West Geauga freshman Brian Denamen may have been trailing 8-2 in the third period off the 144-pound championship bout against junior Nick Brunst from Medina Buckeye, but he was not ready to surrender.
The Wolverines’ freshman saw an opening and pounced, recording a takedown before pinning Brunst at the 1:10 mark of the third period to win his first Ohio High School Athletic Association Northeast Division II sectional title last Saturday at Harvey High School in Painesville.
West Geauga recorded five district qualifiers and added three district alternates to its total, scoring 158.5 points en route to finish in third place.
“I think it is really great to see that we have five wrestlers moving onto the district tournament and we have three alternates,” said Coach Carmen Russo. “This year’s sectional tournament was harder because we had 16 teams and last year we only had 11 so we almost doubled the number of wrestlers competing. With a young team with only one senior that made it to the district meet and everyone else being an underclassmen, that is just telling what the future is for West Geauga.”
The five West Geauga district qualifiers and three district alternates will vie for a Division II state berth, competing at the Garfield Heights district meet beginning on Friday at 5 p.m. and continuing Saturday at 10 a.m.
Having already captured a Chagrin Valley Conference title, Denamen continued dominating the competition.
He pinned Edgewood sophomore Ayden Burch with 1:09 remaining in the second period, then pinned sophomore Takbir Abdur-Rahim from Warrensville Heights at the 1:19 mark of the opening period in the quarterfinal.
Denamen earned a berth in the championship bout by pinning Jefferson Area junior D.J. Partridge with 1:51 left in the second period.
In the final, Denamen could not find an advantage and was overpowered early by Brunst but according to Russo, Denamen would not stop until the match ended.
“Brian is one that will keep fighting and keep battling because he will not stop until the referee says hey the match is over,” the second-year coach said. “He saw a moment and we told him to attack Brunst’s leg from the front headlock position and from there, Brian used his experience and knowledge and was able to capitalize and get that pin.”
West Geauga junior Ethan Bartlett clinched a district berth when he finished as the runnerup in the 165-pound bracket.
Bartlett advanced to the quarterfinal on a first-round bye and qualified for the semifinal when he pinned senior Xavier Thomas from Benedictine at 1:09 of the first period.
The Wolverines’ junior advanced to the final, pinning CVC rival and Orange senior Fred Berland with 39 seconds remaining in the opening period, clinching his second straight district bid.
“Ethan was winning 7-0 and he pinned him,” said Russo. “That was Ethan’s second pin against him this season. He beat him in a tri-meet earlier in the season and for Ethan to beat a kid ranked 20th in the state in the semifinal at sectionals, that was a huge moment for him.”
Bartlett settled for second place, losing 7-2 against Medina Buckeye senior Brandon Hayner in the championship match.
Junior Justin Artino was the Wolverines’ third district qualifier, taking third place in the 157-pound weight class.
The West Geauga junior received an automatic bye to the quarterfinals and overpowered Rocky River sophomore Lincoln Krish, pinning him at 1:37 of the third period.
The 157-pounder was ousted from the championship bracket when he lost 6-5 against sophomore Christopher Maloney from Benedictine.
“Justin just said alright ‘I did not want to lose in the semis but I am just going to have to come back and get third,’” Russo said. “I said that is the best statement I could hear for any wrestler and said let’s just go out and do it. In his next match his line was I just want to get this match over as fast as possible and go after them as hard as I can.”
Artino pinned junior Tywan McDowell from Youngstown Chaney with 1:02 remaining in the first period in the consolation semifinal, clinching his second straight district berth.
He finished his day by defeating Jefferson Area junior Braden Dietrich 11-4 in the third place match.
Freshman Zander Joltin received a district berth when he took fourth in the 113-pound bracket.
Joltin moved to the quarterfinal on an automatic bye then pinned conference rival and Geneva freshman Will Dushney with 41 seconds left in the second period, advancing to the semifinal.
The 113-pounder fell into the consolation bracket when he was defeated 3-2 by Bay junior Anthony Rocco.
Joltin bounced back and clinched a district berth, beating Orange sophomore Karim Sayah 5-0 but ended his day in fourth place when he was pinned at 24 seconds of the second period by Firelands sophomore Collin Eckman.
“Zander was so close to winning and had a good consolation semifinals match to qualify for the district meet,” said Russo. ”In the semifinal he showed me that he is right there with some of the best of the best in the state and almost winning, coming up short 3-2 to a kid ranked ninth in the state who was 34-1 going into that match. He has grown a lot since his first day as a freshman.”
Sophomore Nasir Levy was the last Wolverine to clinch a district berth, taking fourth in the 175-pound weight class.
Levy qualified for the quarterfinal on an automatic bye then pinned Jefferson Area freshman Matt Webster with 27 seconds left in the second period, advancing to the semifinal.
The Wolverines’ sophomore moved into the consolation bracket when he pinned by Medina Buckeye junior Eddie Neitenbach with 37 seconds left in the opening period.
Levy recovered and beat Geneva sophomore Nigel Platt 8-5, capturing his first career district berth and was senior Connor Rogers from Firelands at 1:07 of the second period in the third place match.
“For Nasir, I am extremely happy,” Russo said. “He was seeded fifth going into the tournament and in the quarterfinal, he had to go up against the fourth seed Webster he pinned that kid. Even though he pinned him that was a very tough wrestler who placed at the junior high state meet last year. For Nasir to be off of the sport of wrestling for two years and to come back and get 28 wins, that just goes to show he is a young man that is very talented with a lot of potential and I am very happy.”
Sophomore Chris Paradise became a district alternate in the 126-pound weight class, sophomore Dan D’onofrio earned a district alternate berth in the 132-pound bracket and freshman 190-pounder Cole Williams was the last West Geauga district alternate.
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