Following a dynamite performance at the Sectional Tournament, the Saint Ignatius varsity wrestling team hoped to overcome tough competition at the District Tournament.
But brutal brackets ended the 2019-20 season for 11 of the 12 Wildcats wrestlers in attendance at Perrysburg High School.
Johnny Novak stands as the final Wildcat still alive, as the senior will travel to the State Tournament as an alternate. As a team, the Wildcats took 19th at the District Tourney.
Novak roared from the start, picking up a 15-0 win in his opening contest on Friday. But the veteran's march came to a grinding halt with a 3-0 defeat to Peyton Fenton of Elyria, who entered with a 34-5 record. So, the 113-pounder dropped to the consolation bracket. Novak pinned his first opponent in just 1:41 and then captured a major decision, 11-2, in his next match. These wins carried him to the consolation semifinal. Needing a win to earn a bid to the State Tournament, Novak experienced a gut-wrenching loss to Sean Seefeldt by 1-0 decision. That defeat set up a battle for fifth place as a State alternate. This time, Novak did not lose, as he pinned Lorain's Santino Humphrey at 3:53 to earn a trip to Columbus for the second straight season. If any wrestler at 113 fails the skin check or does not make weight, Novak will be in the fray. If not, his season will be complete.
Staying with the lightweights, Timmy Putka suffered a tough loss in his opener to Avon's Ty Daugherty at 106. The defeat by pin at 5:25 dropped Putka to the consis, where he soon earned a 10-2 major decision. But then Putka's promising season ended, as he lost in the next round by a 9-0 major decision.
Grayson McLellan faced a similar opening at 120 pounds, as he was edged out by Bradey Humble of North Royalton, 7-6, in a very difficult loss. McLellan was unable to bounce back from the defeat, as he succumbed to an early second-period pin in the wrestlebacks.
Jack Bush also lost his opener at 126 pounds. However, the North Olmsted native did manage to conquer his opening consolation foe, racing past Westlake's Cole Yuhas for a 16-0 tech fall at 4:40. But Bush's jaunt ended there, as the junior lost a 7-0 season-ending defeat.
Anthony Santagata's promising year at 132 pounds ended all too quickly in Perrysburg. The junior nearly upstaged James Rankin of Garfield Heights in an upset, but the higher-ranked 31-13 senior emerged with a 10-8 decision. Needing a win to stay alive, Santagata lost via a second-period pin in the opening round of the consolation bracket.
The Wildcats' 138-pounder suffered two quick losses, as well. Sam Infante lost by pin in his first bout and was overcome in a 14-10 decision in his wrestleback. But Infante will be back next year, just like Santagata.
Evan Arko's Wildcat career ended on a tough note, but not without a fight. Following a defeat by major decision in the opener, Arko battled back for a 17-4 conquest by major decision in the opening round of consolations. But then Nathan Frost of Normandy ended Arko's run, pinning the senior at 3:37 of the contest.
On the flipside, Jarell Young's carer is just beginning. The freshman's phenomenal season came to a close at 152 pounds. Young lost a 5-0 match in the opener, but rebounded with a 7-2 win in his first consolation bout. But against Elijah Meinhard, Young met his match and bowed out with a second-period pin. Even with this defeat, Young is a name to know for next season.
Tommy Buckles' fun season ended abruptly this weekend. The senior impressed many with his work ethic this year, but also his fun nature. The 170-pounder saw a tough draw at the District level, however, and lost both his first and second bouts, ending his great year. He'll be missed.
Andrew Chime also saw his season conclude quickly at 182 pounds. The junior lost his first contest by fall and dropping to the consi bracket. Needing a win to stay alive, Chime suffered a very tough defeat, a 2-1 loss in his consolation opener. But no need to fear, Chime will be back next year on the mats and certainly on the football field.
Josh Dinya managed to conquer his opening opponent on Friday in dramatic fashion at 195. In a high-scoring affair, Dinya squeaked by with a great 11-10 decision victory. Unfortunately the fun didn't continue, as Dinya ran into a buzzsaw in the next round, Eddie Sevastos of Brunswick (the eventual fourth-placer), losing by tech fall. In the consolation round, Dinya could not get off the ground, as Clay Carpenter flew to a second-period pin. But Dinya's time as a Cat is not yet over, as you'll see him on the rugby pitch this spring.
Carter Zimmerman's junior campaign terminated on Saturday. The junior lost two contests in a row by second-period pin in Perrysburg at 285 pounds. Still, bright things are in store next season for the heavyweight.
As a team, that about does it for the 2019-20 season. Entering the year, head coach Mark Sullivan promised that his young team would improve over the course of the season. The Wildcats certainly did that.
A highlight of the season came last week with 12 Wildcats emerging out of the Sectional Tournament. Getting that many grapplers to the District Meet is an accomplishment in and of itself. A 13-2 record in dual meets is also something to look back on fondly.
With only five seniors graduating, the future is bright for the Wildcats. With plenty of talent coming back, look for the 2020-21 season to be a fun one.