The top three area teams competing in the Ohio individual state wrestling tournament in their respective divisions — Clay in Division I, Wauseon in D-II, and Genoa in D-III — will have three different perspectives as they take to the mats at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena on Thursday through Saturday.
In all, 70 area wrestlers qualified to compete at the state meet, which begins with preliminary rounds at 3 p.m. on Thursday.
Session 2 begins at 10 a.m. on Friday, and includes the quarterfinal round and the second round of consolation matches. Session 3 on Friday starts at 6:30 p.m. and features championship semifinals and consolation quarterfinals.
On Saturday, Session 4 begins at 10 a.m. with consolation semifinals and continues at 11 a.m. with third-place, fifth-place, and seventh-place matches.
Session 5 concludes the tournament on Saturday, with the championship final in all three divisions starting at 5:45 p.m.
For Division I Clay, which placed fourth at last weekend’s district tournament at Perrysburg and qualified six wrestlers to state, the young Eagles of coach Ralph Cubberly have progressed ahead of schedule and enter with a “What have we got to lose?” mindset.
“There is no way we thought we would get six out to state,” Cubberly said. “We were hoping for maybe two or three if things went well. It seems that the training plan we have developed has helped our athletes tremendously.
“Our team has greatly exceeded our expectations thus far and we hope to continue to grow as overall athletes and wrestlers.”
Heading the Eagles’ list of state qualifiers is senior 285-pounder Nick Daly (32-13 record), who was a district runner-up last Saturday at Perrysburg.
Also competing at state by virtue of fourth-place district tourney finishes will be seniors Garret Anderson (145, 37-10), who was a four-time Three Rivers Athletic Conference champion, and Jacob Meek (182, 33-13); juniors Kyle Maville (120, 28-14) and Troy Murphy (160, 30-16); and freshman Mike Daly (126, 34-14).
“This experience is invaluable to every underclassman that gets the opportunity,” Cubberly said. “Regardless of how the person does at state, they are still a state qualifier, and that means a lot to a wrestler.
“Underclassmen get the chance to come back next year with higher goals, and this creates an environment in the practice room that enables everyone to improve.”
As for Division II Wauseon, the Indians are riding high after winning the district tournament at Norwalk and qualifying nine wrestlers to state. But, even though coach Mike Ritter’s talented mix of seniors and promising underclassmen won the D-II state team dual meet championship a few weeks back, Wauseon is fully aware of what lies ahead.
That would be the imposing, formidable roster of St. Paris Graham, Ohio’s best mat program in all divisions, and winner of 17 straight team titles at the D-II individual state tourney.
As well as they wrestle, the Indians can likely only hope to place second. In the past 15 years, only one runner-up team has been within 50 points of Graham in the state team standings. The Falcons qualified 13 wrestlers to state in the weight classes.
“We can’t worry about them or any other team,” Ritter said of Graham. “We have to continue to trust in our training and preparation. If we do that, win or lose, we can hold our heads high.
“Graham has been on another level for quite some time, and this year is no different. We just have to focus on being as prepared as we can be. The kids are very excited and anxious to get things going Thursday. It’s been a grind of a season, and this is what they have all worked very hard for.”
This season, Graham was permitted to opt up to compete in the Division I state team dual meet tournament and beat longtime state power Lakewood St. Edward in the championship dual.
Thus, Wauseon’s chances at toppling the Falcons are slim.
Wauseon’s Indians are sending nine wrestlers to state, including six district champions — seniors Alex Slattman (120 pounds), Gage Grunden (145), Sandro Ramirez (152), and Xavier Torres (160), junior Gavin Ritter (113), and sophomore Nolan Ray (126). The others are seniors Hunter Yackee (132) and Mauricio Barajas (138), and junior Trent Davis (170).
Ramirez (48-4) was a state runner-up the past two years and was third as a freshman. Grunden (29-1) was a state runner-up wrestling for Defiance last year. Yackee (46-5) placed third at state last year.
“It’s a very exciting time and a very sad time knowing these seniors will be competing for the last time for Wauseon High School,” coach Ritter said. “I’ve watched each of them grow up before me from the youth program all the way through high school.
“I’m so proud to have been a part of their high school journey. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The mark they have left on our program is unmatched.”
That leaves northwest Ohio’s title hopes up to Genoa in Division III, where the Comets of coach Bob Bergman are taking aim at winning their first state team championship in the individual tournament. They won their first team dual state title on Feb. 11.
The Comets qualified seven wrestlers to state, including two-time state champion Dylan D’Emilio (48-0), a junior who is looking to cap a perfect season by winning his third title.
“Our kids are going to give it their best shot,” Bergman said. “We have a large contingent of wrestlers with high aspirations to be on the podium Saturday night. We have the leadership and experience from the guys who were down here last year, while others are peaking and in the zone right now.”
Genoa’s other defending state champions are juniors Oscar Sanchez (113, 38-4) and James Limongi (160, 43-3). Other title contenders are junior Julian Sanchez (120, 45-2) and sophomore Dustin Morgillo (138, 46-5).
Rounding out Genoa’s state contingent are senior Xavier Beach (182, 40-11) and junior Noah Koch (285, 46-8).
“Our wrestlers mindset is zeroed in on the task at hand,” Bergman said. “We’ve had a great week of practice and the kids are feeling it.
“From the onset of the season, our staff has preached to our kids to put in so much work that you can’t imagine things not going your way. I believe our kids have done just that, and are prepared for the challenge this weekend.”
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