By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
227-106 career record
Coaching Staff: Jason Shaw, varsity assistant; Josh Heatwall, varsity assistant; Ryan Fankhauser, varsity assistant; Tim Ford, varsity assistant; Lukas Kimble, middle school coach; Chris Dunfee, youth head coach and middle school assistant; Dave Tillett, youth assistant coach; Jack Lynch, youth assistant coach; Mark Dennis, youth assistant; Rick Legg, youth assistant.
2021-22 Record: 4-5 dual-meet record.
Returning Lettermen (6): Carson D’Sidocky, sr.; Lucas Fankhauser, soph.; Jeremiah Brumfield, soph.; Noah Dunlap, soph.; Andy Lawson, sr.; Sylvester Freeman, sr.
Lettermen Lost (2): Ricky Legg, Jason Ponick.
Kanaga, now in his second season, is working to build the Rough Riders’ program from the foundation up.
The numbers are showing that his work will eventually pay off.
“We are the young Rough Riders,” Kanaga said.
Between the middle school and high school programs, the roster sits at about 40, while the youth program has grown to 50.
“We are working on the essentials,” Kanaga said. “Toughness, attitude and toughness. In that order.”
Kanaga is confident that the mentality will set the Roosevelt wrestling program on a new path.
“Honestly, we need to change the culture,” the veteran coach said. “We knew that coming in. To change a culture, you need to change the attitude of that culture. Wrestling has a way of breaking you down in order to build you back up — stronger and tougher.”
Kanaga senses that the changes are happening before his eyes, but will still take time and commitment.
“You can’t fake toughness in wrestling,” Kanaga said. “Nor can you rely on anyone else or blame anyone else but yourself.”
Senior Sylvester Freeman will be looked upon as the leader for this group.
“Sly is getting it and shows much promise this year,” Kanaga said. “He needs to wrestle one match at a time and wrestle every match like he does in the wrestling room.”
Additionally, sophomore Jeremiah Brumfield, who is in only his second year with the sport, continues to improve and show promise.
Brumfield placed in the Suburban League tournament.
“We look for him to improve on that this year,” Kanaga said.
Freshman Gavin Edwards is another underclassmen that could have a breakout season.
“He is young, but works just as hard as any of our seniors in the room. He wants to win.”
Like the lightweights, another senior will spotlight this group in Carson D’Sidocky, who is also one of the Rough Riders’ team captains.
“Carson shows great leadership and has improved a great deal from last year,” Kanaga said. “We expect great things from him this year.”
Sophomore Lucas Fankhauser is another team captain, returning from a season in which he became one of the program’s top wrestlers.
“He came on tremendously at the end of last year. We look for him to continue where he left off.”
Freshman Ethan Hubert has quickly made a name for himself by setting the tone in the room.
Another new wrestler to the sport, in only his second season, but has caught Kanaga’s attention.
“He is probably one of the most intense athletes I’ve had in the room in 37 years of coaching. He doesn’t back down from anyone in the room and will score on them at will if he wants to. I love that kind of attitude.”
Senior Andy Lawson has a year of learning Kanaga and his staffs system, which should set him own a positive path this season.
D’Sidocky, Hubert and Fankhauser are all football players, which Kanaga feels is essential.
“Winter wrestling builds fall football success,” Kanaga said. “Every football program needs wrestlers. If you are not in a winter sport and want to get stronger and tougher for football, then wrestle. Hands down, there is nothing better.”
The Rough Riders enter the season with a lack of overall experience in the upperweights.
Two sophomores spotlight the group in Noah Dunlap and Ethan Braham. Both are just second-year wrestlers.
“Noah is picking up where he left off last year, and I am very pleased to see him leading our team this year. We are lifting five days a week and that will help Noah a great deal.
“He is developing daily into a solid wrestler, which we will need in his junior and senior years,” Kanaga said.
Braham showed “tremendous effort and promise” last season, according to Kanaga.
“He was one of our toughest in the room as a freshman, but unfortunately his season was cut short,” the coach said.
Senior Keturah Buchanan was a first-year wrestler last year and is a captain on the girls team this year.
“She shows great promiser, and I can se her competing at the next level if that is what she wants. The sky is the limit for her,” Kanaga said.
“We truly exemplify the meaning of family. Some teams claim this. We are this. What also is special is the desire our room has to get tougher and succeed.”
Jeremiah Brumfield, Noah Dunlap, Ethan Humbert, Ethan Braham, Lucas Fankhauser, Jeremy Rieger, Ryan Blake, Gavin Edwards.
Toughness plays attitude plus toughness equals success.
“Injuries. This is a demanding and tough sport,” Kanaga said.
Kanaga has a strong belief that the Suburban League has emerged as the toughest conference in Ohio.
“I will argue with anyone that Northeast Ohio is the wrestling powerhouse in Ohio. I will argue with anyone that the Akron-Cleveland area represents much of the power in Northeast Ohio. And I will argue with anyone that the No. 1 conference for wrestling, in the state, is the Suburban League.”
Kanaga said “take your pick” on who may challenge for the league title.
“One thing for sure sure is it will be enjoyable to watch for wrestling fans.”
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