CVCA wrestling team looking for ‘elusive’ state title
CUYAHOGA FALLS — Head coach Dave Bergen said the motto of this year’s Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (CVCA) wrestling team is to wrestle “whistle to whistle, line to line.”
“Our goal always has been, and will be, to win a state championship as a team,” he said. “We’ve been very close, ending up as runners-up four times. So there is plenty of room for improvement. However, more important than all of the wins and losses is the character we develop in the young men we coach.”
Last year, CVCA finished 14-1 in dual meets and won its fourth-straight PAC 7 Conference tournament. The squad also won its sectional and district tournaments and placed third at the Division II state tournament.
“Last season, we crowned two state champions in Matt Meadows at 220 pounds and Nathan Tomasello at 113 pounds,” Bergen said. “[This season] Nathan will be competing for his fourth state title, a task only a handful of wrestlers have ever accomplished.”
The coach said Tomasello — who is committed to attend and wrestle for The Ohio State University next year — is enjoying another stellar season.
“Nathan Tomasello is ranked No. 1 in the country at his weight class [120 pounds],” Bergen stated. “So far this season, Nathan has won the Ironman, the Beast of the East and the Medina Invitational Tournament. Nathan hasn’t lost a match since his freshman year — quite a feat considering the very tough schedule we wrestle.”
According to Bergen, the CVCA wrestling team features “a balanced blend” of veterans and underclassmen.
“This year, we will graduate four seniors: Josh Decatur, Nathan Tomasello, Matt Dobben and Nick Havener,” he said. “We have a good group of juniors prepared to step up and be leaders for next season, as well as energetic sophomores and freshmen looking to make their mark at CVCA.”
Bergen said the team boasts “an awesome crop of seniors” this season.
“Nick Havener, our 195-pounder, was a state alternate last year and is currently ranked in the top 10 in Division II this year. Nick is big, strong and has great technique. He recently placed fifth in the Medina Invitational Tournament [MIT] and is building momentum for a run at the state tournament,” the coach said. “Matt Dobben (152 pounds) was third in the state two years ago, so he has plenty of experience under his belt. Matt is also ranked in the top 10 in the state this season. Senior Josh Decatur, our 132- to 126-pound wrestler, is quick, powerful and has awesome technique. Josh placed eighth at the state tournament last year and will be ready to improve on that finish come March at the state tournament.”
Bergen said juniors Mike Meadows, Tyler McClellan, Ricky Simonelli and Jeff Hojnacki are “working hard.”
“[They] have had some big wins for us this season,” he said. “Hojnacki and Simonelli are returning state-placers from last season, and all these juniors are gearing up to finish strong in the postseason.”
In addition, the coach said, sophomores Andy Dobben, Zak Dobben, Ryan Bennett and Paul Gibson are playing key roles for the team this year.
“Ryan Bennett placed fourth at the state tournament as a freshman. He is on track this season, just recently placing second at the Medina Invitational,” Bergen said. “Andy Dobben placed seventh at the MIT. Zak and Paul, while not placing in the big tournaments yet, are really focused on improving and becoming real solid contributors in the near future.”
The team has one freshman starting in the lineup, and Bergen called him “quite a story.”
“Mason Brainard is our 106-pounder. However, he only weighs about 80 pounds,” the coach said. “Imagine, every time you step out on the mat you’re giving away 26 pounds to your opponent. Mason is an 80-pound kid with an 85-pound heart. He is a courageous kid. I’m praying for a growth spurt over the summer because he will be a force to be reckoned with once he puts on a few more pounds.”
Bergen is in the first year of his second stint as head coach of the CVCA wrestling team.
“I’ve been with the program for 19 years now,” he stated. “I began my career with CVCA in 1993 as assistant, then became the head coach in 1995. I served as head coach until 2003, then stepped down to assistant until this season.”
Bergen’s staff is comprised of Paul Charvat, Matt Smilek, Ryan Logan and Tim Hinman.
“We’ve got some great competition coming up in the next month. All this, of course, is to prepare us for the state tournament in March. That’s the real focus,” Bergen stated. “Everything else, while great to win, is only preparation for that event. I’ve learned over the years, no matter how you do during the season, it’s how you finish that counts. And for us, that is preparing to make a charge for a state title this season.”
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