photo courtesy of Richard Immel
The Walsh Ironman never, ever fails to deliver. And in 2018, it delivered again. We saw wild matches, fantastic performances, new stars and repeat champions at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio over the weekend. Here are my top takeaways from all the action.
1) The demise of Pennsylvania was much exaggerated
After a pretty poor showing at Super 32 in which PA had no champions and only a fair few placewinners, I spoke about Pennsylvania needing to look to some of the lowerclassmen for a boost. Well, when it came to Ironman, Pennsylvania and its wrestlers, both young and old delivered. The Keystone State produced champions at 145 and 182 lbs in Ryan Anderson of Bethlehem Catholic and Darrien Roberts of Wyoming Seminary. Anderson also was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler.
At 113, Alejandro Herrera-Rondon of Seneca Valley took second, notching wins over returning champ Jacob Decatur and returning runner-up Ryan Miller along the way. Gary Steen of Reynolds also had a strong showing, finishing third at 106 and Ryan Crookham took home a third-place finish at 120. Safe to say wrestling is not quite dead yet in Pennsylvania.
2) Shayne Van Ness is here to stay
A couple month ago, a little-known Blair Academy backup named Shayne Van Ness burst onto the scene at Super 32, winning the whole thing and taking out previous No. 1 and five-time Super 32 champion Adam Busiello along the way. Van Ness, a freshman NHSCA champ a year ago, looked extremely impressive in the process, but there were questions regarding where he’d fit in a loaded lineup and whether he could continue his winning ways. Well, both of those questions were answered this weekend. Van Ness bumped up to 132 for the season, with teammate Michael Colaiocco coming back down to 126. All the sophomore did this time around is go out and win it all yet again, taking out another No. 1 in Jordan Decatur in the process.
Get used to the name Shayne Van Ness, folks, because he’s not going anywhere.
3) Blair Academy is a daggum juggernaut this year
Blair Academy came into Walsh Ironman as the undisputed top team in the country. Blair Academy left Walsh Ironman as the undisputed top team in the country. The Bucs were downright nasty this weekend. They took home the team championship with 276.5 points, 100 points ahead of second-placed Wyoming Seminary. Blair crowned three champions and had five finalists in total. The Bucs are so ridiculously far ahead of the pack this year that ranked wrestlers such as Anthony Ferrari and Chris Cannon didn’t even crack the starting lineup this weekend. We’ll see how Who’s #1 duals shake out later this season, but as of now, it’s pretty clearly Blair and then everybody else.
4) Carson Kharchla is the undisputed No. 1 at 170, and it may not be close
After his Who’s #1 freestyle match with Julian Ramirez, Carson Kharchla took the top spot in the country at 170 and a 2-1 lead in the all-time series between he and Ramirez. Ramirez, however, held the only win in a folkstyle setting between the two. That changed on Saturday when he and Kharchla met in the finals of Ironman and the former rolled to a 5-2 victory.
The senior Ohio State signee is just now rounding into the best form of his high school career, and it appears Tom Ryan and company are getting one hell of a wrestler in the room starting next season.
5) Ironman is, unquestionably, the best way to start the high school season
Because folkstyle season, for most teams, ends with state championships, it’s only fitting that the season begins with a bang on the national level.
We get to see a lot of the top guys compete at Super 32, but it’s not as fun without the team aspect. Ironman can be counted on year after year to provide us with a fantastic picture of the team outlook nationally as well as provide us with a number of answers with regards to weight changes, weight class supremacy and lineup shakeups. This year, we saw many new faces at new schools. We saw talented wrestlers kept out of the lineup because of team strength, and we saw new faces emerge.
As appetizers go, Ironman is just about the tastiest you could imagine. Now we just need to pressure the IAHSAA to let the boys from Iowa come on down, and it’ll be one heck of a party.