The time that every wrestler in Ohio points to has arrived as the 67th annual state wrestling tournament gets under way at 3 p.m. today in Value City Arena at Ohio State University.
Central Catholic s James Schuller (43-1) leads 11 Division I wrestlers from Northwest Ohio who have made the cut, part of 72 area wrestlers in three divisions.
Schuller, a senior who is making his second trip to Columbus, is the only area Division I wrestler going in with a top seed, having captured a 112-pound district title Saturday at Perrysburg with a 2-1 decision over Lakewood St. Edward s Lance Palmer.
Schuller went 0-2 at state as a sophomore, and was heartbroken when he finished fifth and failed to qualify out of district last season, coach Mitch Naufel said.
“He set a goal for himself last year that he was going to make it back to the state tournament, said Naufel. “He knew what he normally did between seasons was not going to be enough.
So he and Naufel s brother Marty, a Central assistant, made sure he entered as many tournaments as he could over the summer. Schuller wrestled every weekend from the second after the state tournament through July, including the national tournament in Fargo, N.D.
“The one thing that wrestling in that tournament did for him was give him confidence he could wrestle with the big-name kids, Mitch Naufel said.
The result has been just one loss this season, in the semifinals of the Tiffin Columbian tournament over the Christmas break at 119 to Miami Trace s David Bowers, now 42-0 but in Division II.
Schuller, 134-32 for his career, was first at the Catholic Invitational, the Dick Hoover Duals, the Dan Piloseno Duals and at the Southview Invitational, where he was named outstanding wrestler. He also won his second City League championship.
Also qualifying in Division I were Waite senior Kyle Holliday 32-3 at 103 and state wrestling guru Brian Brakeman s choice to be state champ; teammates Antonio Ramirez (35-6 at 130) and three-time City champ Jamie Cummins (30-9 at 140); Central junior David Bork (38-10 at 135), who must face two-time state runner-up Josh Horne of Pickerington Central in his opening match; St. Francis de Sales Brad Marzec (40-5), a sixth-place finisher at state last season; Maumee s Ben Plowman (40-5 at 160) and Jeremy Carpenter (35-2 at 189), who qualified for state in 2003; and three heavyweights - Perrysburg s Dave Wyper (45-3), Findlay s Robbie Brubeck (33-9) and Springfield s Nick Johnson (27-10).
In Division II, Eastwood is hoping to make its biggest splash ever at state with four district champions and two other grapplers in the field after topping Clyde for the district team title.
“We re hoping we can place in the top three, 15th-year coach Ralph Cubberly said. “It s so tough down there that anything can happen, but we re really happy with our draws. We think we have good shots to get all our kids to the semifinals.
“We re going down there to win. We ve wrestled a really tough schedule. Nothing s going to change. We re going to give them everything we ve got. I m pretty excited. This is the week we ve been focusing on all year.
Jan Ulinski (45-3 at 103), Ben Llanas (46-3 at 112), Ryan Cubberly (43-3 at 125) and Kent Smith (48-2 at 152) are all district champs. Drew Lashaway (43-3 at 130) and Kyle Taylor (37-11 at 119) also advanced for the Eagles.
Cubberly, a third-place state finisher at 103 last year, hasn t lost since Jan. 16. Smith hasn t been beaten since the Wadsworth Invitational on Dec. 27, in overtime. Llanas is one of Brakeman s projected champions.
Another projected champ is Clyde s J.R. Ysaguirre, a senior who s 45-1 at 130. He and Jon Taylor (43-5 at 140), sixth at state last season, lead eight Fliers in the D-II field. Bellevue has five and Oak Harbor four.
In Division III, coach Jeff Wolford said his Delta Panthers “could make some noise down there, but it s unlikely that they can stop fellow four-time team champion Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic from winning its third straight title.
Much of that optimism stems from junior Jamison Moss, a defending state runner-up at 135 who s making his third trip to Columbus. Moss (42-3) lost two matches at the beginning of the season when he had just returned from Delta s state semifinal football team and lost a third to Liberty Center s Marc Hoff in the sectional finals, 11-6.
In the sectional loss, Wolford said, “He just kind of wrestled a bad match, but it refocused him and it might have been a blessing.
“I know he s going to win [state], but in a couple days we ll know.
Also advancing for the Panthers were Jared Evans (38-3 at 103), Ryan Gombash (37-9 at 130) and Matt Spanger (36-6 at 215).
“They all have good draws, so they all should place, Wolford said.
Josh Gracia (47-3 at 189) leads five Archbold wrestlers to state. Hoff leads three for Liberty Center.
Also returning to state are Elmwood s Trevor Lee (39-5 at 119), who placed sixth last year at 103; Tinora s Matt Bloniarz (46-0 at 125) and Mark Bloniarz (44-1 at 135), and Mohawk s Dustin Sowers (38-4 at 171), who took fourth in 2003.