By Al Miller
Head Coach Dom Mancini starts his 14th season at the helm of the Boardman Spartan wrestling team. During his tenure, he has coached 24 state qualifiers and 15 state placers including one state champion and a state runner-up. Boardman has had a state qualifier for 10 straight years.
Spartans junior Mario Graziani, a state placer, is currently back this year after a very successful 42-10 sophomore season. He is ranked fourth in Ohio at 152#. Graziani will have a target on his back this year, after being under the radar last season. Every opponent gets up when they wrestle a returning state placer.
Spartan team leaders in the wrestling room are seniors Vince and Anthony Mancini. Both wrestlers had successful freestyle and Greco off-seasons and have been working out with Coach Jack Raver’s Wolfpack to improve strength and conditioning in the off-season. Vince for the first time in his high school career will be cutting weight to get to 106#.
The greatest YSU head football coach, Jim Tressel, would say when asked about his upcoming season, “It depends on how strong our senior leadership is in practice and games.” Although wrestling is an individual sport on the mat, there is a team aspect in duals, tournaments and in the wrestling room. Besides the Mancinis, the other seniors providing leadership on the team are Brandon Rigelsky, Devon Washington, Jackson Rogers, Tony Chito and AJ Yaist.
The junior class includes some emerging wrestlers that gained experience with freestyle, Greco-Roman wrestling and Wolfpack conditioning in preparation for a breakout season. In that group are Tyler Dempsey, Connor Kochansky and Jimmy Sferra. Other junior returning lettermen are Cannon Carlile and Nick Patoray.
The sophomore class is led by Wolfpack members Carlo ‘Cradle’ DeNiro and Kyle Berardi.
The freshman class is a large class with ten wrestlers. Derek Slipkovich will likely start on the varsity at 113#. Coach Mancini reports that also looking good are freshmen Jimmy Vaughn, Karl Nail, John Fleet and Neil Bevaqua.
With the help of Boardman Head Football Coach Joe Ignazio again this year, eleven football players are currently out for wrestling. This is a win-win for both teams. The wrestling team gets upper weight wrestlers and the football players get the opportunity to improve on their conditioning, footwork, leverage, balance, hand fighting and tackling by wrestling.
Spartan defensive lineman, Devon Washington enjoyed wrestling last season and wished he would have started wrestling sooner. Four freshmen football players have given themselves that opportunity for the upcoming season.
The Spartans will only be competing in the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League this season. There will be no more long school night bus rides to Canton and Massillon for Federal League duals. Canfield is again the team to beat in the EOWL with four state-ranked wrestlers.
Boardman will have home dual meets on Wednesday, Dec. 17 against Beaver Local (with two state ranked wrestlers) and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (with two state ranked wrestlers) and Thursday, January 8 against the EOWL prohibitive favorite, Canfield Cardinals. The Spartans were 7-11 last season. The JV wrestlers will have home varsity duals against Columbiana and South Range on February 10. Hopefully Sparty and the Boardman Spirit Crew and will be at all of these home matches to pump up THE VOLUME.
“We’ve got some real competitive kids. Obviously we don’t have enough of them but we have a little more this year than we have in the past. I’m looking forward to seeing how these guys are going to step up. I think we can be competitive in duals,” Coach Mancini said.
To fill the Federal League void, the Spartans have added a Triangular on Saturday, Dec. 13 at Delaware Hayes (one state ranked wrestler) with Ashland (two state ranked wrestlers) and the Marlington Duals on Saturday, Feb. 14 with Akron Buchtel, Stow, North Canton and Southeast,
Boardman’s varsity will compete in the 50th Kenston Invitational Tournament on Dec. 27 and 28, the always brutal 29th Alliance Top Gun Tournament on Jan. 16 and 17, the 22nd Josh Hephner Memorial Tournament on Jan. 23 and 24 and the 39th EOWL Tournament on Feb. 6 and 7 at Crestview.
“I think we are going to have a good tournament team. Definitely starting off with Vince at 106 lbs. and being a senior, he’s going to be in the thick of high placing at most of the tournaments. Then with Dempsey, Graziani, Anthony Mancini, Carlo DeNiro, I think those guys are all going to be in the thick of every tournament. Jimmy Sferra will be in the thick of every tournament and then you have some upper weights like Cannon Carlile, hopefully Devon Washington and some other guys scattered in there. If they can come up and place we could have a very nice tournament team,” Coach Mancini said.
Boardman junior varsity wrestlers will compete in the Copley JV Tournament on Dec. 26, the Fitch JV Tournament on Jan. 10, the Waterloo JV Tournament on Jan. 24, and the EOWL JV Tournament on Feb. 21 at Pymatuning Valley.
Boardman will again be competing in the Mentor “Meatgrinder” District Tournament. The Austintown Fitch, Massillon Perry, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Willoughby South Sectionals each qualify four wrestlers in every weight class for the Mentor District tournament. The top four wrestlers in each weight class at Districts qualify for “The Show” at the Schott in Columbus on Mar. 12, 13 and 14.
“One of my long time goals has always been to get four guys to the state tournament and that’s still in place. I have never been able to do it. Hopefully this year if we can get some guys to step up we might be able to pull that off. Certainly we have guys in the room that are capable,” Coach Mancini said.
Mancini’s assistants this year are Jerry Pasquale (33rd year coaching wrestling at Boardman), Bob “Bubber” Foster (14th year coaching at Boardman), Jack Raver (8th year coaching at Boardman), Frank Mancini (28th year coaching wrestling), Luke Graziani (3rd year coaching at Boardman) and Ricky Zupko (1st year coaching at the high school).
Boardman warmed-up with an open tournament at Canfield along with scrimmages at Austintown Fitch, Canfield and Wadsworth. The Spartans open the season Saturday, Dec. 6 at the Poland Duals against Salem, Hubbard, Poland, Orrville, Alliance and Conneaut. Boardman placed third last year. Wrestle-offs to determine the varsity starting lineup were held on Tuesday, Dec. 2 in the wrestling room.