by Michael Leonard | Sports Editor
The 2011-12 season saw the Hudson wrestling team climb back into title contention at least in dual meet formats.
Hudson finished the season with an overall record of 12-1, including a 4-1 mark in the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division. The Explorers won the River Division title last season.
However, Hudson’s tournament form left a bit to be desired. That’s something that 16th-year head coach Joe Caniglia believes the Explorers can change this winter.
“This year, it will be a bit slower starting because of football,” Caniglia said. “I think we have some wrestlers that are going to score us points in tournaments.
“All of our freshmen come from our youth and middle school programs. This is the first really big class of guys that have come from our youth team. It’s starting to pay off.”
Depth won’t be an issue, as usual, for the Explorers as Caniglia has 51 wrestlers in the room. He notes the fact Hudson cut its pay-to-participate fees in half helped a lot.
“This is a good group of hard-working kids,” Caniglia said. “They enjoy the sport and they’re doing what we ask.”
Five seniors graduated for Hudson, including standouts Marc Trommer, Zach Johnson and Sean Szoch.
“We’ll miss them more from a leadership perspective,” Caniglia said. “There’s a lot of guys who are willing to step up.”
Caniglia said a three-way fight is underway at 106 pounds as sophomores Thomas Margevich and Erik Johnson and freshman Hadley Vadeyak all are pushing for the starting spot.
Things are more settled at 113 pounds as freshman Ben Boysel will get the nod. Caniglia said Boysel is an outstanding wrestler technique-wise and is coming off qualifying for the middle school state tournament.
Hudson has more experience at 120 pounds. Sophomore Billy Buehl may have the edge after going 22-11 last season, but Caniglia notes senior Ronit Majumdar is pushing for starting time.
Senior district qualifier Brandon White is the favorite to start at 126 pounds after going 21-18 last year at 113. However, Caniglia said sophomore Jared Hamilton has shown a lot in the preseason.
After qualifying for districts last season at 120 pounds, senior Nathan Gregory has his eyes on a trip to the state meet at 132 pounds. He went 28-12 last season.
“He has been working pretty hard in the offseason,” Caniglia said. “I think we’re all looking for big things from him.”
Junior Braden Wright returns to his starting slot at 138 pounds, but he will have competition this year. Freshman Chris Motter, a junior high state qualifier, and freshman Collin Hall are pushing for time.
Caniglia said the starting spot at 145 pounds will be a toss-up between senior Trey Hickman and freshman Joe Russ.
There is no toss-up at 152 pounds as junior Michael Coleman might be Hudson’s top returning wrestler. Coleman went 30-13 last season and qualified for districts. Caniglia said Coleman worked hard to address his strength issue in the offseason.
“He’s quite a bit stronger than last year,” Caniglia said. “That’s the one thing I think he lacked a bit last season. He’s still that long, lanky wrestler, but I think he’s going to have a lot more leverage this year.”
At 160 pounds, senior Sam Semenczuk will get the nod after a .500 season last winter. However, freshman Zach Lewis and freshman Sandor Chunyo are looking for time.
Senior Josh Wervey will get the call-up from the junior varsity squad to start at 170 pounds, but sophomores Ben Krizman and Jimmy Dorr also are in the mix.
Hudson has both strength and depth at its upper-weight spots.
While senior Zach Vehar will get the nod at 182 pounds after a 20-win season, Caniglia notes there is a ton of talent beneath him. Sophomore Michael Delsanter picked up 11 wins last year as a freshman, while freshman Roman Moreno took fifth place last year at the junior high state meet.
Hudson got a huge boost when senior Danny Tiley decided to transfer home from Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. Tiley has been a district qualifier with the Royals each of the last two seasons and will get the nod at 195 pounds.
Sophomore Gabe Vehar also could see time at 195.
A cadre of young wrestlers will compete at 220 pounds as sophomore Dylan Carson and freshmen Matt Slater, Shane Brown and Danny Baca all are in the mix. Slater qualified for junior high states last winter.
At heavyweight, senior three-year starter Pete Mougey is back. While Mougey went 26-14 last year, Caniglia is looking for even more from his heavyweight, who should wrestle this season at about 275 pounds.
“He’s a big body now,” Caniglia said. “If he can have the same level of improvement this year as he had from his sophomore to junior years, I think he can be a state qualifier. I think he has the ability.”
Caniglia’s coaching staff includes Mark Osgood, Mark McClain, Joe Delsanter and Anthony Carbone.
Regarding the NOC River Division, Caniglia said an old rival is likely to be Hudson’s stiffest test.
“Cuyahoga Falls is going to be very good this year,” Caniglia said. “There’s a lot of good teams in that division, to the point where I think anyone can beat anybody else. I don’t think there’s going to be anyone who finishes perfect in the division.”
Hudson is scheduled to open the season at the Briggs Invitational Dec. 1 at Copley. First match is set for 9:30 a.m.