Cleveland Wrestling Wins District Championship for the Seventh Time in a Row

The Warriors leave no doubt about the best wrestling program in the city by crowning six champions and qualifying 13 for the state meet Feb. 16-17 at the Memorial Coliseum

By Ronan McCann


Jontae Hardaway 106, junior

Elijah Fishler 113, freshman

Nay Say 120, junior

Patrick Brown 126, freshman

Aaron Kemper 145, senior

Oliver Borg 152, junior

Dustin Jorgenson 170, junior


State Qualifiers:

Ian Replinger 138, third, junior

Ben Kelier 132, second, senior

Giovanni Camacho 182, second, junior

Ethan Le 285, second, junior

Avery Gumm 170, fourth, junior,

Dom Zupo 126, third (injured), junior


Team Scores:

Cleveland 355.5, Franklin 257, Jefferson 175, Benson 167, Lincoln 165, Madison 163, Wilson 158, Grant 100, Roosevelt 89


Cleveland used its superior depth, a healthy dose of veteran wrestlers and a strong group of younger wrestlers to win its seventh PIL title, something veteran head coach Jeff Zerba knew his team could do.

“Yeah I expected to win. I think it could have been closer, but yeah, I expected to win. As a team we really had a great district tournament,” Zerba said.

The Warriors registered 355.5 points to easily outdistance Franklin (257) and Jefferson (175) for the top three spots.

Cleveland qualified 13 wrestlers for the state meet, which runs Feb. 16-17 at the Memorial Coliseum. However, Zerba will be suiting up 12 wrestlers at the tournament because Dom Zupo (126), junior, will not wrestle due to injury. Results will be posted in the next edition of the Clarion and online at

Zerba had a number of young wrestlers play big roles this year. One of those freshmen is Patrick Brown. Brown placed first at the district meet at 126 pounds, and is seeded in the top eight for state. He is excited to get first because his brother, Simon, had been first the last three years. Brown said, “We have a goal of reaching top 15 for state, but I think we can do top ten.”.

Another champion, Jontae Hardaway, has a high seed and is expected to do well at 106. He also placed first at the Don York meet, back in January. “I think Jontae has a shot at winning state,” said Brown. Other wrestlers including teammate Ben Kleier share Brown’s opinion. “I think Jontae could make it to at least third in state,” said Kleier.

Lwenay Say finished first for his weight class of 120 and his teammate Ben Kleier finished second for his weight class of 132. Kleier was hoping to finish first because he was second last year, but was satisfied with his result regardless. He was excited to have his second chance in state.

“State is a really hard tournament, so I’m just hoping that I can get an even 2-2,” Kleier said.

The other two second place finishers for Cleveland were Giovanni Camacho (182) and Ethan Le (285). Also in the 285 weight class, Ali Joli placed fifth. This was Le’s first full year of wrestling uninterrupted by injuries. “All the work and time that I spent putting myself into this position really was worth it,” said Le. He is doing a lot of physical practice for state, but at the same time is working on his mental state. “When I’m at home or thinking about state, I always try and think positive to train my mind for state,” said Le.

This was the first season that junior Ian Repplinger has ever been able to wrestle people at his own level. During last year he had wrestled up a couple weight classes from his own, jumping from 126 up to 145. This year he has been able to wrestle in his actual weight class of 138. “During state I’m going to try and not worry too much about how the team is doing and try and focus on my own personal matches,” said Repplinger.

Oliver Borg, junior, placed first at 152 pounds when his opponent was disqualified.

Dustin Jorgenson, junior, was another one of the six Cleveland wrestlers to earn first in their weight class. The 2016-17 season was his first ever placing and ever since then he has progressed more and more. He placed third at the district meet last year, and finally got first for the 170 weight class this year. That made his victory this year all the more gratifying.

Three places behind Jorgenson was Avery Gumm, who got fourth. He had never placed and he was ecstatic. “I’m really really excited! This is my first time ever going to state,” said Gumm. Most of his fellow teammates thought that reaching 15 in state would be an attainable goal, while Gumm disagreed saying, “That’s going to be a bit of a challenge.”

Aaron Kemper’s goal was to place first at the district meet.This year he was finally able to achieve his goal, because he had placed second both his freshman and sophomore year, and was a district champion last year. “I’m hoping to win at least two matches in state,” said Kemper.

Zerba said he was hoping his team wrestled its best at the state tournament to garner at least a top 15 spot. “I would like this to be the best wrestling that we do this year. The level is so much higher than even the district tournament, that we really need to be prepared to do some good wrestling,” said Zerba.

Cleveland was able to clinch 14 at the state tournament. Meeting the expectation of top 15. Only four Cleveland athletes made it to the second day of the state tournament, one of which was Jontae Hardaway. Hardaway placed second at state and had a heartbreaking loss in overtime in his last match. The Warriors are looking forward to their next season to bring even more success to the program.