Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
January 2, 2020
Three years ago, a 106-pounder by the name of Nick Nastasi came storming onto the high school wrestling scene with a 16-0 tech fall in front of a home crowd to claim his first Kenston Invitational Tournament title.
The new kid in town, everybody knew about the Bomber grappler whose muscles on the mat made him a deceiving candidate for the lightest of 14 weight classes.
Nastasi went on to qualify for the 2017 Division I state tournament and finished his rookie season with a 34-7 record, losing to a pair of placers at the big dance.
Nastasi returned on the scene his sophomore season, bigger and better, and won the 126-pound title among 39 teams during the 53rd edition of the KIT. That postseason, he injured his shoulder, defaulted his sectional title bout and fell off the map with his absence during the 2018 district tournament.
That shoulder needed surgery. That shoulder needed 10 months of rehab. And then that shoulder needed another surgery with more rehab. Needless to say, Nastasi was unable to wrestle his entire junior campaign.
Rebranding his spot among wrestling elites in Ohio, Nastasi is back on the mats as a senior and demonstrated his ability to take care of business during the 55th edition of the KIT on Friday and Saturday by winning his third home tournament title, this time at 152 pounds.
“I’ve definitely had to reinvent myself,” Nastasi said. “I don’t think maybe people understand what I’ve been through. It’s tough having surgery, rehabbing for 10 months and then having to have surgery again on the same shoulder.
“You know, it took a lot of mental toughness, and then not only that but, in the weight room, I was out for two years. So, while everyone else was getting better, I wasn’t. But I’m happy to be wrestling now.”
A prime example, that kid whom Nastasi put a 16-0 tech fall on during his title bout of the 2016 KIT, Chardon’s Jake Hamulak, has since gone on to become a two-time state placer.
During the 40-team KIT on Friday and Saturday, Nastasi won his first bout by forfeit, then pinned West Geauga freshman Nick Donofrio in 46 seconds and claimed a 14-1 major decision against Chardon junior Colin Perz in the quarterfinals.
Nastasi went on to defeat Crestview senior Levi Kibler by a 9-6 decision in the semifinals. He owned a 7-0 upper hand in that bout, before giving up a takedown with 20 seconds left and holding on for the win, but he felt in control the entire match, he said.
The title bout against Riverside junior Danny Martich was a different story. Martich, who was a KIT runner-up last season, entered Saturday’s title bout at 17-0 on the season.
After a feel-it-out first period, Nastasi wasted no time escaping from the down position for a 1-0 lead and then was awarded a takedown by keeping his feet inbounds to finish his move for a 3-0 upper hand with 13 seconds left in the middle frame.
“That takedown was a little sketchy, for sure, but you always keep wrestling at the edge of the mat,” Nastasi said. “So, I kept my toes in and got the two.”
But on the restart with 13 seconds left, Martich got the reversal to cut the deficit, 3-2.
“That was a big goof by me,” Nastasi said. “I was just trying to hold him down for the rest of the period, but I’m pretty sure he hit a broomstick on me as I was trying to keep him down. And you never want to give up two (points) in that situation.”
Nastasi chose his feet to open the third period for a 3-3 deadlock and remained on the offensive. Backing off four times in less than a minute, Martich got hit with a stall, and Nastasi went on to win the match, 4-3, to knock the Beaver grappler from the rank of unbeatens.
“This means everything to me,” Nastasi said. “Being a three-time KIT champ will for sure be my biggest accomplishment in wrestling, no matter what goes on from here. This was a tournament I really wanted to come back and win after having two shoulder surgeries.”
Overall, Kenston finished 12th as a team with 93 1/2 points and four placers, while Geneva won the team title with 156 points to edge runner-up Fairfield, 152 points, and third-place Boardman, 148.5 points.
Kenston 182-pound senior Evan Glasscock lost his opening match but wrestled back with four straight victories, including a third-period pin against Geneva senior John Amato, despite being down 3-0, to secure his first tournament placement. Glasscock went on to defeat Chardon freshman Alex Kisley, 2-1, to finish fifth.
At 138 pounds, Kenston senior Frank DiMarco fought through the flu to finish sixth with a 9-5 decision against Crestwood sophomore Ethan Strahan to secure his podium spot.
And at 145 pounds, junior Maison Benz finished seventh with two pins, as well as an 18-0 tech fall against Norwalk St. Paul sophomore Will Stieber in his placement bout.
Orange’s Pozdneev wins title; University’s Averill runner-up
Orange 126-pound senior grappler Yury Pozdneev proved he has what it takes to chase the spotlights in Columbus during the 55th Kenston Invitational Tournament on Friday and Saturday in Bainbridge.
