Conway, Cursio see progress in Hoban wrestling program


Conway, Cursio see progress in Hoban wrestling program

Tommy Conway arrived at the first practice of his senior wrestling season and saw some new faces in the room.

The senior has been wrestling since second grade, which is about a decade longer than some of his teammates. There was also a new coaching staff, with first-year head coach Dominic Cursio and assistant Scott Overholt leading the Knights for the first time.

“We were very inexperienced as a team,” Conway said. “We had a lot of guys who were new or only had a couple years of experience, and wrestling is a hard sport to just pick up.”

It’s also hard to be an experienced senior with a new coaching staff and mostly inexperienced teammates, but this is a challenge Conway was eager to meet.

“I saw myself sort of laying the foundation,” Conway said. “I felt like I could help make this year a stepping stone for the program for years to come.”

Cursio is thankful to have had Conway alongside as he navigated his first season at Hoban.

“Tommy was the quintessential leader, not just vocally, but in the way he carried himself on and off the mat,” Cursio said. “Fantastic wrestler, but an even better man. I could not have asked for a better team leader in my first year as coach.”

The season did not get off to a great start for the Knights or for Conway. The team went 0-9 in dual matches at their first tournament, the Marlington Duals on Dec. 9-10.

“The first tournament of the season was right after football and I lost my match in overtime,” Conway said. “I was really dehydrated and ended up with an exertion migraine. I went to the hospital right after the match and got three bags of IV. 

“After that it hit me - ‘I’m all in on this.’ From there, I had the mindset of improving every day, every tournament. And that’s what I did.”

A week later, Conway rebounded to finish third at the Hudson Holiday Tournament. In January, he was second at the Bill Dies Memorial Tournament at Firestone and fourth at the Josh Hephner Memorial Tournament in Austintown.

The team followed Conway’s lead, and while it was hard to see progress on the scoreboard, results finally appeared on Feb. 4 at the Chippewa Invitational. 

“In the last round, we won 7 straight matches to finish third in the tournament as a team,” Cursio said. “They all knew what they needed to get to third and rattled off 7 straight wins. While this was going on they were supporting each other more than they had all year. It was great.”

Conway, who wrestled at 126 lbs., finished second at Chippewa and sophomore Peyton Weigand was a champion at 157 lbs. 

At sectionals on Feb. 25, Weigand placed third and Conway was a sectional champion. Both advanced to districts, while four others placed fifth and were district alternates: sophomore Tad Holzapfel (150 lbs.), junior Jonathan Villanueva (120 lbs.), senior Patrick Gaffney (165 lbs.), and senior Matt Bielecki (215 lbs.).

The following week, Conway placed fifth at districts, earning him a spot as an alternate for the state tournament. He did not compete, but he felt satisfaction with how far he had come both this season and in his high school career. It marked the furthest he had gone in any of his four seasons.

“It meant a lot to place at districts and make it to state as an alternate,” he said. “Just the trip down to Columbus was great for me.”

Although it didn’t show up in the team’s won/loss record, both the new coach and the old senior saw definite improvement that the program can carry forward.

“The program is definitely trending up,” Conway said. “Our coaches know a lot about wrestling but they’re also teaching us about life and fitness. We know the work everyone in the room puts in and we know that it’s eventually going to pay off.”

“This team supported each other, whether in good times or bad. They were truly a team of wonderful young men,” Cursio said. “Throughout the year, we saw a distinct improvement in the focus and work ethic with the team. They started to understand the amount of time and effort it takes to be a successful wrestler.

“It was an absolutely wonderful experience coaching at Hoban this season,” Cursio added. “Fantastic school, fantastic team, and the sky is the limit for what we can achieve.”