Clay’s wrestling team had what many would consider the best season in the program’s history last season.
The Eagles, under first-year coach Ralph Cubberly, won the Three Rivers Athletic Conference title – their fifth straight league championship – won the sectional title and took second behind eventual Division I state champion Lakewood St. Edward at the district tournament.
Clay closed out the season by placing fifth at the state tournament, their highest finish ever, and put six individuals on the awards podium in Columbus.
|Richie Screptock takes down an opponent at last
year's state meet. (Photo by Harold Hamilton/HEH
The Eagles won’t surprise any teams this season. Clay returns 10 district qualifiers and three state qualifiers from last year.
“People know who we are in the state,” Cubberly said. “We have to be on our game every time we go somewhere. We can’t have a bad day because they’re going to be gunning for us.”
Last year’s fifth-place finish at the state tournament was the culmination of a four-year run up the team standings for the Eagles. Clay tied for 23rd at the 2009 state tournament, then placed 21st in 2010 and 12th in 2011.
The Eagles opened this season by going 3-1 at the 10-team Cincinnati Moeller Super Duals on Dec. 1. Clay’s only loss was to Mariemont Academy, but it defeated a strong team from Marysville.
“We had four dual meets that day,” Cubberly said, “and we looked pretty good.”
Clay’s two returning state placers are junior Jared Davis at 113 pounds and sophomore Richie Screptock at 120. Davis had a 24-12 record at 106 last year.
“I look for him to be a high state placer,” Cubberly said. “In Division I, it’s really tough. Jared is really physical when he gets on top of somebody. He wants to get a takedown and he’s tough to get away from.”
Screptock competed at 113 last season and compiled a 42-7 record.
“He has the potential to be in the finals for first and second (in the state),” Cubberly said. “We have a lot of that potential on this team. He’s a wrestler who is hard to get out of position. That’s why he’s hard to score on. He’s also very good on top.”
Junior Aaron Henneman, who wrestled on the Eagles’ Green team last year, will look to improve on his 27-11 record at 106 pounds.
“That Green team wrestled nothing but varsity tournaments, such as the Oak Harbor Invitational, but it’s not quite up to par with our Gold team’s schedule,” Cubberly said. “Aaron is pretty good. He just couldn’t beat Davis last year to get in the (Gold team) lineup.”
Senior Brian Hennemen, who was 21-16 last year, will wrestle at 126. He was a TRAC runner-up and a district qualifier.
“He’s one of the hardest workers we have on the team,” Cubberly said. “Good things happen to kids who work hard.”
The coach called junior 132-pounder Gavin Nelson a “sleeper” this season. Nelson went 24-6 on the Green team last year but is already 4-0 this season after a strong showing in Cincinnati.
“We had Angelo Amenta, Jacob Conine and Mike Screptock all wrestling around 132 last year,” Cubberly said. “Gavin would have started anywhere else. He accepted his role on the team and knew his time was going to come. He got really good in the summer.”
Caleb Nelson, Gavin’s younger brother, will wrestle at 138 after going 13-12 on the Green team last season. Senior Darren Todd is at 145 and senior Damon Dominique is at 152. Dominique, a state alternate, won the TRAC title at 152 last year and finished 28-9
“He’s a great athlete,” Cubberly said. “Super strong.”
Junior Nick Stencel (28-16) is at 160 after qualifing to districts as a 145-pounder a year ago. Senior Devin Dominique (22-8) won the TRAC title at 160 last year but is bumping up to 170.
“He was one match from getting to state,” Cubberly said. “I’m looking for some good things from him.”
Senior Carmelo Amenta (20-16), the TRAC runner-up and district qualifier at 182 last year, returns to that weight class. Eddie Silva (32-6), a senior, returns at 195.
“Eddie has really gotten better over the last couple years and has dedicated himself to getting better,” Cubberly said. “He’s grown into the weight class and is really tough.”
Senior Jared Gray, a state qualifier last year, returns at 220 pounds.
“He’s got the potential to be very good,” Cubberly said. “He definitely has the potential to be top eight in the state. He’s really athletic and really strong.”
Junior Antonio Zapata, who had a 10-4 record for the Green team last season, returns at 285. Zapata was stuck in the lineup behind teammate Garrett Gray, who placed second in the state at 285 last year.
“We lost a lot of talent from last year and a lot of people think we’re going to be down, but we’re working hard,” Cubberly said. “The practice room is better this year. If we can keep everybody healthy and in the lineup, this team can be as good or better than last year. That says a lot, losing the four seniors we had from that team. We’re going to have to make up those points.”