This is a in-depth view compiled by Joe Simon into the individuals from area wrestling teams who have the best shot at advancing to the state tournament in Division III. The postseason starts Friday with the sectional tournament. The top four placers advance to the district tournament on Feb. 22-23, and the top four placers at the district move on to the state tournament, which is Feb. 28 through March 2 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
All teams at Rootstown sectional/Garfield Heights district
David Jamieson, Sr., 220, 36-5
Jamieson has been a model of consistency for the Warriors. After a rough freshman season, he put together three straight 30-win seasons, claiming his 100th win earlier this year at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament. That's just one of the many accomplishments for Jamieson, who was the EOWL champ at 220 pounds last year and took third this season. An all-county lineman for the Warriors' football team, Jamieson also is the class valedictorian. On the wrestling mat, he's just as sharp. Brookfield coach Brad Harnett said Jamieson's years of experience allow him to grasp the importance of positioning and patience in the upper-weight classes. He used those skills to place fifth at the Bill Dies Memorial Invitational, one of more difficult tournaments in northeast Ohio, and second at the Hephner. Harnett said Jamieson's work ethic is phenomenal, and his ability to utilize upper-body moves makes him a tough matchup. But it's his wits that leads Harnett to believe Jamieson will be competing at Columbus at the end of the month. "He just understands that at that weight, if you make a mistake, you're going to feel it," Harnett said. "Little guys can get out of it, but the big guys get stuck. It's important to keep it close and make your move at the right time."
OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Shane Howells (Jr., 126), Zach Jamieson (Jr. 160), Zach Hackett (Fr., 195).
Garrett Bass, Sr., 138, 27-13
Bass, the lone senior for the Indians, nearly doubled his win total from last year, when he went 16-13. It's been an impressive resurgence for a kid who just picked the sport back up three years ago. Girard coach Jim Cardiero said Bass wrestled in youth league but played basketball up until his sophomore year, so he's had some catching up to do in a sport where experience is critical. The rangy 138-pounder seems to have caught on quickly. He won titles at the Jackson-Milton Invitational and the Howland Invitational. He was fifth at the EOWL and eight at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament. His skills from the top position make him one of the best pinners on the Girard team, and his work ethic allows him to be one of its most well-conditioned athletes, but it's his attitude that Cardiero likes. "He works hard, he's dedicated and he wants to excel, so (the state tournament) is what he's shooting for," Cardiero said. "I don't think he needs to change anything (with his wrestling). He just needs to be confident in what he's doing and believe in himself. At this time of year, anyone can win, you just have to have the desire."
Nick Cardiero, Jr., 152, 29-7
Cardiero, the nephew of coach Jim Cardiero, has put together a great comeback campaign after suffering a season-ending injury at the end of last year. His 29 wins are a team high, and he was crowned champion at the Jackson-Milton Invitational. He took third at the Howland Invitational, sixth at the Hephner and fourth at the EOWL. He developed a punishing attack from the top position, where he can use a variety of moves to turn an opponent to his back. He's also efficient on bottom, good on his feet and has shown constant improvement all year, Jim Cardiero said. After missing out on a chance to compete in the sectional tournament last year, Jim said Nick is ready for the big stage this year. "I don't think he's showed his best wrestling yet," Jim Cardiero said. "I think it's going to come these next three weeks. He really wants to do well in the postseason because he missed last year because of injuries."
James Cupan, Jr., 160, 23-10
Cupan followed up an impressive sophomore season with another solid year as a junior. Girard coach Jim Cardiero said he's probably the most athletically gifted wrestler on the team, and it's easy to see why. He's a starting running back for Indians' football team, and he uses some of the same traits that help him do well on the football field to excel on the wrestling mat. Cupan's lower-body strength is one of his best attributes, Cardiero said, and his hip control is equally deft. He's used such skills to place second at the Jackson-Milton Invitational, third at the Howland Invitational, fourth at the EOWL Tournament and seventh at the Hephner. Cardiero said the overall athleticism combined with a mental focus that isn't fazed after a loss grants Cupan the opportunity to beat just about anyone. "When he's on, he's tough to beat," Cardiero said. "He's just a really, really good athlete. He's not the most polished wrestler, but his athletic ability makes up for it. And he has great hips. (Hip control) is hugely important. If you're in a scramble and you can find a way to get your hips up and score, that's a trait that's hard to teach."
Ed Sigurani, Jr., 132, 16-2
Sigurani was having a fantastic junior season before an injury put him out for the last month. It's the second straight year an injury late in the season kept him out of the sectional tournament. He captured first place at the Howland Invitational this year in one of his last matches before he was hurt. He just recently started practicing, so Cardiero isn't sure what to expect from him this weekend. But if he's healthy, look for Sigurani to be one of the Indians most successful wrestlers in the coming weeks. He's strong in all three positions and is especially tough on top, where he can score at will. Cardiero is keeping his expectations to a minimum because of how long Sigurani has been out, but he can't help but talk about his potential. "He's probably the best true wrestler I have on the team," he said. "He's explosive, he's fast, he's strong and he's compact. If he's healthy, he's going to be hard to beat. He's been wrestling a bit in the room, but he's doing a lot on his own. His conditioning may not be great, but if we can get him through this week, we'll have time to get him ready for districts."
OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Zane Chase (Jr., 120), Ryan Leasure (Jr., 170), Tim Mazzella (Jr., 195).
Jackson-Milton Blue Jays
Mitch Tikkanen, So., 106, 22-10
Tikkanen has been one of the top 106-pound wrestlers during his two years in high school, and his progress has been textbook this season. He placed fifth at the EOWL Tournament in 2012 and finished second this year. He won the Jackson-Milton Invitational, took fourth at the Joshua Hephner Memorial and was eighth at the Solon Comet Classic - one of the tougher tournaments in northeast Ohio. Blue Jays coach Dave Tomaino said Tikkanen stays after practice on a regular basis and continues to drill and condition. The dedication is obvious in his wrestling. He's quick and explosive on his feet and is equally effective on top. One area that is sometimes overlooked by fans is the mental anguish of the sport - the pressure to win and the nervousness of being out in front of a crowd of people all by one's self. The strain is something Tikkanen dealt with a lot last year. "He's developed mental preparation for a match," Tomaino said. "He's shown great improvement in that area. He's overcome some of that mat anxiety." That's a big reason Tomaino believes he could advance to the state tournament as just a sophomore.
Terry Stockton, Fr., 113, 18-11
Not many people know about Stockton, a freshman with a knack for turning people from the top position, and that's just the way Tomaino likes it. He placed at every tournament the Blue Jays competed in this season but one - the Comet Classic. He finished second at the Jackson-Milton Invitational and fifth at the EOWL Tournament. He's flown under the radar for much of the season because he's only a freshman and hasn't won any tournaments, but Tomaino said he put in a full offseason of wrestling and won't be intimidated by the competition, so he isn't counting him out from making a splash in the postseason. "He's wrestled really well this year," Tomaino said. "I believe he has a definite shot at going to the district level, and once he gets to the district, I think some people might look past him."
OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Devin Seka (So., 120), Tyler Staton (Jr., 138), Adam Jeffries (Sr., 152), Corley Lamb (Jr., 285).
Tyrell Jethrow, Sr., 152, 19-8
Anyone looking to watch one of the quickest and most explosive wrestlers around doesn't need to look any further than Jethrow, a lightning-fast senior with unbelievable strength and athleticism. Jethrow was a sectional champion at 152 pounds last season, and he returns to Rootstown at that same weight this year. His speed makes him a menace on his feet, where he can attack with an array of moves and confuse opponents on what's coming next. He missed a few tournaments this season because the Leopards' football team made the postseason, and since Jethrow was a linebacker and captain for Liberty, it caused him to miss some time. Also a captain on the wrestling team, he ended up placing third at the Salem Holiday Tournament, fifth at the EOWL Tournament and seventh at the Joshua Hephner Memorial Tournament. Liberty coach Hadi A. Hadi said Jethrow's physical skills give him a chance to defeat almost anyone, but they also can be counterproductive. "He's probably one of the best athletes I've coached," he said. "Sometimes it gets him into trouble though because his explosiveness is so powerful that he kind of loses control a little bit and ends up in some awkward positions, but it's definitely an attribute for him." He missed the state tournament by two matches last year, but Hadi said Jethrow can reach that milestone this season.
Cody BuCher, Sr., 220, 23-9
BuCher is quite different from Jethrow. He also possesses great strength and athleticism, but his attacks are calculated and timed just right, Hadi said. BuCher also was a standout football player for Liberty who missed some time early in the season because of the playoff push by the Leopards. It didn't slow him down. He finished second at the Painesville Riverside Rumble, third at the Hephner, fourth at the EOWL Tournament and missed placing at the renowned Top Gun Tournament by one match. Hadi said BuCher's best trait is his ability to understand positioning. That allows him to counter almost any attack and keeps his matches close, which Hadi said is both a blessing and a detriment because it can sometimes keep BuCher from opening up his offense. "Mat sense wise and positioning, absolutely one of the best kids I've coached in that aspect," he said. "He's starting to grasp that he needs to refine his offense, and he's deceivingly athletic, too. He's able to be in good position because of how athletic he is." BuCher missed out on a trip to districts last year, but Hadi said BuCher could surprise some people and make a run in the postseason as a senior.
OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Tarik Muse (Jr., 138), Brandon Jefferson (Sr., 145), Daryl McClendon (Jr., 160), Patrick Sturgeon (So., 195).