High school wrestling: Middleweight quartet guides Mentor in D-I sectional

Feb. 24—Mentor entered the Division I Euclid Sectional with four top seeds in the bracket in the middle of their lineup. Guided by the core of Diego Stropko, Jack DeBoe, Nick Blackburn and Antonio Shelley, the Cardinals were in a tight battle with Walsh Jesuit for the team title.

The quartet set the tone for the rest of the Mentor wrestlers and took that mindset into the tournament. They combined for six pins and a tech fall en route to four sectional titles.

Having multiple opponents in the room and working with each other has made all four better. DeBoe highlighted how they work against different types of styles to be ready for whatever opponents throw at them.

"It's awesome. We have partners all around us to work with," DeBoe said. "It helps us all get better. We're all in the heart of the room and everybody is getting better with every practice."

Stropko, who won the sectional last year but wrestled through the district round with an injury, said Mentor uses sectionals to see how to prepare for district and state.

He said going against wrestlers from Walsh Jesuit, Brunswick and Valley Forge early in the postseason will have them ready for the challenge of the Hoover District.

"It's nice to see how you compare to all of the other guys," Stropko said. "You see where you need to work to get better and what needs to be ironed out before district."

Having early challenges in the postseason and making weight for the event has fueled Shelley, who was a state placer a season ago at 138. All four of the middleweights dropped down a weight class for the postseason.

Shelley has been used to the weight cut each year when he returns to the mat from football season. This year, he went from 165 during the football season to 144 for the wrestling postseason.

He found the weight cut a lot easier than in years past, as the wrestlers around him shared the same aspirations.

"All four of us have aspirations to reach the state finals," Shelley said. "If any of us take it easy, we get on the other one. The weight cut comes with the sport and these guys make it a lot easier. The practices are fun and we're all going through it, too."

The Cardinals also had Liam Lloyd at 175, Ben McWilliams at 190 and Tim Pozgai at 215 all reach the finals as well.

Blackburn said the results show the work the team as a whole has put in.

"We're working all year round, it never stops for any of us," Blackburn said. "We had a good week of practice, and it's good to see all their hard work paying off."

Riverside's Antonio Bottiggi also found his way to the sectional final at heavyweight with two pins that took him just over 30 seconds a piece.

He knows as a lighter heavyweight, he needs fast starts. Bottiggi said combining his speed with his strength, he can gas a lot of his opponents and lead to better shots.

"It's super important to get them moving and work go heavy on the head," Bottiggi said. "I try to wear them out and it makes them get out of position more often. I can then fire off an explosive shot. It's all about the explosion and finishing all the way through."

David Rocha made it a pair of champions for Riverside at 120. A loss-of-control call with less than five seconds left tied the match at 1-1 with Brunswick's Edward Skiba. He got in on a quick single in sudden victory and took Skiba to his back for the victory.

North's Shamus Brady and Euclid's Corey Mackey took second at 113 and 150 respectively to lead the Rangers and Panthers.