During the Lion matmen’s first appearance at the 40-team KIT since 2014, Pozdneev battled through a pair of two-point decisions in the quarterfinals and semifinals, before winning a 10-7 decision against Rootstown junior Mike Prikryl on a late reversal in the title bout.
Prikryl was a Division III state qualifier in 2018, going 1-2 at the big dance.
“It’s crazy,” Pozdneev said. “There’s so many good wrestlers here. I’ve never had such good competition in one tournament. Obviously I know what I need to focus on now.”
Before the championship bout, Pozdneev opened his tournament run with a 16-0 tech fall and a second-period pin, and then he defeated Chardon junior Jaden Farris by a 4-2 decision in the quarterfinals and Lakeside junior Ethan Wannett by a 6-4 decision in the semis.
“When I was wrestling against (Wannett), even when he almost took me down, I was able to hang onto his leg and pull it out and take him down,” Pozdneev said. “That was a really close match.”
In the championship bout, Prikryl got the first takedown, but then Pozdneev countered with a reversal to even the match at 2-2.
From the top position to open the second period, Pozdneev worked his ride and earned two points to take a 4-2 lead, before Prikryl evened the score on a reversal, but Pozdneev reversed him right back for a 6-4 upper hand. Pozdneev got called for an illegal grip for a 6-5 lead at the end of the frame.
“Getting those top points was very important because I can’t let him think he can just escape,” he said. “I’ve got to just demoralize him a little bit and show him what I can do on top. And he was already getting tired. I was feeling it.”
Starting from the neutral position to open the third, Pozdneev owned a 7-5 lead, but Prikryl tied the match on a takedown with 1:08 remaining and went into riding mode.
But with 30 seconds to go, Pozdneev executed a three-point reversal and hung on for the 10-7 victory.
“Well, it was not a traditional reversal,” he said. “I was trying to get his leg. And he never wrestled me before, so he wasn’t sure what to expect. And when I got his leg, he didn’t know what was coming.”
Also placing for Orange, 138-pound senior Jason Abounader took eighth with a 6-5 decision against Twinsburg freshman Ryan Lipnos to lock up his podium finish.
Representing University School, meanwhile, 145-pound senior Joe Averill finished runner-up to lock up his third KIT podium finish, after taking fifth at 138 pounds last year.
Averill opened this year’s tournament with three straight pins to breeze his way through the quarterfinals, before winning a 2-1 decision against Rootstown junior Mason Kline in the semifinals.
“Throughout the whole match, in my opinion, (Kline) was backing up a little bit and stalling,” Averill said. “I probably pushed him out about six times and shot three times more than he did. So, I won by a stalling point, but, if that’s all I can do, I’ll take it.”
In the title bout, Averill locked horns with Parma junior Daniel Devera, who is ranked 10th in the state in Division I, according to Boro Fan Ohio. Averill is ranked 13th in Division II.
Averill got a takedown in the second period and then took a 3-2 lead with an escape to open the third period, before Devera executed a fireman carry for a 4-3 lead, but Averill came right back with a reversal to reclaim a 5-4 advantage.
Devera escaped with 30 seconds remaining to tie the score, then hit Averill with a takedown for a 7-5 lead with 17 seconds left. Averill escaped in the closing seconds but came up short in a 7-6 decision.
“The difference was that I got a little bit tired, and that’s where I need to work, I guess,” Averill said. “I’m disappointed in second place because I obviously didn’t finish the job this year. I’ve wrestled in three tournaments and all three I’ve placed second.
“So, I’ve got to do a better job finishing strong. Hopefully I can do better towards the end of the year when it counts. I definitely have higher expectations for myself.”
West Geauga, meanwhile, had a quartet of podium placers.
At 220 pounds, senior Tyler Moriarty took fourth for the Wolverine matmen with a pair of tournament pins and a 1-0 decision against Lakeside senior Robbie Delewski in the quarterfinals as well as a 5-2 decision against Kirtland sophomore Anthony Gencarelli in the consolation semifinals.
West G 126-pound sophomore Jack Sparent took fifth with a 10-2 major decision against Crestview senior Brent Eicher to lock up his podium spot.
Wolverine heavyweight senior Lou Alesnick finished fifth with a 9-8 decision against West Branch senior Jacob Hurst in the championship quarterfinals to secure his placement match.
And West G 170-pound senior Josh Moriarty took seventh with a first-period pin against Strongsville freshman Dalton Bickhart to ensure his spot on the podium, before winning his placement match, 7-4, against University School senior Sam Olson.
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