Lake Catholic wrestling: Joey Romano hits 100-pin plateau, focuses on bigger goals

Jan. 19—Those who know him best will tell you Joey Romano is a soft-spoken, gentle kind of young man — maybe even shy.

That being said, if he puts you in a cross-face cradle, you've got problems.

There's a long list of people who know what that's like.

Romano, Lake Catholic's senior 132-pounder, finished second at the Catholic Invitational Tournament last weekend in Toledo. In doing so, he recorded his 100th career pin.

Not 100th career win — his 100th career PIN.

"It's not exactly something I was shooting for, but it happened," Romano said. "I like to go out on the mat and dominate. It just happened."

Heading into this weekend, Romano's career record is 138-41 (.771). With 102 pins to his name — and with a big chunk of his senior year yet to go — that means 73.9% of Romano's high school victories have come via pin.

So when Romano says pins "just happened" — well — they've happened a lot.

"I was never really a pinner until my junior year. Maybe a little bit my sophomore year," Romano said. "I found something was working, and I went with it."

That "something" he found was a cross-face cradle, and he learned it the hard way. Being the drill partner for state champion Brendan McCrone, now a starter on Ohio State's wrestling team, made for some tough practices and some hard (yet valuable) lessons.

Romano said he was always on the short end of practice drilling with McCrone, whose signature move was and still is a cross-face cradle. After smacking around Romano in practice, McCrone taught the young Lake Catholic wrestler many things, including the cross-face cradle.

"That's where I get most of my pins now," Romano said.

No one is happier to hear that than McCrone.

"His freshman year, he didn't have much luck pinning people," McCrone told The News-Herald before Ohio State's match with Maryland on Jan. 19. "He saw how much I used the cradle and learned it. When the season is winding down to the end, that still works even against the best guys.

"When we practiced, never once did I get up and not say anything to him. I felt it was important to make it a teaching point. He took everything well, and now he's converting it to the mat. It's good to see."

Romano chuckled about those hard practices.

"Yeah, it could be discouraging," he said, "but he would beat me up and then teach me stuff and tell me I was doing good. The cross-face cradle worked for him and obviously it's working for me now, too."

Romano's success has been vast this year. He started off with a title at the Solon Comet Classic before going 3-2 at the prestigious Walsh Jesuit Ironman. Since then, he has won the North Canton tournament, was third at the Brecksville Invitational and second at the Catholic Invitational Tournament.

As a junior, Romano went 46-7 and placed fourth at 120 pounds in the Division III state tournament. He has a fourth-place medal from that tournament, but said it's buried in a box somewhere in the house and that he's not sure where it is.

Evidently, that medal is more of a motivation than a prize.

"It's in a storage bin somewhere," he said with a tinge of chagrin. "Obviously that's super motivating. It's the worst thing I can think of, not performing the way I should. It hurt a lot. I expect way better."

Romano is currently ranked second at 120 pounds to Legacy Christian's Dillon Campbell. The pair squared off at the Ironman, with Campbell winning. But as he did with his bouts against McCrone, Romano said the loss to Campbell serves as a learning moment going forward.

"The match can go a lot different now that I know what he's going to do," Romano said. "The goal is still a state championship. That's the kid I'm going to have to beat."