Walsh Jesuit senior Nate Skonieczny (right) is the top-ranked wrestler at 138 pounds. He is one of a handful of area wrestlers who will compete at the Ironman, one of the nation's top tournaments, this weekend at Walsh Jesuit.
CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio – Need to know how tough this weekend’s 18th annual Walsh Ironman is going to be?
Look no further than the rankings put out by intermatwrestle.com’s Josh Lowe.
The Beachwood native’s knowledge for the sport is amazing. Then again, so is the competition at Walsh Jesuit on Friday and Saturday.
Four of the top 10 wrestling schools in the nation will invade Walsh’s gymnasium and Ricco Field House as No. 1 Blair Academy (N.J.), No. 2 Lakewood St. Edward, No. 7 St. Paris Graham and No. 9 Christianburg (Va.) square off in arguably the best tournament in the nation.
If that’s not enough, 14 schools ranked in Lowe’s top 50 will be there.
“I think it’s one of the toughest tournaments in the nation,” Warriors coach Fred Daugherty said. “You have state champs going against state champs in the semifinals.
“I love the Ironman. It’s excitement from Day 1. You never know who’s going to wrestle who. It’s a great tournament.”
State championship matches actually can happen the first day of the tournament as last year’s second round bout between Wadsworth’s Kagan Squire and Cincinnati Moeller’s Joey Ward – a match won 8-0 by Squire – was a precursor to March where Ward got his revenge with a 2-1 overtime win.
Big names litter the Ironman with 55 state champions and 42 state finalists among the preliminary field.
“The Ironman is the toughest tournament in the country,” St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Anthony Gary said. “Only the Super 32 has the same type of caliber.
“If you get on the podium at the Ironman that means you’re pretty good. There’s a lot to be said about that. For some kids, the goal is just to win and make it to the second day.”
That’s tough to do with five of the top-ranked individuals – Darian Cruiz (106 pounds) of Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.), Jimmy Gulibon (126) of Derry Area (Pa.), Blair Academy’s Mark Grey (132), Walsh’s Nate Skonieczny (138) and Blair’s Brooks Black (285) – in the field.
Add six wrestlers ranked second – a list that includes returning champion Nathan Tomasello of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy – and you’ve got yourself one of the best tournaments around.
“It’s the ultimate at the national level,” Wadsworth coach John Gramuglia said. “People look at this as being for the national title. Every top team in the country goes there. It’s amazing that it’s only 45 minutes away.”
St. Ignatius’ George DiCamillo is the only other returning champion from Ohio. Ranked third at 120, the Wildcats senior has won the Ironman twice.
SportsInk.com teams include CVCA, STV-M, Walsh and Wadsworth. Rootstown state placer Garrett Linton will represent the Rovers as their only wrestler.
Other Northeast Ohio schools with full teams include Elyria, Massillon Perry, Padua, St. Edward, St. Ignatius and Strongsville.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, two-time state champion Nick Tavanello and state alternate C.J. Edwards are still coming off of football season and won’t wrestle. Neither will state qualifier Brandon Jones (injury).
“We’re disappointed,” Gramuglia said. “It was something we looked forward to, but they understand we want them there at the end of the year.
“If you’re not ready for this tournament, you could be suffering for awhile. We don’t want any of that. It’ll hurt in the team standings, but we’re looking at it as we’re getting the rest of the team ready.”