Some tournaments mean a bit more to a high school wrestler.
The ultimate is the state tournament in Columbus, but the ones in your backyard have just as much meaning.
For those in Summit County, the Bill Dies Memorial Tournament holds such status, and many of the champions didn’t hesitate to say as much after winning the 32nd annual event Saturday at Firestone Community Learning Center.
The tournament was named after the co-founder of the Ohio Youth Wrestling Association, and many of the wrestlers of today worked the event when they were younger or came to the invitational as a kid imagining one day having their hand raised at the end.
“This has been my dream since I started working this tournament in fourth grade,” Barberton 182-pound champion Gary Wokojance said. “I remember working it and watching all these wrestlers come through. To finally win it feels really good.
“I know how this tournament is, so to be in the finals and tech fall in the finals, it feels awesome. It’s really sweet. This is one step of plenty more to come. I’ve watched awesome guys wrestle this. I always thought to myself, one of these days I’m going to win this tournament. I’ve got to. It’s been a really big dream of mine. It’s awesome to be able to sign my name on the championship banner.”
That banner is littered with the names of former state champions, national champions and college All-Americans. It’s a sign filled with the best of the best and is one that wrestlers strive to put their name on.
Wokojance, a two-time state placer, wasn’t the only one wanting to grab the Sharpie and etch his name in history.
Stow’s Daniel Patten was looking for the same result and got it after beating Sheridan’s Jordan Barnett 8-4 to win at 145 pounds.
From the Solon Comet Classic to the Hudson Holiday Tournament, the Bulldogs don’t shy away from quality opponents. The Dies, however, is the big one that Patten, a state placer, has always wanted.
“The kids that have wrestled here are studs,” Patten said. “It’s awesome. In middle school, I remember hearing about everybody going to the Dies. It was the big weekend. I always wanted to wrestle here and get that title.
“Since I was little, I remember everyone in Stow making a big deal of it. It’s probably the only high school tournament besides state I’ve been excited about since high school. This is awesome. It’s good to just keep getting better for Suburban League, sectional, district and state when it really matters.”
Copley’s Kyren Butler (120) grew up in the Kenmore district so he’s known about the Dies for quite a while.
A state qualifier, Butler took down Jefferson Area’s Jason Mayes 5-0 for his title and knew immediately how big a step he took.
“This one is pretty big,” Butler said. “Some people will look at this tournament and think, ‘He just won this tournament. He’s pretty big.’ I usually don’t look. I always look forward, but if I were look to back at this tournament, it gives me that steppingstone.”
Green’s Caleb Graber (132) took a big step as well after the state qualifier scored a 3-0 decision over Woodridge’s Brandon Reeves.
“It's awesome writing your name in the history books,” Graber said. “I love it. I like to earn everything I have. It proves the naysayers wrong.”
Brecksville repeated as team champion with individual titles from Jack Stanley (113), Jimmy Carmany (126), Vic Voinovich (152) and Ethan Hatcher (195).
Brunswick’s Derek Fields (138) was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler. Streetsboro’s Hank Carey won at 170.