OHSAA mat tourney opens Thursday
There are only 672 wrestlers still competing in the state of Ohio.
However, only half of those will finish their seasons as all-Ohioans and taking it a step further, only 42 will achieve the ultimate dream of being called state champion.
The chase for the prestigious medal begins Thursday afternoon as the 75th annual OHSAA State Wrestling Tournament opens inside the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University.
Included in the field are 23 wrestlers, who’ll represent the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference. Twelve of the area wrestlers will hit the mats during the first session, which gets under way Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m.
During the first day, all championship and consolation first-round matches will be contested.
Day two gets under way Friday at 10 a.m. with championship quarterfinals and second-round consolation matches. The Friday evening session begins at 6:30 p.m. and anyone wrestling during that session has assured himself of at least eighth place.
The championship semifinals and consolation quarterfinals will go on concurrently.
Saturday’s consolation rounds begin at 10 a.m. with consolation semifinals and all place matches to determin third through eighth place will begin at 11 a.m.
The state championship matches will begin at 5:45 p.m. Saturday evening and they’ll once again be preceeded by one of the OHSAA’s greatest traditions, the ‘Parade of Champions,’ which will begin at 5:30 p.m.
Included in the aforementioned number of wrestlers are eight from the immediate area, including seven in Division III.
Bellaire will send its two senior leaders to the state tournament.
Josh Davis embarks on his second consecutive state tournament as a district champion after steamrolling his way through the 145-pound bracket at Heath last weekend.
Davis has rebounded from a disappointing showing at the OVAC where he finished fifth. He’s responded with a victory in the sectional and then the district and his record is now 41-3 on the season.
“I’ve got my head right and I know what I need to do,” Davis said after the district. “The OVAC was big for me. I got a little too excited in the semifinals, got beat and then I didn’t care and I got beat again. That re-focused me a little bit.”
Davis will now square off with Brooklyn’s Casey Bishop (42-5) in the opening round. Bishop was fourth at the Garfield Heights district.
“I know I can’t take anyone lightly,” Davis said. “I just have to go after it and do what I did in the district. Winning districts usually means a good chance at placing at the state, but I realize that everyone’s good, so I have to be ready.”
The Big Reds’ other representative is first-time qualifier Christian Edmond, who rebounded from a tough loss in the district semifinals to finish third.
Edmond is now 39-8 on the season and will oppose Garfield Heights’ district runnerup Trevor White of Orrville (38-7) in the first round at 170 pounds.
Shadyside will send its pair of junior standouts – Alex Quinn and Ian Baker – to this weeked’s Division III state tournament.
Quinn is embarking on his first state tournament and will do so as a district champion.
The Tigers’ 152 pounder was injured as a freshman and missed the postseason. Last year, he missed the entire campaign, but has come back in resounding fashion with a 36-2 record.
Along with his district title, Quinn won the OVAC and sectional crowns as well.
“This is going to be a crazy experience,” Quinn said after winning the district. “I’ve never been there, but I am going to keep my same routine this week. I know you can’t take anyone lightly at this level.”
Quinn will begin his mission against Owens College district fourth-place finisher Damen Escobedo, who is a solid 43-5 on the season.
Baker – entered at 138 pounds – is returning to the state tournament for the second straight season. He finished last season at 1-2, narrowly missing a place.
After being slowed early in the season with an injury sustained in football, Baker has responded with a 25-3 record. He was the sectional champion and OVAC runnerup before finishing third in the district.
A date with Beachwood sophomore Ryan Harris awaits Baker Thursday afternoon. Harris was runnerup at the Garfield Heights district and is 39-4 on the season.
Martins Ferry, which has qualified at least one wrestler to the state tournament every year since 1985, will be represented by senior C.J. Williams, who is making his first trip to the state tournament.
Williams owns a strong 35-7 record for the season. An OVAC placer and sectional champion, Williams finished fourth at the district last weekend.
That place earned him a date with Mechanicsburg sophomore Austin Reese, who was the champion of the Kettering Fairmont district. For the season, Reese owns a 34-2 record.
Barnesville’s lone entrant comes at 145 pounds in the form of senior Mason Plumly, who is making his first trip to the state tournament.
Plumly advanced to the season’s final weekend by virtue of a fourth-place finish at the district. All told, Plumly owns a solid 42-9 mark and will open the tournament with Creston Norwayne junior Kurt Moore, who is 52-3, and won the Garfield Heights district.
Plumly is in the same half of the bracket as Bellaire’s Davis.
Monroe Central’s headed back to the state tournament thanks to junior Zac Potts, who punched a ticket for the first time in his career.
Potts finished third at the district and owns a 37-7 record for the season. He’ll take on Owens College district runnerup Nick Miller of Ontario, who comes to the capital city with an impressive 32-4 mark.
Caldwell has an impressive five wrestlers making the trip to Columbus after it finished second in the district last weekend.
Leading the way for the Redskins is 132-pound senior Jeremy Border. Border was a state runnerup last season and owns an impressive 47-2 mark thus far. He’ll begin his quest for gold against Elmore Woodmore’s Dexter Emch (36-7).
Junior Kale Rayner will also enter as a district champion after cruising through the Heath bracket with relative ease.
Rayner is 48-2 on the season and will oppose Jamestown Greenview senior Jacob McAdams (34-9) in the first round.
