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Division I state boys swimming: Hudson’s Ross Palazzo wins two titles, Firestone’s Mark Belanger and Falls’ Andrew Appleby each win one

By Michael Beaven
Beacon Journal sports writer

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Hudson's Ross Palazzo leaps in celebration after winning the men's 200 yard IM event during the 2013 Division I State Swimming championships Saturday at C. T. Branin Natatorium in Canton. Palazzo won the event with a time of 1:48:49. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)

CANTON: Hudson sophomore Ross Palazzo capped his impressive season with two trips to the No. 1 spot on the podium Saturday at the Division I state swimming meet.

The 86th annual boys meet at C.T. Branin Natatorium also featured the first state titles for Firestone senior Mark Belanger and Cuyahoga Falls senior Andrew Appleby.

Palazzo won the 200-yard individual medley in a time of 1:48.49 and then snagged a second title when he placed first in the 100 breast stroke in 55.00 seconds.

“This is the greatest meet ever,” Palazzo said. “I trained for both of them all season and I knew they were going to be tough races, both of them. I came down here and did exactly what was planned. It is pretty cool to be a state champ.”

Palazzo just missed out on the 200 IM record of 1:47.63, which is held by Olympic gold-medal winner Mark Gangloff, a graduate of Firestone and Auburn University.

“I got to meet Mark about a year ago and he is an awesome guy,” Palazzo said. “I respect that record a lot. It makes it so cool that I was almost right where he was.”

Hudson coach Matt Davis said he is excited about Palazzo’s next two years.

“Ross is a hard worker and today really showed his dedication to what he wants to accomplish,” Davis said. “He wanted to swim fast and win.”

Belanger and Appleby, both Ohio State recruits, capped their high school careers with a state title in their last race.

Belanger won the 100 freestyle in a time of 45.17 seconds.

“The last 25, I knew I had it,” Belanger said. “It was just such an awesome feeling that I was going to be able to win my senior year. There is no better feeling than winning my last swim.”

Appleby placed first in the 100 backstroke in 49.00 seconds.

“This being my final race still hasn’t hit me yet,” Appleby said. “My coach [Mike McDonald] has been everything to me the last four, five or six years; however long I have been with him. I have known my one coach [Peter Nauman] for a decade now. It was real emotional out there. I just hit that last turn and saw how tight it was, and was just like ‘This is my final shot and I gotta go all out for it.’ I am glad it paid off.”

Belanger also placed third in the 200 freestyle in 1:39.22, and Appleby was sixth in the 100 freestyle in 46.26 seconds.

“Mark knew what he had to do, and he came back for that 100 and instead of feeling sorry for himself, he put the hammer down and won,” Firestone coach Cindy Virdo said.

North Canton Hoover placed second in the 200 freestyle relay when junior Stephen Watson, senior Drew Bercaw, senior Robert Tolson and senior Brian Giannetti clocked a 1:23.94. Hoover’s unit was just .20 of a second behind first-place Cincinnati St. Xavier.

The Vikings’ 400 freestyle relay composed of Giannetti, Watson, Bercaw and Tolson also nabbed a second place in 3:05.92. Tolson was third in the 100 freestyle in 45.78 seconds.

Hudson had two top-eight relays. The 200 medley of junior Doni Moffa, Palazzo, sophomore Brendon Mulcahey and senior Ryan Hutcheson were sixth in 1:34.82. The 200 freestyle was eighth in 1:26.73 and featured Palazzo, Hutcheson, junior Peyton Brown and Mulcahey.

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or mbeaven@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.