Lo­cals forge lengthy wrestling draft tra­di­tion

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - Mark Podol­ski

NCAA qual­i­fiers are picked, and the owner with the most All-Amer­i­cans and points takes home the pot of cash.

The Lake Catholic wrestling tra­di­tion got stronger March 10. On the fi­nal day of the Di­vi­sion II state tour­na­ment, Cougars se­nior Kevon Free­man be­came the school’s first three-time state cham­pion.

Two days later, a gath­er­ing of mostly Lake Catholic alumni and for­mer coaches, plus a few oth­ers, gath­ered at a Wil­loughby Hills home and con­tin­ued to strengthen an­other type of wrestling tra­di­tion.

It’s a bond buoyed by a string of road trips that be­gan 25 years ago when — by their rec­ol­lec­tion — for­mer Cougars wrestling coach Mike Mat­teo and a few of his Lake Catholic bud­dies at­tended their first NCAA Di­vi­sion I wrestling tour­na­ment. A quar­ter-cen­tury later, the group has grown, and the tra­di­tion re­mains rock solid.

It’s fur­ther proof of the bond sports can create.

The du­ties of life usu­ally get in the way for this group 51 weeks out of each year, but ev­ery mid-March these guys make one week work. That week cen­ters around col­lege wrestling and friend­ships that never die.

Some years, it’s a group of 10. Other years, it’s 15.

“Some years, it’s as many as 20,” said for­mer Lake wrestling coach Tim Armelli, who’s spent nearly the last 20 years in the Chardon school sys­tem.

“Ev­ery year, it’s such a blast, and the guys just love it. I know I love it, and look for­ward to it ev­ery year.”

In most years, there are des­ig­nated per­sons to take care of air­fare, ho­tel rooms and NCAA wrestling tick­ets for the group, but this year is dif­fer­ent.

The March 15-17 NCAA Di­vi­sion I Tour­na­ment is at Quicken Loans Arena. It’s a nice break for the group, but not for the one in charge of ob­tain­ing tick­ets. That’s usu­ally Lake grad and 1994 state champ Todd Haverdill.

De­mand for tick­ets for the sold-out three-day event — in which Ohio State and Penn State are ex­pected to

con­tend for the team ti­tle — is high. De­mand on the sec­ondary mar­ket for prime seats for the fi­nal ses­sion March 17, in some cases, ap­proaches $1,000.

“Get­ting tick­ets gets harder each year,” said Haverdill, who has built Brecksville-Broad­view Heights into a Di­vi­sion I state power. “It’s even harder be­cause there’s so many of us.”

Ten gath­ered at the Wil­loughby Hills home of Dale Kaprosy, an­other Lake grad and 1989 state cham­pion who’s be­come a main­stay of the group. The lo­ca­tion of the get-to­gether on the Mon­day of the week of the NCAA tour­na­ment ro­tates

each year and is a tra­di­tion.

While mil­lions na­tion­wide this time of the year gather for fan­tasy base­ball drafts, these guys con­duct a col­lege wrestling draft. NCAA qual­i­fiers are se­lected, and the owner with the most All-Amer­i­cans and points at the end of the tour­na­ment takes home the pot of cash. It all adds to the fun and tra­di­tion — and a break from the ev­ery­day. Per­haps no one among the group wel­comes it more than Haverdill. His team just fin­ished sec­ond in the state at the D-I state tour­na­ment be­hind champ St. Ed­ward and had three in­di­vid­ual champs. The high school

wrestling sea­son is a long, and gru­el­ing one, even for coaches.

“The time is great ev­ery year,” said Haverdill. “It’s the week af­ter the state tour­na­ment, so it’s the per­fect time to un­wind and have fun. But mostly, I just love wrestling.”

That’s why they gath­ered in Kaprosy’s home March 12. That’s why Armelli’s brother Tom joined the draft for the first time.

“I re­ally don’t know what I’m do­ing,” said Tom with a smile.

It didn’t re­ally mat­ter. What mat­tered was friends get­ting to­gether, catch­ing up, and talk­ing wrestling.

Oth­ers in at­ten­dance were for­mer Lake wrestling coach Jimmy Ay­ers, grads Tracy and Scott Hivnor, Tim Banc and South grad Shane Mignona.

Smiles and jokes were seen and heard through­out the night. Tick­ets for the tour­na­ment are se­cured for all. Plans are set.

The week ahead at The Q is ahead of them.

“Best time of the year,“said Mat­teo. “Can’t wait.”

Nei­ther can the rest of them.

MARK PODOL­SKI - THE NEWS-HER­ALD

For­mer Lake Catholic wrestling coach Tim Armelli, third from left, and a host of oth­ers gather in Wil­loughby Hills on March 12 for the start of their an­nual trip to the NCAA Di­vi­sion I Wrestling Tour­na­ment.

MARK PODOL­SKI — THE NEWS-HER­ALD

For­mer Lake Catholic wrestling coach Tim Armelli, cen­ter, brother Tom, left, and 1989 Lake state champ Dale Kaprosy con­duct their NCAA wrestling draft March 12 at Kaprosy’s home in Wil­loughby Hills.

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