The Northern Buckeye Conference wrestling coaches picked Genoa to take the tournament crown this season, but third-year Comets coach Bob Bergman isn’t taking anything for granted.
Genoa won the NBC title last year and returns two state qualifiers and three others who advanced to the district tournament.
“It will be tight,” Bergman said. “Otsego has a really good squad, and so does Woodmore. It’s all about what the matchups will be and who knocks off who. We should be in contention for the NBC. Half of our weight classes have veterans, and we look for the youngsters to rise to the occasion.”
Senior heavyweight Cody Buckner and junior Jay Nino (220 pounds) competed at last year’s Division III state tournament for the Comets, who opened this season on Nov. 30 with a sixth-place finish at the 12-team Oak Harbor Duals.
Buckner, a three-year starter, finished 33-11 last season.
“I expect him to be atop the podium this year at state,” Bergman said. “He’s got the potential. He’s one of the top returning heavyweights in the state and is ranked by some in the top five.”
Nino, whose teammates call him Cobra “because he strikes quick,” Bergman said, went 58-6 last year, four wins shy of the school single-season record for wins. He recorded a school-record 35 pins last season and pinned all five opponents at the Oak Harbor Duals.
“He’s top 10 in the state wins-wise for a season (all time),” Bergman said. “He wrestled the Disney Duals down in Florida and in a bunch of freestyle tournaments in the spring. He participated in the Lake Erie program at Clay, and he did a team camp. He had about as good an offseason as you can get.”
Senior Max Reeder, a state alternate last season who went 55-9 with 33 pins, was a state qualifier as a freshman. Reeder is back at 132 pounds.
“His goal is to be a state champ this year,” Bergman said. “If he’s healthy, I think he can do it. He’s the strongest pound-for-pound wrestler in Genoa history. He is strong, quick and explosive and he’s turned into a real technician. I don’t think anybody can hold him down on the bottom, and he’s great on his feet. That’s a great combo.”
Genoa also returns district qualifiers Damian D’Emilio, a sophomore, at 113, senior Dustin Widmer at 120 and junior Brandon Bates at 132. D’Emilio had a 50-14 record at 106 last year.
“Damian has aspirations of ending the year at 106, but we’ll see,” Bergman said. “He had a remarkable season last year. He turned a lot of heads. This year he’s even better. He went 5-0 at Oak Harbor and torched his opponents. He is sound on his feet and even better on top.”
Widmer was 15-15 at 113 pounds last year, and Bates was 42-23 at 126.
“Dustin was a journeyman for us, and he’s like a praying mantis,” Bergman said. “People ‘shoot’ on him and he stretches out and scores. Brandon is just like an alley cat. He’s feisty and never out of a match. He’s a brawler and he goes after you. He’s at the right weight class now. At one point he was 6-20 at 138 last year and got down to 126 and marched his way to 30-plus wins. He had a really good freshman year, and last year he really rebounded well.”
Junior Tyler Baird returns at 182 pounds after posting a 25-25 record there a year ago.
“Tyler is real gregarious, and by the same token he can get in that zone,” Bergman said. “He wrestles with Nino every day and they both kind of feed off each other. He went 5-0 at Oak Harbor and he’s looking to turn some heads.”
Senior 145-pounder Nathan Moore had 38 wins as a sophomore but only 20 last season as he battled a shoulder injury.
“He’s our unsung hero,” Bergman said. “He had a tough bout with injuries at the end of last year, but he’s every bit as capable of making a state run this year. He’s healthy and we expect a lot of things from him.”
The rest of Genoa’s lineup consists of freshman Thor Morrison at 106, freshman Adam Bates (126), either freshman Aaron Conley or sophomore Mike Meng at 152, sophomore Zander Brown (160), senior Robert Roginski (170) and either freshman Matt Herrick or sophomore Tyler Stuck at 195.
Genoa's men of the mat competed in the power-packed Frickers Duals held at George M. Smart Athletic Center at Defiance College on Dec. 6-7, squaring off against the likes of nationally-ranked Michigan power Davison and five-time repeating Michigan state champions Hudson as well as several of Ohio's finest programs.
Nino lead the maroon and grey to a 5-5 team finish by wrestling to a perfect 10-0 record while defeating returning state placer and No. 1 ranked wrestler in Division III, 220 pound weight class Ryan Weber of Loudonville, 3-2.
Also running the table for the Comets was Buckner, who finished with a perfect 8-0 record. Other notable finishes include Tyler Baird, 9-1, Damian D'Emilio, 8-2, Max Reeder, 5-1, and Brandon Bates at 4-2. Genoa started NBC competition Tuesday in a triangular with Otsego and Fostoria.
At the 12-team Oak Harbor Duals Nino led the way by pinning all five of his opponents to bring home first team all tournament honors. Joining Nino was D'Emilio, Baird, and Bates. As a team the Comets finished 2-3.
Buckner finished with a 4-1 record while Dustin Widmer, Adam Bates and Thor Morrison each finished with 3-2 records. As a team, the maroon and grey accumulated 20 pins on the day.
Genoa opened up NBC competition Tuesday night by winning both of their duals. To kick things off, the maroon and grey narrowly defeated a tough Otsego squad by a score of 35-33.
The crowd erupted late in the heated dual as freshman 132 pounder Adam Bates went the distance and denied the Knights critical bonus points in a key match against returning NBC champion Buddy Limes.
Next, the Comets edged Fostoria, 47-35. Undefeated wrestlers were Damian D'Emilio, Dustin Widmer, Max Reeder, Tyler Baird, Jay Nino, and Cody Buckner.
Next Tuesday the comets will be at it again as they face Elmwood and Eastwood at Otsego. Action gets underway at 5:30.