On a chilly Leap Day in Lakewood, the Wildcats achieved a nice feat – a 100% success rate.
The Mat Cats qualified all 12 grapplers for next Saturday's District Tournament.
In doing so, the Wildcats earned runner-up honors at the Sectional Tournament on Saturday. The tournament hosts, St. Edward, won the tourney title.
To recap Saturday's festivities, we'll run it down by weight class, rather than chronological order. We'll begin at 106 pounds.
Timmy Putka repped the Wildcats at 106 on Saturday, and did it well. The sophomore opened the day with a win by pin just 1:09 into the contest. His next foe, from Cleveland Heights, challenged him more, lasting into the third period. But Putka wore him down, securing the win by pin at 5:27 of the match. The victory sent him to the title bout against a challenger from St. Edward. In this one, Putka met his match, losing by fall in the first. But Putka still secured a spot to the District Tournament.
Johnny Novak looked like a veteran at 113. The senior pinned his foe in 62 seconds to open the day. Novak needed even less time in his semifinal contest, taking just 43 seconds to tally a pin win and advance to the title bout. Like Putka, Novak ran into a very tough Eagle challenger. The Wildcats' captain fought to a 3-3 tie after the first period. In the second, he surrendered a takedown but managed an escape. Novak trailed by one entering the final stanza, and then allowed an escape to open the period. He tried desperately for a takedown, but could not achieve it, losing 6-4. Even still, with a second-place finish, Novak got a berth to next week's big dance.
Grayson McLellan took the mats for the Cats at 120. After a first-round bye, McLellan took on a very tough foe from Parma in his opening contest of the day. The junior battled in the opening period for a 4-4 tie. The tides turned against him in the second, as he allowed two takedowns and a penalty point. Even with two escapes, he found himself in a hole. McLellan tried to get out of it later in the third, but fell short, 12-7. Needing a big effort in his consolation opener, McLellan left no doubt. He fired off a takedown and a nearfall in the first period for a quick 5-0 lead. A reversal and another nearfall kept him going in the second, and a third-period takedown sealed an 11-0 win. In the battle for third place, McLellan took care of business. The wily wrestler snatched a win via pin and kept his hopes of a State bid alive.
At 126, Jack Bush acquitted himself well. The North Olmsted native began the day with a triumph via pin over a foe from Cleveland Heights. A loss against a challenger from John Adams set him back into the consis, but Bush did well in the wrestlebacks. The junior accomplished a quick victory by pin in just 28 seconds to earn his District bid, and then clicked in the third-place match for an early second-period pin.
After a first-round bye, Anthony Santagata matched up with an opponent with St. Edward at 132. The Willoughby native struggled in a loss by pin, but didn't allow it to affect him in the wrestlebacks. Santagata wore down his first consolation opponent, pinning him at 4:24 of the contest for a ticket to Districts. In the third-place match, Santagata also did well. The junior needed the full time to snatch third place, as his foe from Normandy took a 2-1 lead into the third. But an escape, takedown, and a nearfall allowed Santagata to clutch bronze with a 7-3 decision.
Sam Infante also drew an early bye and then an Eagle in his opener. Like Santagata, Infante suffered a pin but bounced back. After accepting a forfeit win, Infante snatched third place with pin in the first period, easily snagging a pass to the next round of the playoffs.
At 145, Evan Arko experienced a tough start. The senior tasted defeat in his first match of the day, losing by pin in the first period. But just like a true Ignatian, Arko did not allow the loss to sink him. The resilient Cat fired out to a 5-0 lead in his consolation semifinal. Arko kept applying pressure in the second with a reversal and nearfall, taking a 10-3 lead into the third. His Cleveland Heights foe fought back, but Arko never relented, scoring a reversal and a nearfall for a 14-4 win and a spot in the District Tourney. Arko penned in an exclamation point with a win by fall in the third-place match, ending his day with a bang.
Jarell Young continued his phenomenal freshman campaign at 152 on Saturday. The affable first-year Cat took care of business in his first contest with a pin at 1:26. That easy win clinched him a spot in next week's fun and sent him to the title match. Young was pinned in the first period, but still took second place in a nice showing for the freshman.
A tough draw placed Tommy Buckles against a grappler from St. Edward in his semifinal at 170 to open his day. Buckles experienced defeat via pin, but rebounded nicely in his consolation contest. The senior took a 5-2 lead into the third before downing his opponent at the 4:45 mark of the affair. His victory earned him a pass to next week, and he added on another win later. Buckles surpassed a foe from Parma in the second period with a wonderful pin, constructing a third-place finish.
Chime Time took the stage at 182 for the Wildcats. Andrew Chime opened his day up with an 8-0 conquest, using an action-packed second period (two nearfalls and a reversal) to win the battle. Chime could not win his semifinal, but he looked great his consolation opener. The junior wore down his foe over the course of the contest, pinning him in surprising fashion with a strong move at 3:35. Chime ended his day with a 9-3 loss to take fourth, but you'll still see him at Perrysburg on Friday.
As per usual, Josh Dinya stole the show at 195. Dinya battled his foe from St. Edward in the semifinals with his usual gusto. Dinya trailed 2-1 after one and then 5-4 after two. A late reversal and takedown by his Eagles opponent led to a pin and sent Dinya to the consolation bracket. But Dinya didn't mind, as he rebounded with a hard-earned 12-2 conquest in the consi semifinal and then a pin win in the third-place war. You'll be seeing plenty of Dinya next weekend.
Carter Zimmerman began and ended the day for the Wildcats at 285. The Saint Ignatius heavyweight launched into the Sectional Meet with a pin in just 15 seconds. A tough loss in his next match to an opponent from St. Edward dropped him to the consolation quarterfinals. Zimmerman used the fuel from the loss to propel himself to a 9-3 win in his consi opener. The junior then picked up a default win in the next round and closed out the day in the third-place contest. Zimmerman, unfortunately, lost by pin in the ending match of the day, but can rest easy knowing that he'll be in business next week at Perrysburg.