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COLUMBUS - It started out as a joke among friends.
But this year three Oak Harbor wrestlers have a chance to repeat the remarkable success of the 2008 squad, which crowned three state champs in Kirk Tank, Cody Magrum, and Keith Witt.
The Rockets saw Drew Stone at 125 pounds, Ian Miller at 145, and Konner Witt at 152 all win twice yesterday in the Division II state tournament at the Schottenstein Center, thereby claiming berths in tonight's state title matches.
"We've always joked with Cody, Keith, and Kirk that we were going to be better than they were," Miller said. "We told them that we were going to match what they did.
"At the time it was a joke. But now it's turning into reality."
Stone, a senior who will wrestle at Ohio State next year, won his evening match against Tre Smith of Chagrin Falls Kenston after knocking off Thomas Butryn of Ashtabula Edgewood in the morning session.
In the match against Smith, Stone fell behind 4-1 after a pair of takedowns and trailed 5-3 entering the final period before rattling off nine straight points. That proved critical when he allowed a late reversal in a 12-10 win.
"That was scary - luckily I was ahead by enough," Stone admitted of the crazy finish.
Miller's route to the finals was a little more comfortable. He pinned Jordan Fraley of Washington Court House Miami Trace in 1:51 in the quarterfinals, then scored a 10-3 win in the semis over Conrad Rosch of Canal Winchester.
"This has been my goal ever since I was a biddy [wrestler]," Miller said. "Coming into the tournament I felt I had a lot of pressure on me because everyone was expecting me to be in the final.
"Now that I'm in the finals, a load of pressure is off. And it feels good."
Konner Witt claimed an 8-5 win over Randy Carpenter of Ravenna in his morning match, then rolled to a 7-0 lead after two periods over Celina's Alex Dues in the semifinals.
"I thought I was pretty comfortable," Witt admitted. "But when he chose neutral to begin the third period, he turned into a bull. He ran right through me. I realized I needed one more takedown to seal it."
Dues closed the advantage to 8-4 before Witt used a pair of takedowns to win 11-4.
Oak Harbor has a fourth wrestler who will place in junior Jake Cramer (140), who won twice yesterday to give himself a shot at third.
"That was an awesome round," Oak Harbor coach George Bergman said. "In the evening round we won 4 of 4, and that was just unbelievable. I'm on cloud nine.
"And Jake Cramer winning two matches today was important. He showed a lot of heart."
Central Catholic nearly matched the Rockets' state title potential as the Fighting Irish had two wrestlers advance to the championship match.
One was Jake Henderson at 215, who claimed a 3-2 win over Joe Poyser of Louisville in the morning and then beat Trevor Strickland of Clyde 6-0 in the semifinals.
"It was a tough match," Henderson said of his win over Strickland. "I tried to be aggressive, but he's a good defensive wrestler. I tried to put a lot of pressure on him."
Henderson, who was predicted to win the state title by the Brakeman report, said advancing to the finals is a bit of a relief.
"But I still have to win that championship match," Henderson said. "I didn't want to be a bust and lose in the first round, so some of the pressure is off. But I still have one more match left."
Central's second championship finalist is a bit of a surprise. Senior Vincenzo Cardone used a narrow 2-1 overtime win over Danny Derrick of Chillicothe to reach the semifinals, then outlasted Norton's Mike Rutherford 4-3 in a semifinal match where Cardone seemed to injure his knee.
It was a terrific effort for a wrestler who the Brakeman report pegged as the seventh-place finisher at 189.
"It was typical Vincenzo strategy, to play it close to the vest," Central coach Mitch Naufel said. Because of the injury, Cardone was unavailable for comment. "A close win is as good as a pin in getting to the state finals."
It was a bittersweet day for the Irish. Dan Cook (135) lost twice and will wrestle for seventh place today. Teammate Tony Martin (152) lost a heartbreaking 2-0 decision to defending champ Harrison Hightower of Hunting Valley University School in the quarterfinals, but rebounded with two wins and still can finish third.
"I'm very pleased with our day," Naufel said. "We have four placers, tying last year's number. Our kids wrestled very well, so it's a good feeling."
Eastwood's Seth Hoffman lost his first match at 160 yesterday but then won twice to give himself an opportunity to finish as high as third. Nick McCall of Wauseon also lost before winning twice to become a state placewinner at 171.
Napoleon's Cody Bloom suffered a hard-fought 2-1 loss in his championship semifinal match to Wapakoneta's Logan Erb but still can finish third at 215.
St. Paris Graham, the top-ranked team in the country, has run away with the team title thanks to seven championship finalists. The Falcons have 185 points, with Oak Harbor second at 69 and Central third with 50.
Contact John Wagner at:
or 419-724-6481.39.96196 -83.00298