Underclassmen stepping up for Highland wrestling team
GRANGER — Highland High School wrestling head coach Paul Casey said his team features a good mix of strong veteran wrestlers and talented underclassmen.
On the year, Highland is 6-6 overall and 3-4 in conference play, with wins over Revere, Tallmadge and Cloverleaf high schools. Casey said his team has shown “regular improvements every week.”
“Going into our conference tournament, we were starting nine underclassmen. It should have been obvious early on that we would struggle as a team. Our young guys were not well practiced in many drills we have excelled at in seasons past,” he said. “Drilling needs to become somewhat effortless and second nature with a steady flow of intensity. Drills have to mirror positions and attack points that would occur during a match. Every week, we improve on our position and we increase our drilling intensity. The results are beginning to show in competition.”
Two key performers for the squad this season have been seniors Adam Kluk (195 pounds), a three-time state qualifier and two-time state placer, and Thomas Gabyak (160 pounds), a district qualifier in 2012.
On the season, Kluk has compiled a record of 34-4.
“Kluk defended his title at North Canton by pinning all five of his opponents in the first period,” Casey said. “He was third at the Medina Invitational Tournament (MIT) after a hard-fought loss to Lexington’s Josh Lehrer in the semifinals. Adam also defended his title at the Bill Dies Tournament at Firestone pinning three opponents and beating two-time Bill Dies champion Aaron Tschantz of Barberton in the finals.”
Casey said Gabyak has a 22-5 record, with two losses coming “at the nationally renowned Ironman Tournament.”
“His other losses were at the North Canton Holiday Tournament, where he placed third, and the MIT, where he placed seventh,” the coach stated. “Gabyak has been out of competition since Jan. 9 with a minor injury, but has been working his way back and should return at 100 percent for the upcoming sectional tournament at Medina.”
The senior class also includes Mark Vitko (170 pounds) and Joe Crowder (285 pounds).
“Both excelled this year on the gridiron and have put up good points for Highland on the wrestling mat as well,” Casey stated. “Joe is 12-12 and Mark is 15-17. Together, they have about 18 pins for the team. Both are exceptional athletes with two years of high school wrestling experience.”
A number of nonseniors also have stepped up to play key roles, the coach said.
“Junior Dominic Ravanelli (138 pounds) is in his third year of lettering for Highland, and junior Parker Moffa (126 pounds) is beginning to show promise. Both work hard, and with extra effort are poised to take leadership roles,” he said. “Freshman Brandon Linder (120 pounds), sophomore Marko Vilimonovic (113 pounds) and sophomore Logan Brant (132 pounds) have potential to win big matches and have been building steam all season coming into this week’s event. Sophomore Adam Kubicki stepped into the lineup and really fought hard for us in there.”
According to Casey, the team also has been keyed by the performances of several other underclassmen.
“Freshmen David McCormick (106 pounds) and Kevin Love (220 pounds) have seen great improvement this season. Earning varsity spots at a small Division I school has allowed them experiences they may have had to wait a few more years for. They have wrestled some of the best competition they will see and are better wrestlers as a result,” he said. “Sophomores Nick Corvo (182 pounds), Nick Haas (152 pounds) and Eddie Rininger (145 pounds) all have solid wrestling skills. They all have made commitments to compete in the offseason, looking forward.”
Casey said “expectations are high” for Highland’s wrestlers to perform well in the postseason, but added his team will need to step up to make it out of sectionals.
“Many of our young guys will have to have career best performances just to make it out of our section,” he said. “Brunswick (Northeast Ohio Conference), Wadsworth (Suburban League Conference) and Brecksville (Southwest Conference) each won their respective conference tournaments and compete at our sectional. Add Strongsville, Nordonia, Copley and the other teams, and that makes for a very competitive sectional tournament.”
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