Marty Gitlin

MENTOR: Jose Rodriguez has already taken a big bite out of the Big Apple. Now hes looking to take a bigger bite out of the Buckeye State.

The friendly Perry 106-pounder took advantage of a 99-pound weight class to place second as a freshman in the 2012 New York State Wrestling Tournament. His move from Long Island to Stark County opened his eyes to what he sees as far stronger competition, but he has been up to the challenge. He captured a Division I district championship Saturday night in Mentor with a pin of Massillon freshman Jake Donahue at 4:51.

A bit of dj vu accompanied that match. Rodriguez upended Donahue for the sectional title as well.

I wouldnt have changed anything, said a jubilant Rodriguez. Its competitive out in New York, but its much tougher here. Everyone really goes after each other and takes it more seriously. Its definitely exciting. State is going to be tough, but Im pretty confident I can win a title.

The victory set the tone for a typically strong night for a team that placed second to perennial champion Lakewood St. Edward in the state tournament last year. Perry ran away with the district crown with 199 points.

Junior Isaac Bast (145) executed a third-period takedown to secure a top seed with a 3-1 victory over Lucas Marcelli of Jackson and senior teammate Bruno Millin (160) dominated Jake Denman of Painesville Riverside 7-0.

But Panthers 195-pounder JoJoTayse was forced to forfeit after a kneecap injury during his finals clash against Kyle Conel of Ashtabula Lakeside. Tayse defaulted merely for precautionary reasons.

Perry 120-pound junior David Bavery placed third at 120 after snagging the state title at 106 a year ago. Bavery fell in the semifinals to fellow defending state champion Brandon Thompson in the semifinals before recovering to beat Lakeside junior Alec Cotton.

Its definitely a big challenge, Bavery said. Im not wrestling small boys anymore. Its better competition and I enjoy it. Thompson is the one who beat me for the state title as a freshman. I stopped wrestling at the edge [of the mat] and he got his two points. That was my mistake.

Other area wrestlers will be heading to Columbus with momentum. Included is Jackson 126-pound senior Ivan McClay, who placed third in the state a year ago at 120 and used a third-period takedown to clinch a 7-3 decision over Tommy Zeigler of Cleveland St. Ignatius in the final.

McClay was well aware of the importance of the takedown that stretched his lead to 7-2. He was also thrilled to beat a Wildcats wrestler, having lost to one in the district finals in each of the last two years.

Beating my nemesis definitely boosts my confidence, he said. That [takedown] was important because it put me up by five, McClay said. The kid cant put you on your back and tie the match.

In one of the local spotlight finals of the night, Hudson senior Danny Tiley (182) scored his first points late in the second period and kept tallying for an 8-2 win over Jackson senior Charlie Dear. Not bad for a kid who was forced to eat his way up to 195 pounds in 2012 and couldnt qualify for state.

When I got those back points on him, that was the momentum turner, Tiley said. Im wrestling at my natural weight now and it feels good.

Speaking of feeling good, GlenOak 285-pounder Corey Siegfried was grinning from ear to ear after his 3-1 final victory over Chuck Morgan of Lakeside. It was the smile of a senior who had wrestled junior varsity last year.

Here I was wrestling a kid with only one loss and I was just taking the mentality that I could do anything if I just give it my best, Siegfried said. I was using my underhooks to take his offense away.

Perry 152-pounder Tony Dailey did not earn a district championship, but as moral victories go, he managed a great one in the final against Solon 152-pounder Anthony Collica. Dailey wrestled the Oklahoma State-bound two-time state champion to a scoreless draw for two periods before a reversal in the third period resulted in a 2-1 loss and second-place finish.

Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps.