You couldn't ask for a more perfect Senior Night for the Wildcats.
The Saint Ignatius varsity wrestling program celebrated its 5-member senior class on Friday evening in Sullivan Gym with plenty of fervor. All four Wildcats who competed earned wins, all four by fall. And of course afterward, Coach Reggis Bathurst cooked up some delicious food, making his world-famous tacos with green salsa.
But nothing tasted better than the team victory, a 56-22 triumph over Strongsville. With the win over the Mustangs, Saint Ignatius finishes the regular season with a dual meet record of 13-2.
In a departure from the norm, the contest began at 170. So, Tommy Buckles took the mat to start things off. The crafty veteran showcased his smarts and waiting for his opening early on. Once he found it, he pounced like a hungry tiger, quickly planting his opponent backwards for a takedown, nearfall, takedown, and a pin later in the first period.
Then, it was Chime Time. Andrew Chime took the mat at 182, and showcased his toughness and agility. The junior took the early lead on a takedown, adding another before period's end. In the second, Chime used a reversal to gain positioning before pinning his foe at 3:45 for six more team points.
As per usual, Josh Dinya (Duniec) roared to the mat at 195. Continuing his hot streak, the senior needed just 19 seconds to thwomp his opponent onto the mat and pin him. On the year, eight of the Fairview Park native's 10 wins have come via pin.
Strongsville managed its first win of the night at 220. Patrick Clink experienced a tough loss, succumbing 14-5 after a full three periods. Clink did manage to avoid a pin against a tough foe.
Carter Zimmerman took the stage at 285 pounds after spending much of the year at 220. The junior didn't mind the change, as he used his superior athleticism to gain positioning and surprise his opponent. With 55 seconds left in the first, Zimmerman accomplished a now-common result for him – a win by pin.
With the Wildcats ahead, 24-4, Timmy Putka reported to the mat at 106. The dynamic young grappler tallied a takedown and a nearfall in the first period before showing his reversal move in the second. Putka finished off his Mustang foe with 30 seconds on the clock in the second.
Johnny Novak looked the part of a State place at 113. The senior opened an early 4-2 lead after the first, and exploited an opening for a pin win in the second period. Novak will look to pave a path to Columbus for the second straight season.
Strongsville earned its second win of the evening at 120. Grayson McLellan experienced a tough loss via fall in the first period. It's a lesson he'll learn from entering the postseason.
Jack Bush thrived in the spotlight at 126. Facing a difficult grappler, Bush showed no fear. The junior scuffled to a 4-1 deficit after one, but used an early second-period escape to lead into a takedown and nearfall. Bush held a slim 7-4 lead after two, but this match belonged to the host. Bush added a takedown and a nearfall to complete an impressive 11-4 triumph.
Anthony Santagata also looked great for the blue and gold. The 132-pounder wasted little time in building an advantage, roaring to a 9-2 lead after one period with three takedowns and a nearfall. Santagata kept piling up the points in the second with a reversal, two nearfalls, and a takedown. The flurry of points led to an 18-3 tech fall in the second period.
Strongsville brought its crowd back into it with two straight wins at 138 and 145, as Sam Infante and Joe Salinas-Rosa each suffered a defeat via pin. But Evan Arko was determined to avoid the same fate.
In a crazy back-and-forth affair, the son of Dennis won the day. Arko allowed an early takedown before nearly pinning his opponent, settling for a nearfall. Arko and his Mustang opponent (Hayden Davis) traded jabs in the second. Arko opened things up with a reversal and a nearfall before Davis reversed back. But then Arko flipped it back and tabbed a nearfall. In a wild series of events, Arko managed to build an 11-4 lead. But it was not over. Davis fired off a takedown and nearfall to make things interesting and nearly pin Arko. But a caution ruined his momentum, and Arko took advantage of the opportunity, with a pin at 5:20. The crazy victory brought the fans to their feet.
The competition ended with Jarell Young stealing the limelight at 160. The freshman phenom tabbed a takedown and a nearfall before finishing the job with a pin, giving him a 17-3 record on the year with 14 pins, second only to Sam Infante.
Next up for the Wildcats is the Sectional Tournament next Saturday. But before that, it's time for the Wildcats to reflect on the past and prepare for the journey ahead.
"It's been great. I started wrestling when I was a freshman and I don't regret a minute," Buckles said. "It's been very fun. It's been a ride. I love my teammates."