Redskins’ senior Zac Cline settled for fourth last week at the district, falling to Baker in the 138-pound consolation final. Cline is 47-4 on the season and will open with Apple Creek Waynedale’s Zane Nelson (44-4).
Also settling for fourth at the district was Jared Leasure at 152 pounds. Leasure is 21-8 on the season and will meet Archbold senior Jordan Cowell, who owns a remarkable 60 victories in 62 trips to the mat. Cowell’s win total is the highest in the field this weekend.
Redskins’ senior Tim Schenkel rounds out the Noble Countians’ entrants at 220 pounds. He finished fourth in the district and will oppose Bedford St. Peter Chanel senior Kennedy Smith (21-3) in the first round.
IN DIVISION II, Steubenville is one of the teams that could possibly challenge for the runnerup trophy as St. Paris Graham is the clear-cut favorite to win its 12th straight state title.
Big Red and Graham have an identical eight wrestlers in the field, but many have predicted Graham to have as many five state champions, which will lead to a large point total come Saturday night.
Also expected to score well are Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and Claymont, which Big Red fought off for the district title last weekend.
Coach Mike Blackburn’s squad is led by a trio of district champions.
Senior Shawn McGhee has enjoyed a brilliant final season on the mat. He’s now 38-3 on the season after claiming the district gold medal. McGhee will battle CVCA’s Jeff Hojnacki, who is 15-9 on the season.
Junior Greg Moray will be one to watch at 220 pounds after he won the Claymont district title.
Moray is 42-1 on the season and will Canton South’s Ken Hodge, who finished fourth at the Alliance district. Hodge is 36-10.
Junior Charlie Keenan holds down the 195-pound division for Big Red. After winning the district title last weekend, Keenan is now 37-5 on the season and will meet Tyler Bidwell of Hamilton Ross, who finished fourth at the Waynesfield Goshen district. Bidwell is 34-3 on the season.
District runnerup Jake Howarth will begin his quest for all-state against Walsh Jesuit’s Nick Rumple, who is 22-14 on the season.
Junior Anthony Parada reached the final last weekend at the district before falling to Licking Valley’s Jose Parsons. This week, Parada has drawn a matchup with Lexington senior Calvin Campbell (41-5).
Frosh Devin Brown finished third in the district last weekend and will take a 37-8 mark into his 106-pound, first-round meeting with Mantua Crestwood’s Jake Zemaitis (35-2), who was runnerup at Alliance last weekend.
Junior Anthony Craig – an all-Ohioan at 103 last season – finished fourth in the district and will take on New Richmond’s Brody Hooks (40-3) in the opening round at 113 pounds.
Big Red freshman Trent Mays has one of the most unenviable draws in the entire tournament. The 34-7 Mays will tangle with St. Paris Graham’s Bo Jordan. Jordan is a two-time defending state champion and 44-0 on the season, who is ranked number one in the United States in the weight class.
Harrison Central will once again by represented by Matt Shurina. The Huskies’ senior finished third in the district last weekend and is now 47-7 on the season.
Shurina is in the upper portion of the 220-pound weight class, opposite of Moray, and will meet Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s senior Ray Stone, who is 14-1 on the season. Stone finished second in the Alliance district last weekend.
Cambridge’s lone representative is at 145 pounds. Junior Sawyer Leppla (45-7) finished third in the district last weekend and will tangle with Painesville Harvey sophomore Alonzo Turner (25-7) in the first round. Leppla is on the opposite side of the bracket from McGhee.
Beaver Local’s lone entrant is junior Josh Henderson at 106 pounds. He finished second in the district and will take on Mentor Lake Catholic’s Brad Taton Thursday afternoon.
- WHILE THE OVAC boasts nary a Division I wrestling school, there will be a local flavor in the 152-pound field this weekend. Defending state champion Chase Delande of Hilliard Davidson is the son of St. Clairsville High graduate Dave Delande and Shadyside High graduate Stephanie (Miller) Delande.
Chase boasts an impressive 30-1 record this season despite battling injuries. His lone loss was to Massillon Perry senior Zack Dailey, who is the defending Division I champion at 145 pounds. Delande and Dailey are in opposite halves of the state bracket and could be on a collison course for a Saturday evening rematch.
- OHIO STATE football fans will want to keep an eye on the 285-pound class in Division I. One of the unblemished wrestlers this weekend is Pickerington North senior Pat Elflein (32-0). He’s a Buckeye football recruit as a lineman.
- SPEAKING OF undefeated wrestlers, there are 18 competitors still vying this weekend who’ve yet to suffer a loss throughout the three divisions. The largest number of perfect wrestlers is in Division II where eight grapplers have yet to taste a loss.
- A LOT of the records at the state meet are sometimes skewed because of late starts due to football, injuries battled during the course of the season or just not going to as many tournaments. While Cowell’s total leads the way, 51 victories is the most in Division II and two participants have achieved 48 victories, which paces Division I.
- UNLIKE LAST year when three wrestlers from the same school – Monroeville – claimed their fourth consecutive state title, no grappler in the tournament can achieve such a milestone. Many had expected Genoa Area’s Felipe Martinez to make a run at the milestone. Martinez defeated St. Clairsville’s Dominic Prezzia in the 152-pound final a year ago, but, according to several reports, defaulted out of the district due to a family matter.
- THE TIMES LEADER will be reporting on site at the state tournament. For results and updates on local wrestlers, please follow the T-L website at timesleaderonline.com or follow this writer on Twitter (@TLSportsSeth).
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com