Duncan, Mroczynski reach district semifinals

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Konnor Duncan

GARFIELD HEIGHTS—Kirtland’s Konnor Duncan and Independence’s Nick Mroczynski both need just one more win to punch their ticket to next week’s state wrestling tournament after opening the Division III Garfield Heights district tournament with a pair of wins.

Duncan, a junior, reached the 120-pound semifinals while Mroczynski, a 170-pounder, is in the 170-pound semis.

“I wasn’t expecting to get this far at all,” said Duncan, who sat out last year’s district tournament with an injury. “I tweaked my leg during the week and I thought that would affect my performance. I took care of it all week and that was important.”

Duncan opened his first district tournament with a 1 minute, 40-second pin of Mogadore’s Dawson Manley then upset No. 1 seed Andrew Wenzel of Tuslaw, 8-3.

“He did everything right in that match,” said Kirtland coach Scott Francis of Duncan’s quarterfinals bout. “He got the first takedown and actually had two takedowns in the first period. That put a lot of pressure on the kid.”

Duncan isn’t feeling any additional pressure as he approaches Saturday’s semifinals round.

“I’m playing with house money now,” he said. “Nobody expected me to be here and I beat a No. 1 seed along the way.”

Duncan will wrestle Waynedale freshman Storm Stanley in the semifinals.

Mroczynski improved his district tournament record to 7-6 after winning both of his matches on Friday in his fourth straight district appearance.

“It feels pretty good,” he said. “I put in all that hard work during the season and in the offseason and hopefully it pays off (on Saturday).

Mroczynski opened the tournament with a 5-0 win over Wellington’s Gabe Gayheart then recorded a second straight shutout with a 6-0 victory over Wickliffe’s Doug Byrne.

“I wanted to score first and get the first takedown,” Mroczynski said of his strategy in the early rounds. “I couldn’t quite get turn them to get the back points. I wrestled them both before so they knew what I had.”

As a freshman, Mroczynski won one match in the consolation bracket and as a sophomore and junior he finished 2-2 and reached the consolation quarterfinals.

By advancing to the semifinals, Mroczynski will place no lower than sixth but he has his mind set on extending his senior season by another week.

To do that, he’ll have to beat Smithville’s Riley Smucker, who was fifth in the state last winter, in the semifinals or win a match in the consolation semifinals.

“I have to be really aggressive and work hard and trust my stuff,” he said. “I just hope I get the win.”

Independence advanced nine wrestlers to the district tournament and seven remain in contention after three rounds of wrestling.

“We took a few lumps today but we have seven guys still wrestling on Day 2 of districts,” said Independence coach Ken DeAngelis. “Nick Mroczynski did a nice job making it to the semifinals.”

Michael Kucera (126), Jack Brocco (145) and Jimmy Senick (152) all opened the tournament with a first round loss but rebounded with a win in the first round of consolation wrestling. Nick Rossi (160), Kevin Clymer (195) and Josh Stasek (285) each won their first bout but dropped into the consolation bracket with a quarterfinals setback.

All six need to win three matches to qualify for the state tournament.

Kirtland 220-pounder Jeff Kusar also will wrestle on Saturday as he bounced back from a first round loss with a 55-second pin of Loudonville’s Brice Swindall in the first round of consolation wrestling.

Cardinal’s three wrestlers all finished the day 0-2 to close out their district tournament experience.

Freshman Trevor Bachna competed at 126, Paul Byler wrestled at 132 and Zane Drebus was at 152.

Hawken’s J.P. Hlifka and Beachwood’s Tyler Balasz also reached the semifinals.

Hlifka, a returning state qualifier, will see Akron Manchester’s Jake White in the 120-pound semis.

“He’s tall and likes to stay farther away and keep his distance,” Hlifka said. “He likes to take long shots and run the boots on top so I know I have to work in tight and I’ve been working on countering the boots.”

Balasz drew defending 152-pound state champion Jacob Lagoa of Ashtabula St. John in the 170-pound semis.

“It feels great to be here in my second year wrestling,” Balasz said. “It’s crazy how much better I’ve gotten. Last year I was 145 pounds and this year we just focused on gaining weight.”

Hawken’s Jackson Reineke (113), Berkshire’s Anthony Surace (132) and Jarrod Malkus (138), Newbury’s Mike McKale (170), Alex Piczer (182) and Mitch Sanders (195), VASJ’s King Seyou (138) and Pat Sheridan (285), and Wickliffe’s Doug Byrne (170) all opened the tournament with a win then dropped into Saturday’s consolation bracket with a loss in the quarterfinals.

Beachwood’s Jeremy Leizman (106) and Michael Schmidt (138), Berkshire’s James Klingman (106), Hawken’s William Lindsey (285), Kirtland’s Jeff Kusar (220) and Newbury’s Joey Bond (106) and Mike Weston (145 all bounced back from a first round loss with a win in the consolation bracket.

Consolation wrestling begins at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. The semifinal round is scheduled to begin at noon.

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.