It is amazing to see what God has done with the Wrestling Program at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy over the past twenty plus years. This program has truly been blessed by God and it is to Him that we give all of the Glory for anything that is accomplished on or off of the mat! CVCA Wrestling started with a vision by a great man and has continued on to influence the lives of hundreds of young men. Along the way, CVCA Wrestling has crowned two Four Time State Champions, an Olympian, and changed the lives of countless athletes, parents, and coaches. With many top finishes at the state tournament in the past twenty years, God is still doing amazing things at CVCA!
The CVCA Wrestling Program was founded by Coach Al McIntosh in 1990. The team wrestled a completely JV Schedule as a club team for the 1990-91 season. Against Ravenna's JV Team, Peter Gore was the first ever athlete to win a match as a CVCA Wrestler. During the school's first Varsity season in 1991-92, CVCA recorded its first Varsity Dual Meet Win over Gilmour Academy. During Coach McIntosh's third year at CVCA, Mark Curry (Sectional 4th) was the first ever CVCA wrestler to qualify for the District Tournament in 1993. During the 1993-94 season a transfer Junior from Central Hower High School named Damion Lester became CVCA Wrestling's first ever State Qualifier and Placer. Damion became a two-time State Placer for CVCA, placing 3rd at 145 lbs. as a Junior in 1994 and again he took 3rd at 145 lbs. as a Senior in 1995.
Dave Bergen stepped in as Head Coach for the 1995-96 season. During this year Senior Doug Jenison earned CVCA's third individual state placement by placing 6th at 189 lbs. Also, during this year a promising young 7th grader named Harry Lester (Damion's younger brother) joined CVCA's wrestling program. The following year showed continued success for the CVCA Wrestling program and produced another State Placer in Senior John Christian placing 6th at 189 lbs. in 1997.
The 1997-98 season became a milestone season as CVCA crowned its first ever State Champion and acheived a top ten team finish at the State Tournament. Harry Lester, as a freshman at 103 lbs., compiled a 43-1 record and became CVCA's first State Champion. Also, finishing as a State Runner-Up that year was Junior Andy Vogel at 135 lbs. The team finished 9th in the state in Division III. Over the next few years, CVCA would become one of the most elite wrestling programs in the entire state.
In 1999, CVCA crowned two State Champions in Sophomore Harry Lester at 112 lbs. and Senior Andy Vogel at 145 lbs. on their way to a Fifth place finish at the State Tournament. During this year CVCA also welcomed Varsity Assistant Coach Joe Boardwine to the coaching staff.
CVCA continued its run of success during the 1999-2000 season crowning two more State Champions in Juniors Harry Lester at 119 lbs. and Chris Smolk at 171 lbs. The team also featured a freshman standout named Matt Smilek who placed 3rd at 103 lbs. and another State Qualifier in Senior Jarrad Turner. In 2000, CVCA Wrestling finished as State Runners-Up, which at the time was the school's highest state finish in any sport .
2000 OHSAA Division III State Runner-Up Team
By 2000-01 one of the staples for the CVCA Wrestling program became the extremely tough schedule. CVCA still continues to wrestle one of the toughest schedules in the entire state of Ohio with the philosophy that tough competition and adversity prepares athletes for competing at the highest level and unconditionally serving the Lord. The 2000-01 schedule featured the toughest tournaments in the area in the Walsh Ironman Tournament, Medina Invitational Tournament, and Top Gun Tournament. CVCA hosted several very tough Home Dual Tournaments featuring some of the strongest teams throughout the state and even bringing in a nationally ranked team from California. The team also traveled out of state to wrestle in one of toughest dual tournaments in the state of Kansas. During this season CVCA finished an impressive Third at the prestigious Walsh Ironman Tournament (behind St. Edward's and Blair Academy), and Team Runners-Up at the Medina Invitational and Top Gun Tournaments.
At the State Tournament in 2001, CVCA crowned three state champions in Seniors Harry Lester at 130 lbs., Brett Smilek at 135 lbs., and Chris Smolk at 171 lbs. The team also placed three other wrestlers in Freshman Steve Blunk 2nd at 125 lbs., Senior Paul Charvat 3rd at 112 lbs., and Sophomore Matt Smilek 6th at 119 lbs. Harry Lester became the state's 10th Four Time State Champion compiling a 164-2 record while at CVCA.
With the programs run of State Champions CVCA began to gain National Recognition being ranked in the nation by USA Today in 2000-01. Senior Harry Lester was even reconized with a full page article in Sports Illustrated in February of 2001.
Harry Lester in Sports Illustrated February 2001
CVCA continued its success over the next few years. Placing at the state tournament for the Royals in 2002 were Juniors Matt Smilek 3rd at 130 lbs. and Matt Sammons 3rd at 140 lbs. As Seniors in 2003, the same two wrestled in the state finals with Matt Smilek bringing CVCA home yet another State Title winning the championship at 152 lbs. Matt Sammons finished 2nd at 145 lbs.
