COLUMBUS - The Division II state wrestling title will be won by St. Paris Graham tomorrow evening. Even the so-called contenders are conceding that the Falcons will win their eighth straight crown.
With that understood Oak Harbor and Eastwood are content vying for the silver medal. Oak Harbor is in fourth place with 15 points after yesterday's preliminary rounds. Eastwood had a tough day and sits in 16th place with 7.5 points. Graham, the top ranked team in the nation, has a 13-point lead over Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit.
"It won't happen," Oak Harbor's Keith Witt said of a team title. "Second place would be real sweet."
"We know we can't topGraham," Eastwood's Eric Cubberly said. "They have 13 of 14 wrestlers here. We're definitely trying to take second."
Oak Harbor stands strong entering today's sessions. Five Rockets remain in the championship bracket after notching wins in the first round. Only three of Eastwood's six wrestlers are still in the tournament.
"We didn't have a very impressive district outing, so taking second would be awesome," Oak Harbor's Cody Magrum said.
Magrum, seeking his third state title, pinned Cincinnati Finneytown's Demond Sanford in 2:29 to advance to this morning's quarterfinals at 189 pounds. Also winning for the Rockets were Konner Witt (125), Mike Mallernee (145), Kirk Tank (152) and Keith Witt (171). Jake Cramer (103) was eliminated after losing twice.
Seniors Magrum, Tank and Keith Witt have been mainstays at the state meet since their freshman years, so them winning was no surprise. But the wins of Konner Witt, a freshman, and Mallernee, a sophomore, made this day a productive one for the Rockets. The younger Witt, who downed Norwood's Robert James 4-0, felt at ease in his first trip at state after getting some advice from his brother, who placed the last two years.
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"He said my freshman year is going to be real scary because it's such a big place," Witt said. "It's pretty scary but not overwhelming because I've been down here a few times [as a spectator]."
Cubberly (160), Evan Roth (171) and Jeremy Foster (189) all advanced for Eastwood, while Justin Flores (125), David Eaton (130) and Andrew Long (140) were eliminated after losing twice. Cubberly is looking solid to repeat as state champion after defeating Perry's Dustin Sarosy by technical fall, 16-0.
"It's a different feeling," Cubberly said of being a defending champion. "It's a different mindset. Instead of going out and having nothing to lose because you haven't won a state title, you have everything to lose."
Roth, who lost his first round bouts the last two years when he was at Whitmer, topped Columbus St. Francis DeSales' Kyle Stygler 8-2. Roth will now face No. 1 Zac Thomusseit of Graham.
"I'm looking forward to that match to see where I'm at," Roth said. "A lot of times when I wrestle a real tough kid I wrestle his style and it kind of hurts me. I think the game plan is just to wrestle my style."
Should Roth prevail he may face Keith Witt in the semifinals. Witt, who pinned Cambridge's Chad Teague, will wrestle second-ranked Nick Mills of Hunting Valley University School. Witt defeated Mills 5-2 for fifth place at last year's state meet.
"I have a tough draw, but you have to beat them sometime," Witt said.
Other area wrestlers advancing in the championship bracket are Wauseon's Michael Perez (119), Central Catholic's Dave Pickerel (215) and Libbey heavyweight James Reynolds. Eliminated are Central's Dan Cook (112), Napoleon's Josh Lynch (119), Rossford's Jordan Wray (135) and Maumee's Mikkal Johnson (140). Woodward's Darnell Williams-Green (285) lost his first match but responded with a consolation win.
Pickerel defeated Tallmadge's Nick Thompson 4-2, despite not scoring an offensive point. Pickerel, a junior, has set a goal of placing in the top three after finishing seventh last year.
"Everybody expects more out of me this year and I expect more out of myself," Pickerel said. "I want to place higher."
Perez won 4-3 over Pataskala Licking Heights' Chandler Jones, a two-time state place winner. Awaiting Perez in the quarterfinals is Graham's Zach Neibert, a defending state runner-up. There are seven returning place winners in the brutal 119 pound class, and though Perez is not one, he feels capable wrestling any of them.
"They don't have anything on me that I don't have on them," he said. "Everyone's done the same thing to get here. As long as you wrestle your match, we're all pretty equal."
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