Kusic, Giovengo Win at Tourney

Linsly’s Gage Giovengo has control of Tallmadge’s Connor Franks during their 285-pound championship finals match.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Tino Kusic had a choice to make over the Christmas holidays. Travel to sunny Florida with his family for a vacation or compete in the America’s Best Value Inn wrestling tournament?

Instead of heading south like many would this time of the year, the Bridgeport sophomore ruled the 152-pound weight class with a pair of technical falls and a major decision.

“Missing out on that trip motivated me,” Kusic, who was a Division III state qualifier last winter at 138, said after improving to 14-1. “If I hadn’t won then I’d really been mad at myself.”

He posted a 12-1 major decision over Indian Valley’s Matt Love in the finals on John Jenkins Court inside St. Clairsville High School as the two-day event came to a close Thursday night.

Kusic, who started seven games as the Bulldogs quarterback as a freshman, suffered a season-ending injury this fall in the final preseason scrimmage.

“I’m a little more focused this season because missing football gave me something to look forward to,” Kusic added. “I’m comfortable and I feel good out there on the mat.”

Bridgeport coach David Nelson was all smiles when talking about his prized sophomore.

“Tino wrestled a great tournament. He wrestled well and works hard,” Nelson said. “He never quits when he steps on the mat.”

Only one other local wrestler was able to stand atop the podium, that being Linsly heavyweight Gage Giovengo. The Cadets senior decisioned Tallmadge’s Connor Franks, 6-2.

“I felt confident out there,” the under-sized Giovengo, who weighed in at 217, said. “I count on my speed to help me against the bigger guys. I try to use it to my advantage.”

St. Clairsville, which finished fourth in the team race with 220.5 points, had a pair of runnerups among its nine placewinners.

Seniors Donte Vincenzo (138) and Mike Vanest (145) were both pinned in the finals. Vincenzo lost to Indian Valley’s Theron Stocker for the second straight season, while Vanest fell to Indian Valley’s Jacob Armstrong.

Bridgeport had two other placers besides Kusic, while Linsly had four others reach the podium in addition to Gage Giovengo, including Bridgeport native Tommy Curtin (132) who finished second.

Indian Valley repeated as team champion as the Braves from Gnadenhutten piled up 378 points, which was 102 better than second-place Tallmadge. The Braves had five champions in the first seven weight classes. In addition to the aforementioned Stocker and Armstrong, also capturing titles were Brady O’Connor (113), Dalton Burcher (120) and Adam Lenhoff (126). O’Connor won by disqualification; Burcher had a 44-second pin; and Lenhoff recorded a 22-7 technical fall.

One other OVAC wrestler won his weight class, that being Meadowbrook’s Jud Ramage (195). He was also named the Delande Brothers MVP after recording a pair of pins and a decision in the finals.

Also winning titles were the Tallmadge trio of Ed Suber (106), Jake Potock (132) and Richie Eyre (160). North Canton Hoover also had three champs in Luke Reicoski (170), Mitch Lofland (182) and Dillon Smith (220).

Burcher, O’Connor, Potock, Stocker, Eyre and Ramage defended their titles from 2015.

North Canton Hoover (231.5) was third, followed by the host Red Devils; Meadowbrook (144.5); Linsly (138); Williamstown (118); New Philadelphia (116); Shenandoah (92.5); and Bridgeport (89.5) to round out the top 10.

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