Blair Academy takes 1st in the 2017 Ironman!

The mega-tournament of the high school season featuring 20 of the nation’s top 50 teams and close to 80 nationally ranked individuals was wrestled this weekend in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. No. 1 Blair Academy, N.J. came to wrestle on Saturday morning and early afternoon at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman, and removed all doubt about the team title headed into Saturday’s final round.

The Buccaneers went 7-4 in the quarterfinal round and then 4-2 in the semifinal round. Ten wrestlers in total appeared on the podium, nine finishing fifth or above, as Blair Academy repeated as champions. It was a 14th title in 24 editions of the tournament, and the 249.5 points was tied for eighth most in the history of the event.

However, it took to the last two matches of the finals program to ensure that Blair Academy would earn individual titlists to go with the team gold. At 113 pounds, No. 3 Trevor Mastrogiovanni used a first period takedown and then a tilt to go up 4-0 on No. 18 Cevion Severado (Christian Brothers College, Mo.). Mastrogiovanni would ultimately won 7-0.

Then at 120 pounds, No. 4 Michael Colaiocco scored a pin against No. 2 Joey Melendez (Montini Catholic, Ill.) at the 3:32 mark. Colaiocco had a takedown in each period of that match after having to battle through a 7-5 overtime barn-burner against No. 8 Malik Heinselman (Castle View, Colo.) in the semifinal round.

Falling short for Blair Academy in championship matches were No. 7 Ryan Miller and No. 3 Andrew Merola at 106 and 160 pounds respectively. Miller lost 5-3 to No. 1 Jacob Decatur (CVCA, Ohio), as Decatur scored takedowns in the first and third periods. Merola lost 1-0 to No. 9 Ryan Thomas (St. Paris Graham, Ohio), as Thomas used a second period escape and third period ride out to earn gold; last year it was Merola who beat Thomas 2-1 in the tiebreakers during the semifinal round.

Thomas was one of three St. Paris Graham seniors to win Ironman titles on Saturday night. The Falcons were the only team other than Blair to have multiple weight class champions. Also striking gold were No. 18 J.D. Stickley and No. 6 Rocky Jordan and 138 and 170 pounds.

Stickley was by far the lowest ranked of any champion in this tournament, but it was a most impressive tournament run. Most notable was a 5-2 quarterfinal victory over No. 5 Malcom Robinson (Blair Academy, N.J.), a wrestler that beat Stickley 3-1 and 5-3 in last year’s edition of the Ironman. In the championship match, Stickley would jump out to a 5-0 lead as he won a key move in the first period to put No. 9 Jaden Abas (Rancho Bernard, Calif.) onto his back.

Abas would then level the proceedings at five-all with a late reversal in the first period and a three-point near fall at the start of the second period. However, Stickley responded with a reversal in the second period and a four-point move in the third period to finalize an 11-7 victory.

2014 Ironman runner-up Jordan had three extremely tight battles against nationally ranked opponents on the way to his title. In the quarterfinal, it was a 1-0 victory over No. 15 Carson Khachla (Olentangy Liberty, Ohio), and then a 6-4 victory over No. 5 Emille Shannon (Christian Brothers College, Mo.) in the semifinal followed. No. 7 Emil Soehnlen (Massillon Perry, Ohio) awaited in the final after he upset No. 4 Julian Ramirez (Blair Academy, N.J.) in overtime during the semifinal round.

Soehnlen would open with a first period takedown and then take a 3-1 lead after Jordan was hit for a second stalling violation during the second period. Jordan escaped to start the third, and then started firing in on leg attacks to take the lead. On one last late leg attack, a scramble ensued, and Jordan was enable to trap Soehnlen on his back for a pin from neutral with four seconds remaining in the bout. The Saturday performance was one that enabled Rocky Jordan to earn Outstanding Wrestler honors in the tournament.

