Fresh off two Portage Trail Conference titles wins by wrestlers Sean Neff and Dominic Carone, sophomore and junior, respectively, the wrestling team travels to St. Vincent St. Mary High School Saturday, February 25, for the sectional tournament.
For the first time in years, the Rocket wrestling team started off as having nearly a full lineup, with students filling almost every weight class. Over the course of the season, the wrestlers lost a few teammates due to miscellaneous issues.
The team consists of the following experienced wrestlers: seniors Mike Carey, Cale Simpkins and Kyle Young; juniors Dominic Carone and Erik Howitt; sophomores Chris “Bear” Anderson, Hank Carey, Edward McDevitt, Sean Neff and Caiden Rodgers; and freshman Sam Miller.
As a sophomore last year, Carone took fifth in states and earned All-Ohio Honors. Hank Carey, a freshman last year, finished one win away from joining Carone in Columbus.
The team has statistically done better already this season than last year. “I think they should move into the top half of the PTC this year,” Coach Josh Zupancic said as the season was getting underway in December. “Additionally, we had six qualifiers for district and one qualifier for state last year. I think we can add to both of those numbers this year.”
Carone had high expectations for everyone. “I think the whole team has the potential to make it [to states] this year,” he said.
The team suffered multiple injuries in the pre-season, sophomores Caiden Rodgers and Sean Neff were both out, Rodgers for leg surgery, and Neff with back problems.
All freshmen, including Miller, Hall and Connor Neff, were out at the beginning of the season, Miller with a
concussion, Hall with sickness, and Neff, with leg problems.
“It’s kind of boring because I’m not wrestling, but it’ll be fun,” Miller said.
The team often spends time together, ironically, eating. They all enjoy eating, more so during the time they cut weight.
Aside from Zupancic, the wrestlers are led by assistant coaches Matt Giannokis, Greg Skoberne and Sean Kuklisin.
“They’re all good coaches,” freshman Sam Miller said. “They’re really entertaining and describe things well.”
This is Zupancic’s second season as head coach at Streetsboro “I really enjoy coaching the team here,” Zupancic said. “They are very respectful and listen well to all the coaches. I know they are similarly respectful to the teachers and school personnel, which makes me feel very lucky to coach this group.”
The guys kicked off their season December 10 at Clear Fork High School, taking second out of six teams. Four Rocket wrestlers — Carone, Hank and Mike Carey and Young all went undefeated.
The team finished in eighth place at the Hudson Holiday Tournament December 16 and 17. Six wrestlers placed, including Carone’s first place finish; Mike Carey, third; Young, fourth; and in fifth sophomores; Anderson, Rodgers and Tyler Dick.
Over winter, the team lost to Springfield and Ravenna in the dual at Springfield High School. They took tough losses to both teams, but Carone came in with quick pins for the team.
The team started off the new year with a loss to Norton, but a victory over Field, at Norton High School’s dual meet. It was here that Sean Neff returned to wrestle his first match of the season, and came out with a win for the team and himself.
The team tackled five others at Youngstown Liberty High School January 7 and came out on top at first place. Freshman Sam Miller pinned his opponent in 15 seconds in his first match of the season.
In January, at Firestone for the Bill Dies Tournament, the Rockets finished 19 out of 39. Carone and Hank Carey forfeited for sixth place, due to short-term injuries, while Anderson finished eighth.
PTC wrestling tournament was held at Rootstown High School February 3 and February 4. Along with the two championships other placers included Mike Carey taking fourth, and Hank Carey and Anderson taking fifth. The team took seventh overall.
All wrestlers must take at least fourth place at sectionals to continue on to the district tournament, and at least fourth at the district tournament to qualify for the state tournament.