CVCA welcomed its third Head Wrestling Coach for the 2003-04 season in Coach Don Lorence. Justin Tripp become the first CVCA State Placer under Coach Lorence placing 4th at 171 lbs. in 2005. After moving up to Division II, CVCA placed three wrestlers at the State Tournament in 2006. Junior John Weakley became CVCA's 10th State Champion by winning the Division II Championship at 189 lbs. Also placing were Senior Justin Tripp 3rd at 171 lbs. and Junior Thomas Windom 5th at 140 lbs.
Two-Time State Champion John Weakley
The 2006-07 season proved to be another great year as CVCA entered the Division II State Tournament with a District Runner-Up team finish and with four District Champions. The team finished 4th in the State with five State Placers. Leading the way was Senior John Weakley winning his second State Championship at 189 lbs. Also placing for the Royals were Seniors John Sinchok 5th at 171 lbs., Ryan Oddo 6th at 215 lbs., and Thomas Windom 7th at 145lbs.; and Junior Jared Kusar 7th at 152 lbs.
This 2007-08 season marked another great finish for the Royals. The team finished 4th in the State in Division III with Six State Placers. Leading the way for the Royals were Senior Jared Kusar 3rd at 152 lbs., Freshman Alex Utley 3rd at 160 lbs., Juniors Shelton Morris 4th at 125 lbs., Greg Hojnacki 7th at 189 lbs., and Tyler Powers 8th at 130 lbs., and Sophomore Brandon Sommers 5th at 119 lbs.
CVCA returned four state place winners for the 2008-09 season, and it proved to be one of the most successful in CVCA Wrestling history. The team finished in 3rd place at the state tournament with a record breaking Seven State Place Winners. The team won the District Championship for the first time in school history and won the Sectional Championship for only the third time in school history. They also finished as Undefeated PAC-7 League Champions.
CVCA also crowned the school's 12th State Champion in Senior Tyler Powers at the 135 lbs. weight class. Sophomore Alex Utley also wrestled in the state finals finishing in 2nd place at 160 lbs. Senior Greg Hojnakci at 215 lbs. and Junior Zak Vargo at 125 lbs. both finished in 3rd place. Sophomore Seth Powers was 4th at 112 lbs. Junior Brandon Sommers finished in 6th place at 130 lbs., and Freshman Michael Ratay took 7th at 103 lbs.
The 2009-10 team had one of the top seasons in CVCA Wrestling Histroy. The team started off the season in early December with a dual meet with the mighty Lakewood St. Edward and finished as State Runners-Up in March. Along the way the school's 13th State Wrestling Champion was crowned in Freshman Nathan Tomasello at 103 lbs. Junior Alex Utley at 171 lbs. finished as State Runner-Up for the second year in a row. Two great Seniors finished as multiple time State Placers. Zak Vargo was 3rd at 135 lbs and Brandon Sommers was 5th at 145 lbs. Also, Sophomore Matt Meadows was 8th at 160 lbs. Ten years after the team's first State Runner-Up finish in 2000 the team finished as State Runners-Up once again in 2010.
2010 OHSAA Division III State Runner-Up Team
In the 2010-11 season Coach Lorence led the CVCA Wrestlers to another State Runner-Up finish. Senior Alex Utley capped off an amazing career by winning the state championship at 189 lbs. Utley broke the all-time school record for career victories with 170 career wins. Sophomore Nathan Tomasello became a two-time state champion by winning the state title at 103 lbs. for the second year in a row. Tomasello finished undefeated on the season, won the prestigious Ironman Tournament in December, and was recognized as the number one wrestler in the entire country at the 103 lbs. weight class. Junior Matt Meadows placed at the State Tournament for a second time by finishing 3rd at 215 lbs. Sophomore Matt Dobben finished 3rd at 140 lbs. and Sophomore Josh Decatur finished 6th at 125 lbs.
2011 OHSAA Division III State Runner-Up Team
In 2011-12 the CVCA Wrestling team moved up to Division II and finished 3rd in the State. Junior Nathan Tomasello won his third straight State Title wrestling at 113 lbs. and finished the season undefeated. Senior Matt Meadows became CVCA's next State Champion by winning the championship at the 220 lbs. weight class. Freshman Ryan Bennett finished 4th in the state at 106 lbs. Senior David Gray finished 7th in the state at 170 lbs. Sophomore Ricky Simonelli finished 7th in the state at 126 lbs. Junior Josh Decatur finished 8th in the state at 132 lbs. and Sophomore Jeff Hojnacki finished 8th at 145 lbs.
