Delta's Luke Kern beat Dylan Kleman of Columbus Grove 17-4 in the first round of the 138-pound bracket.
COLUMBUS -- Delta wrestling coach Anthony Carrizales was a member of three state championship teams at the school in the late 1990s -- an era when the Panthers rolled out some of the best Division III lineups in recent memory.
His squad this year doesn't compare. They didn't win the league meet. Didn't win at sectionals. Were runner-ups at districts.
But a state title, hey, why not?
The Panthers are sitting in second place of the D-III standings after one day at Value City Arena, and the quest to be the program's first championship team since 1999 -- their coach's senior season -- couldn't be off to a better start.
All four state qualifiers scored bonus points in their first round matches, giving the Panthers a total of 14.5 points entering Friday morning's quarterfinal round. Apple Creek Waynedale, which qualified a D-III high six wrestlers, is in first with 21 points. Archbold (10.5) is fifth and Elmwood (nine) is tied for eighth.
"A bad weekend by a few teams and a good weekend by us, it could happen," Carrizales said of a state title. "Stranger things have happened."
Sophomore Kyle Keller (106 pounds) registered a fall to start the afternoon and his teammates followed along his dominant path. Luke Kern (138) won 17-4, Tyler Fahrer (145) picked up a fall in overtime, and Jared Mattin (152) posted a 16-1 technical fall. Not just winning, but winning big and crowning finalists, will be necessary for Delta to be holding the championship trophy Saturday evening.
"We came down here to win it, not just individually, but as a team," said Kern, who improved to 41-1.
Genoa's Jake Sheehy pinned Smithville's Mark Hilty in the 182-pound tournament.
Added Mattin: "If we all wrestle to our potential, we'll all be on the podium -- if not top two."
Kern, at No. 3, is the highest ranked grappler among the quartet. The other three are projected to finish fifth.
All perceived title contenders from the area advanced. Woodmore's Evan Ulinski (106) won 10-4, Liberty Center's Zach Niner (132) won 14-6, and Archbold's Jordan Cowell (152) prevailed 17-2.
Genoa's Jake Sheehy (182) registered a pin in 55 seconds -- seven seconds faster than North Baltimore's Dalton Ishmael (195) needed and 13 seconds longer than Swanton defending champion Mimmo Lytle (285) spent on his bout. Lytle's Northwest Ohio Athletic League heavyweight rival, Liberty Center's Justin Gillen, won 4-3.
Elmwood's Jake Baker (220) was dejected despite escaping late in the match to win 2-1. That's because he's battling a shoulder sprain, an injury he suffered this week in practice. Ranked second, Baker will meet defending runner-up Kennedy Smith of Bedford St. Peter Chanel on Friday morning.
"I have to try to not let [opponents] crank on it too much," Baker said.
Niner has shrunk every year. As a freshman he qualified at 145 pounds. He placed fifth last year at 135 and now, as a 132-pound junior, he's got a shot of winning the tournament.
"My goal since the end of last season was to come down here and win a state title," he (35-5) said.
Sheehy (52-2) gave a nod to his Genoa teammate Felipe Martinez for teaching him the "Twister," a move Sheehy executed to register his first period fall. Martinez, a three-time state champion, was a no-show at districts last week because of family reasons, but his impact is being felt.
"If he's not going to be here, somebody should be hitting it," Sheehy said.