GATES MILLS—Independence placed seven wrestlers to earn a third place finish at the 2017 Hawken Invitational Tournament on Saturday.
The Blue Devils went 6-1 in the finals round.
“It was a good night,” said Independence coach Ken DeAngelis. “We knew coming in we weren’t at our full strength. We had a couple guys who aren’t down to weight yet and a couple guys working back into the lineup but considering what we threw out there, seven placers, three champs, a third place finish, it’s pretty impressive and I’m proud of that.”
Senior Nick Mroczynski defeated Wickliffe’s Doug Byrne, 6-1, to win the 170-pound title.
The HIT championship was the third straight for Mroczynski, who in four years has just one loss in the tournament.
“I’ve been coaching Nick for five years now, I’ve had him in eighth grade and all four years in high school, and that’s the best tournament I’ve seen him wrestle,” DeAngelis said. “He has a different mindset. He was looking to score points. He wasn’t looking for a 2-1 win; he was looking for a major, a tech or a pin. If he wrestles like that all year, he’s going to do some good things.”
Mroczynski pinned his way to the finals. He opened the tournament by flattening Cleveland Central Catholic’s Alonte Henderson in 18 seconds.
Junior Nick Rossi pinned his way to the 145-pound championship.
His first two bouts lasted less than a minute and he needed just 1:43 to pin Pymatuning Valley’s Kenny Crouch in the semifinals. He closed out the event by sticking Cleveland Central Catholic’s Alex Mathis in 55 seconds.
“He’s been a different kid this year in the room,” DeAngelis said. “He’s always had a world of talent, but it was always if he would put it together out there. He’s got finishing moves. He can stick you from anywhere. You add that to a single or a high crotch, more conventional moves, and he could go a long way this year. He had a great tournament.”
Rossi’s finals bout didn’t start out so well.
He slipped trying to turn Mathis and ended up on his back.
“He’s willing to take those risks,” DeAngelis said. “He fought to get out of it and came back to stick him. I don’t think he had the pressure there to finish. He was taking him over and it just didn’t work.”
Senior Alex Nelson recorded two pins and two decisions to win the 182-pound title.
He beat CCC’s Darryl Bacon, 7-2, in the championship bout to record the first tournament win of his high school career.
Nelson earned first team All-Ohio honors as a football player and that momentum has carried over to the mat.
“You feel good when a kid like that, who comes in and works hard every day, does that,” DeAngelis said. “He went out there and competed. He had a heck of a football year this year, first team all-state, and talking to the football coach, he said he just turned a corner this year. If he turns that same corner in wrestling there are some good things coming.”
Junior 126-pounder Michael Kucera finished second after dropping a 3-2 decision to Brecksville’s Carter Lloyd in the championship bout. He pinned both of his preliminary round opponents in under a minute.
Sophomore Luke Clymer and senior Josh Stasek both finished third and freshman Richie DiGeronimo finished fifth at 120.
Clymer was 3-1 at 195 pounds while Stasek was 4-1 at 285 with a 3-2 loss in the semifinals.
Sophomores Liam Walker (132), Vinnie Bucci (182) and Charlie Starling (285) all finished 1-2 for the Blue Devils. Freshmen Collin Patton (106), Seth Patterson (160) and Jack Corrigan (195) also competed.