Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
March 9, 2017
Kenston 106-pound freshman Nick Nastasi has been putting a minute clinic on his opponents all season, but, at the culmination of the Division I Hoover District wrestling tournament, it was the Bomber grappler who needed medical attention on Saturday in North Canton.
After his final match, Nastasi didn’t bother sticking around for the awards ceremony, and it wasn’t because he didn’t want to. With a pin and a pair of tech falls on his tournament resume, Nastasi punched his ticket to the big dance.
But there was no time to pop the cork out of the champagne bottle.
“Obviously, I was sick,” he said. “I actually didn’t even go on the podium to get my award. Right after my last match, I went to some minute clinic right down the road, and they said I had strep (throat).
“It felt good knowing that I was still going through to state, and fighting through the sickness, but I wanted to get antibiotics as quick as possible so I could get better for the state tournament.”
Nastasi (34-5) opened the tournament by pinning Shaker Heights freshman William Faust (17-17) in less than a minute – 45 seconds to be exact – and then put a 16-0 tech fall on Barberton freshman Michael Kelley (31-8) in the quarterfinals.
Kelley was a Massillon Tigertown Invitational champion and a Cuyahoga Heights Redskin Invitational runner-up for the Magics this season, but he wasn’t pulling anything out of the hat against Nastasi on Friday.
“I mean, my first match I figured would be easier, but I wasn’t expecting to tech fall Michael Kelley,” Nastasi said.” I just got on top and did my tilts and my moves and got my points. Once I got on top, I worked his wrist and did my stuff and kept raking up the points.”
Returning the following day for the semifinals, Nastasi squared off against Brecksville’s state No. 2-ranked freshman Julian Tagg (39-2), according to Inter Mat Ohio Wrestling, and lost a 23-8 tech fall with 15 seconds remaining in the third period.
In the championship bout, Tagg went on to put a 17-1 tech fall on Aurora’s state No. 16-ranked sophomore Kyle Petersen (36-10) at the 4:27 mark of the match.
“Yeah, he’s really fast,” Nastasi said of Tagg. “I don’t think my head was really in the game for that match. I used to wrestle with him a lot at Brecksville, and, going into that match, I don’t think I had enough confidence, and he kind of took it to me.”
Kenston first-year head coach Ricky Deubel provided Nastasi with some brain energy for the next match, however, the 106-pounder said.
“Ricky knew the kid I was wrestling, and he went over some stuff and told me to stay focused, because that was the match that mattered,” Nastasi said. “I knew that, if I won that match, I was going to states. So I kept my head in the game.”
In his consolation semifinal, Nastasi didn’t bother messing around, putting a 15-0 tech fall on Austintown Fitch sophomore Hunter Helminiak (27-21) in just 2:22, punching his ticket to the big dance, after the Bombers failed to get anyone out a year ago.
“Yeah, that felt great,” Nastasi said. “You know, making it to Columbus, that’s been one of my long-term goals all year. And finally to finish that match to send me to Columbus felt great.”
Ranked No. 11 in Division I, Nastasi went on to lock horns with Louisville’s state No. 10-ranked Andy Graham – the lone 106-pound senior in the tournament – in the third-place bout.
Graham escaped the down position in the third period to force an overtime, 1-1, before he squeaked past Nastasi for a 3-1 sudden victory.
“I was winded, and my throat was killing me, and I was having a tough time breathing,” Nastasi said. “So I went out there and gave it all I had. But it obviously wasn’t enough. I lost in overtime. He just shot on me and took me down, and I was too winded to defend it. I was really gassed.”
Making his big-dance debut at 5:40 p.m. March 9 at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Nastasi will open up the state tournament against Cincinnati LaSalle’s state No. 1-ranked sophomore Lucas Byrd (46-1), who placed seventh at 106 pounds last season.
“I have a tough road,” Nastasi said. “I’m just going to go down there and leave everything I have on the mat and wrestle my hardest. And whatever happens, happens.”
Kenston had six other grapplers at the district tournament, and all of them won at least one bout.
Specifically, 132-pound senior Chris Pavone (38-6) finished fifth to be a state alternate, while 160-pound sophomore Joe Koplow (31-11) advanced to the championship semifinal, before taking sixth.
After losing his semifinal bout by fall against Brecksville’s state No. 5-ranked sophomore Marco Regalbuto (31-7), Pavone went on to defeat Maple Heights senior Giovanni Rasheed (31-5) by a 5-1 decision and Medina Junior Tyler Wissel (31-12) by a 3-1 sudden victory to advance to the consolation semifinal.
In his go-to bout to states, Pavone dropped a 5-2 decision against Ellet’s state No. 15-ranked senior Skyler Decatur, before going on to win his fifth-place bout, 5-2.
Meanwhile, Koplow lost his go-to bouts by falls against Brunswick state No. 1-ranked senior Nick Kiussis (37-3) and Wadsworth’s state No. 3-ranked senior Cody Surratt (36-8).
Perhaps one of the biggest upsets of the tournament, however, Kenston 126-pound senior Carl Richter (30-15) defeated Medina state No. 13-ranked junior Ryan Wissel (34-12) by a 6-2 decision in his opening bout.
Richter lost his next two matches, while Wissell went on to win his next four consolation bouts to punch his ticket to states.
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