The 56th edition of the nation’s oldest continuous running “holiday” tournament returns to Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School on Thursday, December 29 and Friday, December 30. The field will feature 48 teams in total, including 20 programs from northeast Ohio battling it out with a diverse field of teams from across Ohio, three from the state of Michigan, and one from Pennsylvania
Featured in this field are 132 wrestlers that have previously appeared in a state wrestling tournament. This includes eleven wrestlers that were state champions in 2016: Georgio Poullas (Canfield), Brenden McRill (Davison, Mich.), Drew Mattin and Jesse Beverly (Delta), Sean Sterling and Brandon Whitman (Dundee, Mich.), Brandon Fenton (Elyria), Kevon Freeman (Lake Catholic), Kaleb Romero (Mechanicsburg), Kyle Lawson (Olentangy Liberty), and Kaden Russell (St. Ignatius)
Another fourteen finished second in the state this past year: Gabe Tagg (Brecksville), A.J. Facundo (Davison, Mich.), Kevin Vough (Elyria), Lamonte Chapman (Fremont Ross), Jake Martinez (Licking Valley), Eli Boulton (Lowell, Mich.), Brady Barnett (Milan Edison), Dalton Hoover (Martins Ferry), Trevor Lawson (Olentangy Liberty), Moises Guillen (Perrysburg), Greg Quinn (Shadyside), Sandro Ramirez and Tony Bannister (Wauseon), and Matt Fields (Walsh Jesuit). In all 70 members of the field placed in the top eight of their state tournament bracket last year.
The host school, Brecksville, seeks to repeat as tournament champions after winning last year’s even by one-half point over Delta. Should the Bees repeat as champions, it would be their fourth title in the last five years at the tournament. They concluded the last season in the semifinals of the team state tournament for a fourth year running, which does include a championship in 2015 and runner-up finish in 2014. At the individual tournament, the Bees finished fourth, which marked a fourth consecutive year of finishing inside the top five.
Entering the 2016-17 season ranked No. 33 nationally, the squad for head coach Todd Haverdill is led by returning state runner-up Gabe Tagg and incoming freshman Julian Tagg, who was a Cadet National freestyle champion this summer. Other wrestlers with state tournament experience include Marco Regalbuto, Jaden Kinney, and Luke Strnad, while Jason Bronstrup is a two-time state alternate.
Two teams in the field are nationally ranked higher than Brecksville, No. 12 Olentangy Liberty and No. 15 Elyria. Olentangy Liberty features seven wrestlers with state tournament experience, most notably three-time state champion Kyle Lawson. Oether returning placers include Trevor Lawson, Brakan Mead, Trey Grenier, and Connor Brady; while Jordan Rosselli and Zach Furnas are each two-time state qualifiers. Elyria features six wrestlers with state tournament experience led by state champion Brandon Fenton and 2015 state champion Kevin Vough; J.T. Brown is a two-time state placer, Matt Zuckerman and Brendan Price made the state tournament last season, while Josh Breeding qualified for state in 2015.
Two other teams are most notable in the challenge pack: No. 47 in the nation Lowell, Mich. and Mechanicsburg. Both teams feature seven wrestlers that made the state tournament this past season.
Eight teams in this field finished as champion or runner-up in at least one of the dual meet or individual bracket state tournaments last year: Canfield (Division II individual runner-up), Davison (Mich. – Division 1 state runner-up), Delta (Division III dual meet and individual champions), Dundee (Mich. – Division 3 state champions), Elyria (Division II dual meet and individual runner-up), Lowell (Mich. – Division 2 state champions), Mechanicsburg (Division III dual meet runner-up), and Wauseon (Division II dual meet runner-up).
On the individual side of things, six wrestlers will seek to repeat as champions in this year’s edition of the Brecksville Holiday Invitational Tournament (BIHT): Drew Mattin, who seeks to become just the fifth wrestler to win this tournament four times; Brakan Mead; Moises Guillen (Perrysburg); Georgio Poullas; Kaleb Romero; and Brenden McRill. Eight additional wrestlers seek to move one step higher on the podium after finishing as runner-up last year: Jordan Decatur (CVCA), Marco Regalbuto, Connor Brady, Jake Martinez (Licking Valley), Colt Yinger (Mechanicsburg), Jesse Beverly, J.T. Brown, and Brandon Whitman; Matt Cardello (CVCA) and Austin Murphy (Elder) were runner-up finishers in 2014.
The BIHT would like to welcome all 48 teams to the event, in particular the four teams making their overall debut in this event. Those include Alliance, Fairfield, Lowell (Mich.), and Midview. A cordial welcome back is also given to four squads returning back to the event after hiatus: Columbus DeSales, Hilliard Davidson, Shadyside, and Woodridge.