Wrestling: Euclid's seniors have program on the rise

For every local team with state-title aspirations, both team and individual, there are a dozen others struggling low in the standings, low in numbers, intent on improvement.

Euclid has a full lineup of mostly upperclassmen, but it hasn't always been that way. Just three years ago, the team went 3-20 and the roster was in the single digits. With senior Darsheed Mustafa (132) performing well, the Panthers are 17-6 on the season.

"This group of seniors took their bumps and bruises when they were freshmen and sophomores," Euclid coach Mike Turk. "A lot of times when the kids come up, they don't know a third as much about the game as other kids, so you have to start with the basics."

The Panthers lost one senior from last year's team, although it was the school's career leaders in wins, Rynell Roper. The 2013 team has already surpassed last year's win total (12) and most recently went 5-0 at its own Euclid Duals.

"It's definitely been a hot-and-cold year so far," Turk said. "We've been saying all along that this is the time of the year we need to start picking it up, and they've been doing that."

With a large number of upperclassmen comes a new problem: replacing experienced talent after graduation. Any team hoping to build a consistently competitive program needs a constant influx of new athletes, and that's what the Panthers are trying to establish.

"We've got to have that youth program that feeds to the middle school that feeds to the high school level," Turk said. "We only lost one senior last year. We've got a bigger senior class this year and a big junior class, and we've got to make sure we keep having kids coming in."

Montgomery returns

Madison senior Nick Montgomery (145) made his return last week, getting two pins in duals against Lake Catholic and West Geauga. The Blue Streaks have had a solid season so far, but with the three-time state-placer back in the lineup, the team will be that much deeper.

Montgomery was dealing with a back injury for the first two months of season, according to coach Ryan Wirtzberger, and the difference is noticeable. Madison lost duals to Perry, Mentor and Riverside early in the year. With Montgomery back, the Blue Streaks came within a minute of beating the Cougars, losing an overtime decision in the dual's final match, and beat Mentor in the state duals.

"(Nick has) looked fantastic," said Wirtzberger of Montgomery's first official day back. "He's going to be a force to be reckoned with at the local level, the state level and I think the national level. The kid has got all the tools in the world to be a state champion. That's his goal and our goal as a coaching staff."

Gessic, too

Perry's Aaran Gessic (126) has missed most of January with an ankle injury, but last year's sixth-place finisher at the state tournament made his return on Wednesday.

The Pirates were a great team in his absence — they are undefeated in duals and finished eighth at the Brecksville Holiday Tournament — but with him back in the lineup, Perry is one of the best teams in the state in Division II.

Depth is key

Lake Catholic is one of those few teams that are well-equipped for success both in duals and tournaments. The Cougars' three returning state placers — Brad Taton (113), Anthony Tutolo (126) and Jimmy Szep (195) — are a combined 69-15 this season.

It's the depth of Lake's roster that makes the team difficult to beat. Their total numbers aren't the highest but 132-pounder Nick Wrobel (19-8), 152-pounder Matt Ludwig (22-7) and 170-punder Kaz Struna (20-10) give the Cougars quality wrestlers all over the lineup.


-- Mentor beat Jefferson, 45-22, getting pins from Austin Victor (106), Austin Tomolentz (138), Jake Henry (152), Wade Phillips (182) and heavyweight Billy Hudson.

-- South took third place out of 30 teams at the Hephner Tournament in Austintown. The Rebels' B team went 4-1 at the Euclid Duals.

-- Perry beat Riverside, 47-13, winning seven of the 10 matches wrestled.

Last Updated: 1/30/2013 11:36:57 PM EST

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