COLUMBUS - It is only appropriate that Oak Harbor's three prized seniors will end their high school wrestling careers within minutes of each other on the same center mat.
These guys consider each other best friends, and after tonight, all three could be considered the best wrestlers in Ohio.
Kirk Tank, Keith Witt, and Cody Magrum won their semifinal bouts last night to advance to tonight's state finals at the Schottenstein Center. The Rockets are in second place in Division II with 67 points - 100 behind leader St. Paris Graham and 3.5 ahead of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit.
"It's incredible all of us being there together," Magrum said. "We've always talked about it and for it to actually happen is awesome."
Added Witt: "We're three best friends. We've been wrestling together since junior high."
It's a similar story at Eastwood as seniors Eric Cubberly and Jeremy Foster will also compete in tonight's final. The Eagles are in sixth place with 47 points.
Each of the Oak Harbor wrestlers will meet familiar foes. Tank (152) will face Graham's Coby Boyd in a rematch of last year's 145-pound final won by Boyd. Witt (171) will wrestle Clyde's Danny Michaels for the fifth time this season, and Magrum will wrestle Foster to conclude an excellent rivalry that goes back to their youth days. Cubberly will defend his state title against Lisbon Beaver's Jon Bittinger at 160 pounds.
"Last year it was great winning and being in the finals, but it wasn't the same without your teammates," Cubberly said.
Eastwood's Evan Roth (171), Clyde's Aric Thurn (160), and Libbey's James Reynolds (285) will wrestle for seventh place after losing in last night's consolation quarterfinals. Clyde's Bubba Andrews (189) will place between third and sixth.
Eliminated during yesterday's morning session were Oak Harbor's Konner Witt (125) and Mike Mallernee (145); Central Catholic's Dave Pickerel (215); Wauseon's Michael Perez (119); and Woodward's Darnell Williams-Green (285).
Tank began the Rockets' roll with a 6-4 overtime win over Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan's Hunter Pool. Tank tied the match in the third period with an escape and sealed the victory with a double-leg takedown with 19 seconds left in OT. Tank (49-4) was pinned in last year's state final by Boyd, who beat Tank in December.
"I'm coming in to win, I'm not coming in for second," Tank said. "I plan on going out my senior year on a good note."
Obviously, Witt would like to do the same against Michaels, whom he defeated three times this year before Michaels' win at district competition. Witt managed to shake off a brutal draw in which he defeated top-ranked Zac Thomusseit of Graham in the semifinals just hours after he topped second-ranked Nick Mills of Hunting Valley University School in the quarterfinals. Witt (45-6) defeated Thomusseit 2-1, scoring both points in the third period on an illegal Thousseit move and an escape. Thomusseit won previously this year 5-0.
"I'm most happy for Keith," Oak Harbor coach George Bergman said. "It's the first time he's ever gone to the finals."
Witt called Michaels his "friend" after Thursday's first round, but those sentiments aren't likely to remain tonight.
"I'm confident because I know the kid and I've beaten him three times," Witt said. "It will be fun."
Likewise, Magrum has defeated Foster three times this season, including a 4-1 decision in the district final. Magrum advanced with a 7-3 win over Graham's Max Thomusseit (Zac's brother) while Foster prevailed 7-5 over Lexington's Brad Gallik.
Magrum (47-1) is eligible to win his third state title, and should he do that, he will be a strong contender to be named Most Outstanding Wrestler in Division II.
"I'm confident more than ever, especially after wrestling him three other times this year," Magrum said. "But in the state finals a lot of crazy stuff happens so I have to get ready like any other match."
Foster (47-5) beat Magrum once last year, and he doesn't see much difference between the two. "He's scored off my mistakes. So as long as I don't do anything stupid I'm confident I can beat him," Foster said.
Cubberly (49-1) used one of his patented tilts to pin Chesterland West Geauga's Adam Walters in 1:06.
Not to be lost in the compelling angles of the seniors from Oak Harbor and Eastwood is Libbey's Reynolds, who will place seventh or eighth after failing to qualify for districts last year. Reynolds, who didn't start wrestling until his freshman year, fell to Columbus St. Francis DeSales' John Hiles by pin in 2:48 and will now face Bellville Clear Fork's Dalton Britt.39.96196 -83.00298