For the 2012-13 season, former head coach Dave Bergen once again took the reigns as the next head coach for the outstanding CVCA wrestling program. During the season the Royals finished Sectional and District Champions and also as Regional Champions advancing to the first ever State Dual Team Tournament in Columbus. At the individual state tournament the Royals finished in 4th place overall. Senior Nathan Tomasello had another undefeated season for CVCA and became the state's 23rd Four Time State Champion. Nathan won the championship at the 120 lbs. weight class and finished ranked #1 in the country. CVCA had a total of 7 state place winners. Senior Josh Decatur finished 5th in the state at 126 lbs. Sophomore Ryan Bennett finished 6th at 113 lbs. Junior Jeff Hojnacki finished 6th at 145 lbs. Sophomore Andy Dobben finished 7th at 132 lbs. Senior Nick Havener finished 8th at 195 lbs. and Junior Tyler Maclellan finished in 8th at 170 lbs.
Four Time State Champion Nathan Tomasello
In 2013-14 the Royals had another top performance finishing 7th in the state and crowned yet another State Champion in Senior Tyler Maclellan at 195 lbs. CVCA also had Senior Jeff Hojnacki become a three time State Place winner by finishing 5th at 152 lbs. and Junior Andy Dobben finished 5th in the State at 145 lbs.
In 2014-15 CVCA finished in 13th place at the state tournament adding two more state placers in Senior Ryan Bennett 2nd at 138 lbs. and Senior Andy Dobben 4th in the State at 145 lbs. Both Ryan and Andy graduated from CVCA as 3x State Placers.
In 2015-16 CVCA welcomed an exciting group of young wrestlers to the program including a new assistant coach in Kent State stand-out Steve Mitcheff. Freshmen twins Jacob and Jordan Decatur had an outstanding season. Jacob Decatur finished 6th in the state at 106 lbs. Sophomore transfer Matthew Cardello finished 7th in the state at 120 lbs. Jordan Decatur although unable to participate in the postseason, finished as a nationally ranked wrestler at 113 lbs. and went on to win a freshman national championship along with a second Cadet Freestyle National Championship in Fargo, North Dakota. In 2016-17 CVCA finished 4th in the state and crowned two more State Champions in sophomore twins Jacob (106 lbs.) and Jordan (126 lbs.) Decatur and junior Matthew Cardello finished 3rd in the state at 113 lbs.
For being a relatively young program (founded in 1990) CVCA Wrestling has produced some great wrestlers. Over the years CVCA has crowned 21 State Champions, 77 State Placers, 89 State Qualifiers, 42 District Champions, 89 Sectional Champions, and 178 District Qualifiers. With two state champions, a state placer, state qualifier, and two more district placers returning for the 2017-18 season, it looks to be another exciting year for CVCA Wrestling.
Many CVCA Wrestling Alumni have moved on to do great things in the sport of wrestling.
Four Time CVCA State Champion Harry Lester is a 2012 Olympian and 2x World Bronze Medalist.
Another CVCA 4x State Champion Nathan Tomasello has excelled at the highest levels of the sport winning an NCAA Division I National Championship for Ohio State in 2015 and qualifying for the 2016 United States Olympic Trials.
1999 CVCA Graduate and State Champion Andy Vogel went on to become a 3x All-American at Messiah College, and is currently the Head Wrestling Coach at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
2011 Graduate Alex Utley was a 2013 and 2016 NCAA Division I National Qualifier for the University of North Carolina.
John Christian, a 1997 Graduate and CVCA Wrestling State Placer went on to become a Division I NCAA Qualifier for Campbell University in 2000.
Also at Campbell University with former CVCA Assistant Coach Joe Boardwine, former 2x State Champion John Weakley became a Division I NCAA Qualifier in 2012.
2009 Graduate Zak Vargo was a NCAA Division II National Runner-Up in 2013 for Lake Erie College.
2000 CVCA Graduate Jarrad Turner went on to wrestle at Penn State University. Jarrad has coached wrestling at the collegiate level at Kent State University, Washington & Jefferson College, Mercer University, and Campbell University.
2007 CVCA graduate and State Placer, John Sinchok, wrestled for Campbellsville University and was a 2008 University Greco-Roman All-American.
2012 Graduate Matt Meadows wrestles for George Mason University and was a University Greco-Roman All-American in 2013.
2011 CVCA Graduate Pete Meadows also became a University Greco All-American in 2015.
- 2015 CVCA Graduate Jeff Hojnacki became an NCAA Division III All-American for Messiah College in 2016.
- 2013 CVCA Graduate Josh Decatur became a NCAA Division III national qualifier for Baldwin Wallace College in 2017.
Many other CVCA Wrestlers have continued their wrestling careers at institutions like: Mount Union College, Columbia University, Notre Dame College, Kent State University, University of Pittsburgh, Campbell University, The Ohio State University, Messiah College, Campbellsville University, Lake Erie College, Cleveland State University, University of North Carolina, Ohio Valley University, St. Catherine College, Bellarmine University, and Baldwin-Wallace College.