BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
GENOA — When Genoa coach Bob Bergman took over the Comet wrestling program it was, to put it nicely, in a state of flux. Some might say the program was in a state of disarray. But now, the program has become one of the state’s best, as evidenced by its second consecutive state dual team tournament championship.
In the tournament, Genoa won its first two matches convincingly before facing its most formidable challenge in the Edison Chargers, who won the tournament two years ago. Edison won three of the first four matches to take an 18-6 lead, but a 15-0 victory by Julian Sanchez keyed a run that saw Genoa win seven consecutive matches. The Comets took the lead for good at 21-18 when Dustin Morgillo beat Jordan Keegan by major decision, 13-1.
Genoa defeated Rootstown, 55-13, in the semifinals, winning six matches by fall, two by major decision, one by technical fall and another by forfeit.
In the quarterfinals, the Comets barely gave up any points, defeating Marion Pleasant, 72-6. Oscar Sanchez pinned Spencer Steed at 120 pounds to follow up two Pleasant forfeits. The Comets won one other match by forfeit and the other eight by fall.
Genoa also won the individual tournament last year. Oscar Sanchez, Dylan D’Emilio and James Limongi all won championships last year, Noah Koch came in third and Julian Sanchez was sixth after finishing second in each of the two previous seasons.
“We’ve been really blessed and fortunate to have a lot of great kids in our program who have put in the work individually to make themselves the best they can be,” said Bergman. The best part is they’ve helped their teammates do the same and collectively we have been able to have success as a team.
“It’s been a really rewarding experience. Like anything, it’s had its challenges and obstacles along the way, (but) to overcome them and reach a goal is special. The kids deserve all the credit. It’s been a collaborative effort from many quality people. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great kids, coaches and families.”
It’s a special group of eight seniors that lead this team, a unit that consists of the likes of the Sanchez boys, D’Emilio and Limongi.
“Our senior class has been the core of our team for a number years and all of them have district/state experience. All of our seniors are starters in our lineup. Their leadership has been instrumental in our program’s rise,” said Bergman. “They bring out the best in our upperclassmen and set the tone for the room.”
Bergman comes from a stellar wrestling pedigree. His father, Joe, coached at Oak Harbor for 20 years before joining his son at Genoa. His uncle, George, has coached at Oak Harbor for over 30 years and his cousin, J.D., was a two-time state champion in high school and a three-time All-American at Ohio State.
Bergman’s brother, Joe, who previously worked as an assistant coach with the team, talked about the work Bob has done to lift the program.
“The program had minimal numbers. The schedule was moderate at best. There was very little technique being taught or learned, let alone mastered,” Joe said. “Bob pays attention to small nuances in techniques. When those nuances are drilled and perfected into muscle memory, wrestlers win more often.
“Bob just keeps learning new styles of wrestling and tweaking and honing techniques and then implementing them into his wrestlers.”
Bergman credited the community for supporting the team.
“I believe any community will attach itself and rally behind a winning program. The wrestling program brought in new, talented wrestling families to the Genoa community and made the team unbelievably successful,” he said. “The families and businesses in the community have supported the school, the program and the kids in some pretty amazing ways.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we think it would come together like it has. The team is on the verge of winning its fourth state championship.”