It takes iron will to wrestle at Walsh Ironman, invitational features elite talent, again

Some say the prime of your life is in your 20s.

If that’s the case, the 28th annual Walsh Ironman should bring a tournament unlike any other.

The Ironman features six of the top 10 and 13 of the top 20 teams in the nation, as 133 teams from 27 states will travel to Wyoga Lake Road to grab one of the most sought after crowns in all of high school sports.

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“The Ironman has now become a tournament that has great history,” Blair Academy (N.J.) coach Ross Gitomor said. “Hall of Fame teams and individuals have been a part of this tournament. In addition, Ohio is a great wrestling state, so when you come to this tournament the fans and people involved are knowledgeable. The small space to wrestle coupled with the loaded talent across the country makes it appealing and exciting for the kids.

"Coming from Blair as a competitor and now as a coach, it has always been evident to me that these teams really want to beat you. That makes the preparation a lot of fun.”

The coach of the reigning champion team knows what he’s talking about.

Three months ago, four-time Ironman champion David Taylor and two-time Ironman champ Kyle Snyder won gold medals at the World Championships in Belgrade.

Why Walsh? 'The Ironman is the best in-season tournament in the country for high school wrestling'

Former CVCA standout and current assistant coach Nathan Tomasello knows just how important the Walsh Ironman is to a wrestler. He won it three times.
Former CVCA standout and current assistant coach Nathan Tomasello knows just how important the Walsh Ironman is to a wrestler. He won it three times.

One former placer won an NCAA Division I title and four others finished second.

“The Ironman is the best in-season tournament in the country for high school wrestling,” three-time Ironman champion, national champion, four-time All-American and CVCA four-time state champion Nathan Tomasello said. “It embodies an Ironman contest and brings the best teams and wrestlers around together for a weekend of national championship-level matches.”

Now an assistant for the Royals, Tomasello is looking forward to bringing in some of his finest to compete against the best.

In case you needed more legacy winners from the recent past, three-time Ironman champion Braxton Amos has won a world title in Greco and Zain Retherford finished second in freestyle.

An invitational that National Hall of Famer and former St. Edward coach Greg Urbas once called the tournament where state champions come to die, countless standouts each year don’t make it to the placement rounds, let alone the second day.

That’s because team selector and seeding director Corey Haddad spends the better part of six months combing over brackets to make sure he finds competition that only the Ironman can provide.

“The best possible field gives a national barometer of how elite the competition is per weight class,” he said. “My goal is to give every wrestler worthy of the opportunity in making the Ironman the best high school tournament in the nation.”

Braxton Amos, left, wrestles Haydn Maley at 97 kg during the final session of the USA Wrestling World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, Sunday, May 22, 2022, at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.
Braxton Amos, left, wrestles Haydn Maley at 97 kg during the final session of the USA Wrestling World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, Sunday, May 22, 2022, at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

Wrestling success begins at Ironman

That isn’t lost on the wrestlers either.

Iowa State’s David Carr, who starred in high school at Perry, won a national title in Fargo and is a two-time All-American and national champion.

He won two titles at Ironman and considers those to be some of the best in his trophy case.

“The Ironman tournament brings in the best talent high school has to offer,” he said. “It’s definitely one of the toughest tournaments I got to compete in year after year.”

Many look at an invite as a privilege, which is why they don’t mind spending a few days just before the holiday season in a jam-packed gymnasium watching – and competing – in the best competition the sport has to offer.

“The Walsh Ironman stands out among other national tournaments for its field and its commitment to their brand,” Stillwater, Okla., coach Ethan Kyle said. “The tremendous history of champions and participants over the years that have gone on to win NCAA, world and Olympic medals clearly sets it apart.

“The tradition of keeping it in the original location and embracing the incredible environment has made it a fan and athlete favorite. The kids today can step into the same arena of Olympic champions and have their own piece of that experience. It's so unique to the Ironman. I think the credit goes to the board of directors for their commitment to researching and recruiting great teams and also the vision to be flexible enough to invite individuals as well.

"We look forward to continuing participation in the Ironman. The invitation is affirmation that our Stillwater wrestling program is in good shape.”

Contact Brad Bournival at bbournival@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @bbournival.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Walsh Ironman features elite high school wrestlers