Kenston Invitational Not Quite Normal, But Close
January 6, 2022 by Rich Kelly

When talks of Covid first started in March of 2020, it was the state wrestling tournament that was first affected. Many of the finalists learned the event was canceled on the car ride down.

Match photos here.

When talks of Covid first started in March of 2020, it was the state wrestling tournament that was first affected. Many of the finalists learned the event was canceled on the car ride down.

The 56th annual Kenston Invitational Wrestling Tournament was still affected almost two years later, as attendance to the general public was limited.

Yet one thing the virus has not been able to harm is the competitive fires that burn within each athlete taking to the mats.

That competitive nature came through loud and clear this past week as the West Geauga Wolverines led a Geauga County contingent with a third place finish, 126.5 points and a pair of individual champions in their weight classes.

The Kirtland Hornets showed some of the qualities that have built their football successes with a sixth place finish, 104.5 points and another pair of title holders.

And while the Hilltoppers had a football season to build memories on, Chardon’s wrestlers are just now rounding into wresting shape.

Hilltopper Alex McDonald finished second in the 285-pound class, while host Kenston, in a 17th place finish, one spot ahead of the Chardon contingent, had a pair of finals athletes.

For the Wolverines, Jack Sparent took first place in the 138-pound weight class with a 10-3 decision over Dom Vennetti of Boardman.

Sparent was impressive in his journey to the title with a trio of pins before his biggest challenge in the title bout.

Lucas Sadler, riding the wave of being named to the OHSAA All-Ohio football team at a high level, picked up where he left off on the gridiron by taking an 8-3 decision from Chardon’s McDonald in the finale.

It was a battle of two quality athletes who could make anybody’s All-Hair team, if there was such an animal, but these guys are strong and of high quality in what they did on the mats to reach this level. Sadler pinned his way to the finale before the pride of these neighborhood rivals stepped up for the grand finale matchup.

Sadler has his ducks all in a row over how he wants to proceed with his senior season and on.

“I really love both football and wrestling about the same,” he said during a break between matches. “Things are really going well for me right now; I’m maintaining weight well, my eating habits are really good, and there is always really high quality competition here, so it’s easy to get psyched up for.

“I’m still not sure what the future holds for me, but I love both sports about the same, so I’m hoping for some DI opportunities. But right now I see good chances to go to maybe Ashland or Mount Union, among others, that might give me a chance to do both sports. We’ll see how it plays out, but I’m excited just to be where I am.”

He has starred in both sports for the Wolverines, and now, with the return of Matt Rosati as head coach, Sadler sees good things for the future that have already begun.

“I think Coach Rosati will continue the good things we already have going at West Geauga,” he said. “We are on solid ground, and it’s an opportunity for the younger kids now to step up and succeed.”

The Kirtland Hornets had a pair of title winners as well. Brennan Braud won the 190-pound class with a decisive 9-2 decision over Lane McKenzie of Rootstown. Will Davidson won the 132-pound division in a thrilling 3-1 decision over Jayden Colon of Parma. Third-place finishes came from Louka Babic at 165 and Anthony Gencarelli at 175, and Gaetano Savelli took fourth at 144.

Adjusting from the gridiron — and its disappointment this year — to the mats has been a slow process for coach Scott Francis, but he sees many good things coming into play now.

“We got five kids into the finals this week,” he said. “It’s great to have two with a good chance for a title (which they did get done), but one of the things that has shown itself to be a huge part of our successes in football and other sports is the leadership, starting with Coach LaVerde and running well into the entire system. We have learned how to really care about each other, and that feeling builds in our sports programs and will carry the kids well into the rest of their lives. It’s been a great process, and we expect it to continue.”

Kenston’s placers in the finals were Sean Doyle, who took third at 285, and Ben Dimarco, who took fourth at 175 when he dropped a narrow decision at 9-6 to Gencarelli of Kirtland. Anybody who thinks these local athletes don’t get into the competitive flow when they meet is fooling themselves a great deal.

There were a lot of great matches in the return of the Kenston Invitational Tournament.

Kenston’s sports community has put on great shows in the past, and after a year off, they are back at it again. Wrestling fans and participants win big once again.