By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing Co.
After dominating the field at the Aurora Invitational the last few seasons, the Crestwood wrestling team was looking for a bigger challenge to open its season.
Luckily for the Red Devils, one of the most rigorous opening-weekend tournaments in Ohio takes place just up Route 43: The Solon Comet Classic.
"We knew coming in that this was going to be a big step up for us," said Crestwood coach Dave Wrobel. "You've got some of the best public and parochial schools in Northeast Ohio here."
A field that includes Solon, Walsh Jesuit, Lake Catholic, Mentor, St. Vincent-St. Mary and West Virginia powerhouse Parkersburg would be a solid test of any team
So how did the Red Devils perform on day one Friday?
"So far, so good," Wrobel said.
Crestwood sits in third place in the team race at Solon with 70 points, trailing only Parkersburg (98.5) and Solon (88).
The Red Devils advanced five wrestlers to today's semifinal round. Wrestling will resume at 10:30 a.m., with the semifinals set for noon.
"We know those five are going to lead us, but we need our other guys to step up as well," Wrobel said. "To get five guys in the semifinals is good, that's nearly a third of the team. I'm always looking for us to get more. I don't know if that's me being greedy or just having a lot of confidence in our guys."
All four of Crestwood's returning state qualifiers will wrestle in the semifinals.
Given the top seed at 113 pounds, junior Jake Zemaitis wrestled like the favorite. He scored a 14-3 win over Solon's Grant Nemeckay and a 15-0 technical fall of Twinsburg's Anthony Askins to reach the semifinals.
Zemaitis faces Mentor's Colin Kramer in today's semifinal.
Junior 120-pounder Conner Nemec started well, pinning Chardon's Shane Scali in 43 seconds and downing Nordonia's Nick Collica 14-6.
Nemec may face the toughest challenge in the next round, as he will wrestle Solon's Brandon Thompson, the defending Division I state champion at 113 pounds.
"We've got some tough matches coming up tomorrow," Wrobel said. "We're going to find out who we are. The true test is going to be wrestle-backs. That's how we determine who is going to win."
Senior 138-pounder Dylan Kager hasn't lost a regular-season match since his sophomore year. He continued to dominate, pinning Solon's Dylan Monaco in 58 seconds and scoring a 21-2 technical fall over Berkshire's Paul Charvat.
Kager faces a tough test when he wrestles St. Vincent-St. Mary's Ryan Skonieczny in the semifinals.
Senior 145-pounder Jimmy Hillier didn't need much time to get to the semifinals. He pinned Chardon's Matt Chauby in 2:55 and Orange's Robert Powers in 2:29.
Hillier faces Twinsburg's Jimmy Hiller in the semifinals.
Crestwood's final semifinalist was junior 182-pounder Kenny Jackson. Jackson scored an 8-3 win over St. Ignatius' Ben Cray and then pinned Kenston's Carmen Gianguzzo in 1:30.
Jackson will face Twinsburg's Jared Hulme in the semis.
All of two of Crestwood's remaining wrestlers remain alive in the consolation bracket.
"We're going to get better," Wrobel said. "We knew we were bringing some young kids into some tough brackets. We got some good wins tonight."