By Jessica Archer
Wrestling is nothing new to Nordonia High School Junior Mitch Collica. Wrestling at the state tournament, on the other hand, is uncharted waters.
Collica, who began wrestling when he was 3 years old with his brother and cousins, made it to the 81st annual state tournament at Value City Arena in Columbus, after placing third at the North Canton Hoover Division I District last weekend.
After only reaching the quarterfinals at district last year at Walsh Jesuit, Collica rededicated himself to Nordonia and the sport in the offseason. The Knights wrestling program is on the upswing under the direction of veteran head coach Jason Walters and first-year assistant coach Jason Lara, who is a teacher in the building. The duo run a tight ship focusing on fundamentals and family.
The program put eight wrestlers at the district tournament last weekend, which is five more than the year before. With the program gaining momentum, there were hopes the Knights would be Columbus-bound this weekend. Collica made that hope a reality.
“My goal this season was to be a state qualifier and then place at state. I made sure to work hard, never quit, and stay humble,” Collica said. “It felt like a relief to finally get here.”
Collica stayed focused this week with the help of his family and coaches. “They made me excited to come to state and told me anything can happen here if I just wrestle my heart out.”
Collica made his state debut Thursday night as he took on Jovan Fuqua (39-4) from Cincinnati Princeton. Both wrestlers spent most of the match battling it out on their feet as neither were able to score a takedown. After Fuqua choose down to begin the second period, Collica was able to maintain control, preventing Fuqua from scoring. Collica choose down to begin the third period and earned the only point of the match by escaping Fuqua’s grasp. The wrestlers finished the match on their feet, Collica winning 1-0 and advancing to the quarter final championship round, where he will face undefeated sophomore Daniel Segura (39-0) from Dublin Scioto. The match will happen around noon today.
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