Nordonia wrestling coach Audie Atienza has a simple message for his team this season: The bar is being raised and there will be no excuses.
That approach was evident in the Knight coaching staff's reaction to Nordonia's performance Jan. 5 at the Hudson Duals.
Despite the absence of Tyler McCann due to injury and Alex Woicehovich due to skin infections, Nordonia still went 4-1 at the duals.
The Knights defeated Field 40-29, Shaker Heights 57-12, Akron Kenmore 61-18 and Painesville Riverside 48-20. However, the Knights lost 36-23 to Hudson, suffering its first dual-meet loss of the season. Nordonia is now 13-1 in dual meets.
Atienza said the absence of his two starters was "no excuse" for the loss.
"We try to find reasons to win instead of reasons to lose," Atienza said. "I don't know if we're in a mid-season lull because some the guys aren't working as hard in practice. You always miss your best guy when he's not on the mat."
Thus, the Knights given some reinforcement Jan. 5 -- Nordonia practiced the same day after going through five dual meets.
If that doesn't deliver the message, nothing will.
It certainly wasn't all bad for the Knights at Hudson, as five Nordonia wrestlers finished with 5-0 records at the duals.
"For the most past, we wrestled pretty well," Atienza said. "We had a lot of guys getting into their normal weight classes for the first time today."
The biggest changes came at the top of the lineup. With McCann out, David Rodriguez filled the gap at 170 pounds, while junior Eric Claren dropped to 182 pounds for the first time this season. Nick Bina slid down to 195 pounds, which Atienza said should be the regular lineup for the rest of the season.
However, in Woicehovich's absence, Alex Carnelli slid down to the 220-pound slot, leaving the Knights open at heavyweight. Nordonia still hopes Brandon Ren can return from a knee injury he suffered during football season.
Nordonia's MVP for the day was junior 120-pounder Nick Collica. Collica scored three decisions, an injury default win and a forfeit on his way to a 5-0 day.
The Decesare brothers were their usual dominant selves at Hudson.
At 106, freshman Tony Decesare scored two pins, two forfeits and a decision to go 5-0.
At 132 pounds, junior Mike Decesare had four pins and a decision to go undefeated.
Junior 145-pounder Jake Urich also managed a 5-0 day, as he won in every way possible. Urich scored a pin, a technical fall, a major decision, a decision and a forfeit win.
Wrestling at 182 for the first time this season, Claren wrestled to a 5-0 day, including a tight 3-2 decision over Hudson district qualifier Danny Tiley. He also scored two pins, a forfeit and a major decision on the day.
Prior to the dual, Nordonia faced its toughest challenge of the regular season when it traveled to the Brecksville Invitational Tournament Dec. 28 and 29. The rigorous field took its toll on the Knights as Nordonia finished 24th in the 45-team field with 66 points.
Tony Decesare was Nordonia's top finisher at Brecksville, as he took fifth place, beating Wadsworth's Noah Baughman 5-4 in the fifth-place match.
Mike Decesare and Woicehovich each took sixth place.
Nordonia returns to Suburban League action this week, as the Knights will travel to Copley for a tri-meet with the Indians and Green. First match is set for 6:30 p.m.