two years ago, he took his lumps early last year but pulled one of the biggest upsets of the tournament by beating Squire in the state finals. However, this year he has proven it was not a fluke with great performances at Super 32 and Ironman, and since then, only seems to be getting better, with an 8-2 win over Brent Fickell and a technical fall of State Placer Denlinger at Districts. Ward is outstanding in all three positions, but going on their prior match and looking at their seasons in the totality, I have to go with Bright by the narrowest of margins. I think Bright is just a bit better in neutral and gets the only takedown of the bout.
Kagan Squire is a solid #3 choice, but I just can’t see him winning it. That’s not a reflection on him so much as how good I believe Bright and Ward have become. Squire beat multiple time state champions who were two years older like Gus Sako and Ty Mitch all the way back when he was a freshman, and has since won cadet and flo-national titles over some of the nation’s best. If he finishes his career without a state title, he will be one of the best ever to not win one, an honor he would surely hope to avoid. However, beating Ward and Bright back to back is a tall order, even for him.
After that, mat-wrestling specialist Montgomery is a solid #4 choice. The field is very deep behind Montgomery, and the names listed at #5-8 are virtually interchangeable, along with Isaac Bast and Logan Stope.
Ohio Wrestling Site Final Projections: Edgar Bright dec . Joey Ward
Most Underrated in Brakeman Report:#7 Conine perhaps? But really nobody, it’s a very accurate projection in my opinion.
1. Edgar Bright
2. Joey Ward
3. Kagan Squire
4. Nick Montgomery
5. Jacob Conine
6. Jordan Victor
7. Drew McDougle
8. Matt Denlinger
Ohio Wrestling Site 138 lbs. Preview
Michael Labry is considered the favorite by many to win the state title at 138 lbs.
Photo Credit: Twinsburg Bulletin
To me, this is the weight class which will be the most interesting of the 42 weights, surpassing even 132 and the incredibly tough Division II 145 lb. weight class. Reason being, you have seven different wrestlers here that are good enough to win a state title. Five of them have placed in the top four already at some point in their careers, while another is a 2x state placer, and the final one has become one of the most improved wrestlers in Ohio this year. Finally, none of them has made it through the season unscathed against their Division I rivals. Here’s a breakdown of their topsy-turvy results against each other thus far.
Mitch Newhouse – (3-3) split with Barber, split with Hammer, beat Forrider, lost to Labry
Nick Barber- (3-1) split with Newhouse, beat Amenta twice
Labry – (4-1) split with Ryan, beat Amenta, beat Hammer, beat Newhouse
Forrider – (2-1) Beat Ryan twice, lost to Newhouse.
Ryan – (2-3) split with Labry, win Amenta, lost to Forrider twice
Hammer – (1-3) split with Newhouse, lost to Labry, lost to Amenta
Amenta – (1-4) lost to Barber twice, lost to Labry, lost to Ryan, beat Hammer.
At first glance, it would seem like Labry and Barber are the best choices, followed by Forrider. However, I have to look at results outside of their series as well, and when I do, I arrive at a different choice: Mitch Newhouse. In the past two years, Newhouse has beaten three kids who are top ten caliber nationally- Dean Heil, Steve Spearman of PA and Ironman and Super 32 Runner-up Austin Matthews of PA. Technically he lost the last match when he was called for a highly controversial slam while getting the winning takedown in overtime- but for my purposes, I look at this as a win (it’s not like Matthews could exactly brag about how he won by getting thrown down to the mat too hard or something).
Michael Labry also has some national credentials- making the 2010 cadet national finals and beating 4x Minnesota State Champ Dakota Trom. The fact that he’s beaten four of the super seven says a lot for him, as does his 15-10 win over Newhouse. Labry is very difficult to take down, very consistent, and very mistake-free. He was a hair away from beating Squire and making the finals last year. A question mark for him is size- he started the year at 132, and without question would be there if not for the three-headed monster known as Bright/Ward/Squire.
Noah Forrider is an interesting possibility after placing twice at state and putting together a highly impressive season. The thing that makes me reluctant to pick him, however, is that he’s only beaten one of the super seven (Jake Ryan, whom he’s beaten twice) and lost to the other one he faced (Newhouse). However, he’s been very dominant outside of their series and his most recent win over Ryan (9-4) made a statement.
I do feel that in the past few weeks, I’ve been able to discern a little separation in the “super seven” with Newhouse, Labry, Forrider, and Barber being a half-step ahead of the other three in my opinion. Then again, Hammer has struggled recently, but defeated Newhouse easily at M.I.T., Ryan beat Amenta and Labry in the same day at Brecksville, and Amenta was 3rd in the state a year ago and is due for some close bouts to go his way, so who knows. Any of the seven could climb to the top of the podium which is what makes it so interesting.
Ohio Wrestling Site Final Projections: Mitch Newhouse dec. Michael Labry
Most Underrated in Brakeman Report: #5 Labry, who is probably the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing despite my choice of Newhouse.
1. Mitch Newhouse
2. Michael Labry
3. Noah Forrider
4. Nick Barber
5. Jake Ryan
6. Angelo Amenta
7. Matt Hammer
8. Adam Sams