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Published: Friday, 3/2/2012

3 Irish still have chance at state crowns

Central Catholic's Nate Hagen, top, won at 120-pounds over Dover's Isaac Hammonds. Central Catholic's Nate Hagen, top, won at 120-pounds over Dover's Isaac Hammonds.

COLUMBUS -- Rarely does a coach experience complete bliss at the state wrestling tournament. A touch of disappointment tends to cloud even the best rounds.

Consider Central Catholic's Tony Guerra. Minutes after watching his star freshman grind out a win in the opening round of the Division II meet Thursday at Value City Arena, the first-year coach watched in disbelief as one of his seniors lost a potential victory.

The good news is all five Irish qualifiers remain in the tournament entering Friday's rounds, with three of them still contending for championships. They amassed eight points and are tied for 13th.

Wauseon's three qualifiers totaled 11 points and sit in eighth place.

PHOTO GALLERY: Division II State Wrestling Tournament

Central Catholic freshman Nate Hagan (120 pounds) scored all of his points in the final 20 seconds -- scoring a go-ahead takedown with eight seconds to go -- to prevail 3-1 over Dover's Isaac Hammonds. Hagan's teammates Alex Mossing (132) and Levi Pickerel (285) won two-point bouts to advance to Friday morning's quarterfinals. Matt Pool (106) and Sam Viengmany (145) dropped their first matches but responded with wins in the consolation round.

"We're looking for four or five state places," Guerra said. "That's ultimately what we want."

Viengmany's loss was brutal. He tied the match with two seconds to go on a stalling call but never made it to overtime because he the referee nailed him with unsportsmanlike conduct for shoving the head of his opponent.

"We can't let emotions get the most of us down here," Guerra said. "Every point is too important."

Other first round winners were Wauseon's Dalton Nicely (138) and Zane Krall (220), Oak Harbor's Luke Cramer (138) and Alex Bergman (152), and Bryan's Shelden Struble (138). Wauseon's Wade Hodges (113) and Eastwood's Kyle Patterson (182) won consolation bouts.

The Oak Harbor duo upended district champions in thrilling fashion. Cramer escaped with six seconds to go against Hamilton Ross' Joseph Jones, and Bergman won in overtime when the referee assessed Millersburg West Holmes' Justin Stitzlein a second caution for jumping the whistle.

"I knew it was going to be a one-point match," Bergman's father, Oak Harbor coach George Bergman, said. "I just didn't know which way."

The younger Bergman, a state placer in 2011, finished fourth at the district at Marion Harding last week. Finishing ahead of him was a two-time state champion, a one-time state champion, and a state place winner. In a sense, the state tournament isn't any more difficult.

"You know coming in here you're ready for the first match because no one is as good as the kid you wrestled the week before," Alex Bergman said.

Struble made history last weekend, ending the Bryan program's 20-year drought of not sending a participant to the state meet. He'd like to join Matt Dominique --Bryan's previous qualifier in 1992 -- by earning a placement. Struble advanced in overtime, 5-3, over Bellbrook's Benjamin Schram, and is one win away from finishing in the top eight.

"I didn't wrestle as well as I wanted, but at this point it doesn't matter," Struble said.

Struble's coach, Josh Montgomery, called Struble's qualifying a "huge moment" for the program.

"He's put in a lot of time and dedication to get to this step," Montgomery said.

Pickerel, a senior, found it difficult to deal with his nervousness in his first appearance at the meet. He'll likely feel the same way Friday morning as he prepares to oppose defending state champion Riley Shaw of Washington Court House. As for his team's success, Pickerel hopes for a top 10 finish. The Irish were 15th in 2011.

"I'd like to see top eight," he said. "We need to pull together and win some matches."

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