For Walsh Jesuit wrestling, the Division II district tournament at Alliance presented both joy and pain.
The joy came from two Warriors earning their first trips to the Division II state tournament.
The pain came from All-Ohioan Mike Kostandaras not making the state field.
Despite having only four district qualifiers, Walsh finished 11th in the team race at Alliance with 59.5 points. Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy won the team title with 174 points.
The top four finishers in each weight class at Alliance reached the Division II state meet, which began Feb. 28 at Value City Arena (see story, Page 40).
The highlight of the tournament was the performance of freshman 106-pounder Alex Mackall, who won the individual title at 106.
Mackall opened by pinning Fairless' Ricky Jay in 1:22, before winning a very tight 7-5 decision over Field's Cory Simpson.
In the semifinal, Mackall dominated the match, punching his ticket to states with a 15-0 technical fall over Poland Seminary's Dante Ginnetti.
In the final, Mackall was trailing 3-2 in the period against Louisville's Dakota Oliver when his offense got going. Mackall scored a pair of takedowns and a three-point nearfall, putting Oliver on his back for the final 30 seconds of the period.
While Oliver avoided the pin, Mackall claimed the 9-4 decision to win the title.
"Alex wrestled well all weekend," said Walsh coach Fred Daugherty. "He did what he had to do to win. Winning the district championship as a freshman said a lot about him."
Daugherty said he still considered St. Paris Graham's Eli Stickey to be the favorite at the state meet, but Mackall should place high.
At 132 pounds, junior Nolan Whitely earned his first trip to states by taking second place.
Whitely opened with a 20-3 technical fall over Gevena's Tyrone Brininger and then defeated Alliance's Spencer Nagy 5-1.
The semifinal was a tight affair, as Whitley faced off with St. Vincent-St. Mary's Walter Gibson. After both wrestlers were given penalty points, Whitely escaped in the third period and hung on for a 2-1 win to reach states.
Whitely's title match with Perry's Aaran Gessic was another close affair. Leading 1-0 heading into the third period, Whitely gave up an escape and was taken down. Whitely escaped himself and Gessic was hit with a late stalling call, but Gessic hung on for a 3-2 win.
"Nolan's improved a lot this year," Daugherty said. "He working on getting better on his feet. It's worked a lot."
Meanwhile, Kostandaras had to wrestle in the toughest bracket in the state at districts. The 126-pound bracket at Alliance had five returning All-Ohio wrestlers vying for four state spots.
Kostandaras opened with an 8-0 win over Poland's Tad Duran, but then dropped a tight 2-1 decision to Lake Catholic's Anthony Tutolo, the eventual champion at 126.
Kostandaras rebounded by beating Perry's Cory Gramberg 9-1 and Orange's Frank Regalbuto by 15-0 technical fall.
In the consolation semifinal, Kostandaras needed to beat Canton South's D.J. Schoeppner to earn his state berth.
Kostandaras seemed to have things under control, leading 2-0 heading to the third period. However, in the last 30 seconds of the match, Schoeppner reversed Kostandaras onto his back and got a pair of two-point nearfalls. The second move appeared to injure Kostandaras' shoulder and he had to lose the match by injury default.
"That was a rough to take," Daugherty said. "That second match he lost, he led into the last minute and just got into a bad position. I wasn't expecting that."
Kostandaras was able to come back and win the fifth-place match 5-1 over Buchtel's Nevin Strobelt-McCann, but he had to settle for an alternate position.
Walsh's final district qualifier was 120-pounder Stefan Plevris. Plevris went 1-2 at the districts.