By Chris Chaney
Oftentimes in sports, the team that takes the playing field to begin the year barely resembles the team that walks off it at the end of the season. For the Amelia Barons’ wrestling team and head coach Derrick Tessoff, the building of quality wrestlers has been a season-long process.
“We’ve been building from the beginning of the season to the end of the season,” Tessoff said. “We’re a young team. We’ve got a good work ethic this year, there is a good team concept in the room that contributes to our growth throughout the season.”
To understand how far the Barons have come, it is important to understand the program that Tessoff inherited. Tessoff returned to coach at Amelia five years ago following a two-year hiatus during which he worked at an engineering firm that actually designed the Barons’ wrestling room.
Prior to his hiatus, Amelia had built themselves as a consistent power in the Southern Buckeye Conference as well as Southwest Ohio. However, over the years with some levies failing, numbers of wrestlers went down and as a result, the program struggled.
Now, with many of the wrestlers from youth programs, which Tessoff is involved in, wrestling at the high school level, the team is keen to bring back those winning ways. However, it cannot be expected to take shape over night.
“We’re still young, so some mistakes that we make have cost us some matches,” Tessoff said. “(Fixing those mistakes) will come with more experience. The more matches they get, the better we get.”
With only three seniors on the roster, the Amelia program has a concentrated youthful makeup, yet there are some wrestlers of whom Tessoff has some high expectations for advancement in the postseason.
“Andy Clolinger at 106 lbs. should look to qualify for state this year,” Tessoff said. “Obviously, getting to state is a test, but everyone has to win a good tough match to get there and he’ll be no exception to that rule.”
Clolinger is one of the three seniors on the roster for Amelia. During his senior campaign, he has gone 16-6 with seven pins.
Another wrestler that Tessoff is high on this season is junior Cohen Canter.
“Our heavyweight at 285 lbs. only wrestled about six weeks last year, just trying to learn the sport a little bit,” Tessoff said. “This is really his first full year and he also stands a shot to get to state.”
Canter is 19-7 in his first full season, winning all but one match by virtue of a pin.
Amelia also has some district qualifying talent in a pair of brothers, Issac Shalash at 120 lbs. and Naeem Shalash at 220 lbs. Tessoff said by virtue of their sectional draw, he could see the both of them moving on to the districts.
While the rebuilding is not complete, the foundation has been laid, accentuated by Clolinger and Derrick Hopper staying and wrestling for all four years. Tessoff credits the pair with buying into their team concept playing a big role in the direction that Amelia wrestling is going.
The sophomore class this year was also a big reaffirmation that the work going into the bringing the program back to prominence when they entered the scrum as freshman last year. And with the sophomores help, eight freshman have joined this year that Tessoff believes, with their athletic ability, will be able to grow into strong contenders by the time they are upperclassmen.
The Amelia High School community is also having an impact on the wrestling program as they have given aid to the wrestlers in the form of paying down their pay-to-play fees by virtue of Tessoff’s fund-raising efforts.
The main contributor, a golf outing, knocked the price for participation from $495 down to $290, something that has help Tessoff to field the biggest team he has had in his five years back at Amelia.
Finally, winning breeds winning and Tessoff is optimistic that with his solid core of young wrestlers and their upperclassmen leaders, that the winning tradition is back at Amelia to stay.
“I always believe in striving for the highest goals and achieving those,” Tessoff said. “I look at our team and I want to win a league title. Obviously, New Richmond is favored in our league, I think when it comes down to seeding, we can compete for a league title.”