In the first competition of 2020, the Saint Ignatius wrestling team showcased a world of improvement.
For the first time, the Wildcats won the Minutemen Duals. Hosted by Revere High School, the event brings strong teams from the area to Richfield for a team tournament. The Wildcats often attend and perform well, but this marks the first time the Mat Cats rolled through undefeated.
The Clevelanders swept through the competition, defeating Marlington, Revere, Tuslaw, West Geauga, and North Olmsted en route to a 5-0 record and the Minutemen Duals Team Championship.
The Wildcats looked like a team on the mission from the start. Timmy Putka and Johnny Novak wasted little time in beginning the day on a good note. The team's 106 and 113 pounders notched pins in the first period of the opener against Marlington. Grayson McLellan followed up by earning a victory at 120, notching a 5-2 win, only allowing one takedown.
But then the Dukes started to make a comeback.
Jack Bush and Anthony Santagata lost by pin, and Calum Campolieti dropped a 15-4 major decision. Suddenly, the Dukes held a 16-15 lead.
In stepped Sam Infante and Jarell Young. The Wildcats' reps at 145 and 152 tallied quick pins, restablishing a 27-16 lead. Then the two squads traded wins. Evan Arko lost via fall at 160, but Tommy buckles won by a second-minute pin at 170. Entering 182, the Wildcats clung to a 39-22 lead.
Then the Wildcats' heavyweights sealed the deal. Andrew Chime pinned his foe at 182, Josh Dinya captured a 5-3 decision at 195, Carter Zimmerman won via forfeit at 220, and Patrick Clink wrapped it up with a wonderful pin at 285. The 4 straight wins catapulted the Cats to a 54-22 victory and second-round match with Revere.
The battle with the Minutemen proved to be a back-and-forth affair. Things started at 113 with Novak quickly opening the showdown with a conquest by pin. Joey Novak did not get as lucky, losing by fall. Jack Bush retook the lead with a forfeit win, and Campolieti added to it with a pin after a 5-3 Santagata defeat. Sam Infante's 6-point loss set the margin at 18-15 Cats entering 152.
Once again, Young did his job at 152, earning a pin win. Arko fought hard at 160, but lost by pin again. Tommy Buckles got the points back at 170 with a rapid fall just 36 seconds into his bout. But Revere refused to go away, staying in it with a 6-3 win over Andrew Chime.
Enter Dinya and Zimmerman. The Wildcats' 182 and 195-pound grapplers rang a death knell to any hopes of a Revere comeback, tabbing back-to-back wins by pin. The two clutch wins put things just about out of reach at 42-24. Clink suffered a loss at 285, but Timmy Putka put a bow on the win with a pin at 25 seconds.
The 48-30 win over the hosts sent the Cats into the third contest with Tuslaw with heaps of confidence.
Joey Novak kicked off the match vs. the Mustangs with a bang. The younger Novak tallied a pin in 1:45, opening things up with 6 points. But Tuslaw responded with a vengeance, dealing Bush and Santagata two losses to steal a 9-6 lead. Not to be outdone, Campolieti snagged a quick pin to retake the lead at 12-9. The Wildcats never looked back.
Infante kept the ball rolling with a dominant 17-0 victory by tech fall and Young furthered the lead with a pin in only 25 seconds at 152. The Wildcats held a 23-9 lead entering 160. Arko dropped his match by fall, as Tuslaw threatened a comeback. Even after Buckles won a forfeit win, Chime suffered a defeat via fall at 3:45. The Mustangs were sticking around, trailing only 29-21.
But then Dinya dropped the hammer. The veteran won with a great win at 195, and a Zimmerman forfeit win at 220 made the win official. Clink and Timmy Putka closed things out with a win by pin and a 6-0 decision, respectively, setting the final margin at 50-27.
West Geauga awaited the Wildcats in the next match. The Wolverines went toe-to-toe with the Wildcats for the duration of the heavyweight bout.
Bush suffered a 16-6 defeat to open things up, but Santagata righted the ship with a 138-8 win. Campolieti grabbed the lead with a 17-2 tech fall, an impressive conquest. But the Wolverines stole back the advantage with a pin of Infante, 10-8.
Back-to-back pins by Young and Arko at 152 and 160 proved to be absolutely clutch for the Wildcats. The hard-earned wins set the score at 20-10 Wildcats. Buckles lost his contest by a second-period pin, but Chime rebounded in a major way at 182. The junior fought tooth and nail for an 8-4 win.
Then at 195, Dinya worked his magic yet again. The senior needed just 33 seconds to pin his foe, earning 6 huge points to set the score at 29-15. The 14-point margin gave the Wildcats some breathing room.
As it turned out, the Cats would need it. Zimmerman and Clink lost by pin at 220 and 285, and the Wolverines brought the score to 29-27. But the Wildcats' strength is in the lightweights, and the men of Ohio City were not about to let this one slip away.
Connor Gisztl coined a first-period win, Timmy Putka tabbed a forfeit win, and Johnny Novak pinned his opponent in 11 seconds. Just like that, the Cats rolled to a 47-27 win and the championship contest.
For all of the marbles, the Wildcats and the Eagles entered the ring. And no, not those Eagles – the North Olmsted species, not the Lakewoodites.
The Clevelanders set the tone early in the title bout and never looked back, opening a 26-0 lead with great work in the middleweights.
Santagata and Campolieti began the final match with forfeit wins. Infante took care of business in the first contested match at 145, pinning his mate in 1:24. Young then showcased his athletic prowess at 152, scoring points left and right en route to an 18-1 tech fall. After Young's flurry of points, Arko kept the party rolling at 160, albeit with fewer points. The senior tabbed an early takedown and two third-period escapes to claim a narrow 4-3 win.
Buckles and Clark were defeated at 170 and 182, but Saturday belonged to the Wildcats. Dinya righted the ship ant 195 with a marvelous second-period pin, setting the advantage at 32-10. Zimmerman notched another great win by pin at 220, and then Clink officially put the contest out of reach at 220 with a forfeit win.
Timmy Putka suffered a setback at 106, but wins by the Novak brothers and Bush finalized a satisfying victory, 61-13.
With the Revere Minutemen Duals Team Championship in hand, the Wildcats return to work on Monday. Next up is the Catholic Invitational Tournament, this year hosted in Cincinnati at Elder High School.