Like tournament champions Blair Academy, No. 5 St. Paris Graham also placed ten wrestlers. However, with three of those wrestlers placing eighth – and another sixth – the Falcons amassed 196.5 points on the way to a second place finish. Despite neither team earning a champion, No. 2 Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) and No. 4 Montini Catholic (Ill.) finished next in the team standings with 158.5 and 158 points respectively. Both those teams put seven on the podium.

The Saturday night finals program opened up with two rather exciting bouts. At 126 pounds, No. 9 Malik Johnson (Christian Brothers College, Mo.) used a late third period takedown to upend No. 12 Jordan Crace (St. Paris Graham, Ohio) 5-4. Each wrestler had dynamic victories in the semifinal round; Johnson beat defending champion No. 7 Beau Bartlett (Wyoming Seminary, Pa.) 3-2 in the tiebreaker, while Crace knocked off No. 2 Jordan Decatur (CVCA, Ohio) 2-1 in the tiebreaker. Barlett would then beat Decatur 2-1 in the ultimate tiebreaker for bronze.

The tournament’s deepest weight at 132 pounds saw No. 1 Joey Silva (Lake Highland Prep, Fla.) outlast No. 3 Real Woods (Montini Catholic, Ill.) in a battle of a match that may be more remember for the action surrounding the match as opposed to the action between the athletes. Regulation ended 2-2 as the wrestlers traded escapes and penalty points; Silva scored his penalty point in the second period when Woods’ shoe fell off, while Woods leveled the match later in the third period on a second stall by Silva.

After a scoreless overtime that saw both wrestlers in deep on scoring opportunities, action moved to the tiebreaker. Starting in the down position, Woods scrambled close to an escape when his shoe came off again, and a second technical violation was awarded. Silva jumped out to a 3-2 lead and was granted choice of position, so he earned an escape for 4-2. Woods could not finish a deep attack late in the first tiebreaker; in the second tiebreaker, Woods also cut Silva loose, and that was the 5-2 final score.

The middle-weights saw a pair of less than competitive finals, though all four athletes were ranked. At 145 pounds, No. 5 Brock Hardy (Box Elder, Utah) was dominant in a pin over No. 15 Kendall Coleman (Mt. Carmel, Ill.) at the 4:57 mark. Hardy had a first period takedown and third period near fall for a 5-0 lead before the turn and fall. Then in an anticipated battle of Junior freestyle champions at 152 pounds, No. 1 David Carr (Massillon Perry, Ohio) jumped out to a 5-0 lead against No. 4 Anthony Artalona (Tampa Prep, Fla.) in the first minute to reduce the match to a coronation. The wrestlers traded escapes in the second and third, Carr added a takedown late in the third to earn a second Ironman title in a third Ironman final by the score of 8-1.

Also winning titles on the evening were a pair of very elite sophomores in the upper-weights. No. 1 overall sophomore A.J. Ferrari (Allen, Texas) – ranked No. 4 nationally at 182 pounds – scored takedowns in the second and third period to beat No. 12 Leo Tarantino (Blair Academy, N.J.) 5-3. More significant for Tarantino and Blair Academy was his 3-1 overtime upset over No. 2 Ryan Karoly (Malvern Prep, Pa.), a returning tournament runner-up, in the semifinal round.

No. 3 overall sophomore Braxton Amos (Parkersburg South, W.Va.) – also ranked No. 4 nationally in his weight class, this one at 220 – used a second period ride out and third period reversal to earn a 2-1 victory over No. 12 Ben Goldin (Lake Highland Prep, Fla.)

Additional weight class champions were No. 2 Michael Beard (Malvern Prep, Pa.) at 195 pounds and No. 3 Cohlton Schultz (Ponderosa, Colo.) at 285. Beard put on a takedown clinic in a 21-8 victory over Jayden Woodruff (Ponderosa, Colo.), while No. 1 overall junior Schultz pinned Penn State defensive line recruit P.J. Mustipher (McDonogh, Md.) at the 2:32 m.