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Bomber grapplers defend WRC banner

Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
February 16, 2017
Tony Lange

The Kenston matmen had their hopes of a repeat Western Reserve Conference banner hanging thin with a 12-point deficit entering the finals of the eight-school tournament on Saturday at Madison High School.

The host Blue Streaks stood atop the leader board, but Kenston 113-pound sophomore Peyton Roth, 152-pound senior Brad Verbic and 195-pound senior Malon Patterson were seeking blood in their placement bouts – Verbic going for gold and Roth and Patterson wrestling for third.

Not only did all three Bomber matmen defeat their Madison opponents, but Roth and Verbic executed pins to grab two bonus points apiece.

Verbic, in particular, was able to capture his second individual WRC title with pins in all three of his matches, including a first-period fall against Madison junior Brody Arrundale in his championship bout.

“Not only getting a pin in the finals itself was big but also beating a Madison kid, because it meant one less win they had in the finals,” Verbic said. “I think all of our wrestlers in the finals wrestled tough, and that’s what really helped us come out on top. I can’t really say that my win did it or any other guy’s win did it. We did it as a team, and we all stepped up to make it happen.”

Behind three champions, nine placement-bout victories and 17 pins overall, the Kenston boys defended their WRC tournament crown with 183 points to beat runner-up Madison by 4 1/2 points and third-place Mayfield by 20 points.

Bomber 145-pound sophomore Dylan Sosnoswsky also executed a pin in his third-place bout, defeating Willoughby South’s Louie Preseren in 2:10, while Kenston 106-pound freshman Nick Nastasi and 132-pound senior Chris Pavone joined Verbic as WRC champs.

“It was the last competition before sectionals, districts and states, so it was a good tournament and felt good,” Pavone said. “All of our wrestlers got some good points, and then we had some matches against Madison that we needed to win, and we won them. We just wrestled good, and we won it as a team.”

In the same fashion as first-year head coach Ricky Deubel and assistant coach Mike Triscaro did 13 years ago – both 2004 Kenston graduates – Pavone and Verbic end their senior campaigns as individual WRC champions with back-to-back team titles.

While the Bomber matmen won the league title by just three points last season, Saturday marked their first team trophy under their new coaches.

“That was definitely cool to win our first tournament with them,” Nastasi said. “Ricky is always telling us the way we’re going to win is by getting those bonus points and that those bonus points are what count, and I think those bonus points are what won it for us.”

While Kenston had six guys in title bouts last season, four of them graduated. The only returning champion was Verbic, who won his 2016 title at 145 pounds.

At 152 pounds on Saturday, he was seeking his first tournament crown of his senior season.

“I wouldn’t say pressure necessarily,” Verbic said about defending his crown and going after his first title of the year. “It was definitely something I was hoping to do, but, if an opponent came out and beat me, it is what it is. But I wasn’t stressing about that. I was just willing to go out and open up and work on my stuff. Everything is in preparation for the tournament at the end of the year.”

Keeping loose and staying aggressive, Verbic took his shots and was able to work arm bars to execute pins in all three of his matches, he said.

“I can’t say it was necessarily my strength that allowed me to do that,” he said. “I mean, certainly I can’t say it didn’t help, but I can’t say it did help at the same, because skill beats strength every time.

“It felt good to finally actually get a tournament win this year. I haven’t had any this year. I think I had two or three last year. But this year, this is my only one. Maybe I can take the momentum and come out on top at sectionals.”

At 132 pounds, meanwhile, Pavone moved up two weight classes from his third-place WRC finish from a year ago.

Ranked No. 19 among Division I wrestlers in the state, according to Boro Fan Ohio, Pavone locked horns with No. 17-ranked Willoughby South senior Lancer Hansen in the semifinals with a 3-1 overtime win that went in Pavone’s favor.

“So we both got an escape in the first three rounds, and then he took a shot (in overtime),” Pavone said. “He got in deep on me, and I did some turnaround thing and did some funk and got behind him for two. I don’t know what I did, honestly. It came down to the wire.”

Considering Hansen won the 132-pound Solon Comet Classic crown on Dec. 3, a tournament in which Pavone finished third, Saturday’s semifinal triumph was one of Pavone’s best of the season, he said.

Then in the finals bout, Pavone won a 5-0 decision against Riverside’s Alex French, riding out the Beaver grappler for the entire second period.

And at 106 pounds, Nastasi had a bye, won his semifinal match by pin and then butted heads with Chardon freshman Jake Hamulak for the third time this season.

“I think he probably did,” Nastasi said about Hamulak having a chip on his shoulder from a 16-0 tech fall the previous time the two met during the title bout of the Kenton Invitational Tournament on Dec. 30.

In the WRC tournament, Nastasi improved to 3-0 against his rival with a 10-3 decision. Two of the points Nastasi rendered were by penalties.

“I think we both know each other’s style pretty good,” Nastasi said. “So, at that point, I think we both go out there, and whoever works harder or whoever attacks more is going to win, because we both know there’s no secrets anymore.”

Entering the postseason ranked No. 11 among Division I wrestlers statewide, according to Inter Mat Ohio Wrestling, Nastasi said he’s focused on fine-tuning his craft leading up to the 11-team sectional tournament on Feb. 25 at his home gym.

“Right now, it’s not like we’re going to learn any more new moves,” he said. “Whatever you know is what you know. So right now I’m just trying to sharpen up my toolbox and make sure my moves are sharp for the postseason.”

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