AUSTINTOWN - A goal that sounds nearly impossible for most high school wrestlers seemed simple enough for Boardman's Nick Mancini.
The senior said he set different goals for each tournament he wrestles in, and for the Josh Hephner Memorial Invitational - regarded as one of the toughest tournaments in the northeast Ohio area - his objective was to not get scored on for the entire tournament.
The 113-pound Mancini dominated the competition, pinning his first seven opponents and beating Reginald Lowery of Shaker Heights, 6-0, in the championship.
Mancini, one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the state at his weight class, said he wasn't trying to be overly cocky by setting such an expectation, but he has to create a high standard if he's going to reach his ultimate goal.
"My goal has been, since I was 5, to be a state champ," he said. "I've been wrestling with the best kids in the state, and I feel like I can hang with them, and when it comes down to it, I think I'm ready."
Most of the kids at the Hephner would probably agree. His coach certainly does. And while his opinion may be a bit bias - his father, Dom Mancini, has been leading the Spartans for 12 years - it's also honest.
"What it comes down to with him is the physical part," Dom Mancini said. "If the physical part is there, he's going to win because mentally he's got it. With a lot of kids, it's the other way around. The one thing with Nick is that he's wrestled enough high-level matches that he brings it every time."
The younger Mancini traveled around the country during the offseason and wrestled at some of the toughest tournaments in the nation to prepare for his senior season. The work seems to be paying off. He owns a 30-2 record, placed first at the Kenston Invitational and third at the Top Gun tournament, where he wrestled up a weight class at 120 pounds after missing practice for most of the week because of a sickness.
He's healthy now and could be primed for a run at a state title.
"He was in complete control of every match he was in (at the Hephner)," Dom Mancini said. "He's right where he needs to be at this point of the season."
LIBERTY'S BUCHER: Liberty senior Cody BuCher wasn't happy about having to wrestle for third place on Saturday.
The 220-pound BuCher lost a close match with his arch nemesis - and distant cousin - David Jamieson of Brookfield in the semifinals. The defeat, like so many other contests with Jamieson, was tough to endure for BuCher, who's been a point away from beating Jamieson several times over the past few years.
"I hate losing to him," he said. "I've lost to him so many times, and I thought I was going to beat him for once, but I ended up losing to him again. I kinda just had to throw it off and go out there and beat the next kid."
He did just that, pinning Matt Schmidt of Willoughby South in the second period to earn third place. BuCher (19-8), an Eastern Ohio Wrestling League finalist last year, might have a few more matchups with Jamieson upcoming, with potential showdowns at the EOWL tournament, sectionals, districts and possibly state.
That's OK with BuCher, who said he's been wrestling his best over the last two weeks - at the Top Gun Tournament and the Hephner.
"The competitions has been a lot harder," he said. "It will pay off though."