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Published: Saturday, 3/3/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Clay's Gray 1 win away from crown

Eagles looking for 1st state champion

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Clay's Garrett Gray advanced to the 285-pound championship, beating Maple Height's Aaron Pipkins. Clay's Garrett Gray advanced to the 285-pound championship, beating Maple Height's Aaron Pipkins.
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COLUMBUS -- Whether he wins or loses his state championship bout, Clay heavyweight Garrett Gray knows he'll be the toast of his town for days to come.

He already was looking forward to that celebrity status just moments after securing a win in Friday's semifinal round of the Division I meet at Value City Arena.

A win though would give Gray legendary status around Oregon and at Clay, as he would be the Eagles' first state wrestling champion.

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He put himself in position to make history when he scored an early takedown for the decisive points in a 3-2 triumph over Maple Heights' Aaron Pipkins.

With Gray in charge, Clay has pieced together a marvelous weekend, with six of its seven qualifiers securing a top eight finish. The Eagles sit in third place with 54 points and will spend the final day of the competition trying to fend off Solon (49) and Cincinnati Moeller (48.5). Lakewood St. Edward (188.5) should win its 14th title in 15 years, with Massillon Perry (86.5) collecting runner-up honors.

Gray (43-6) will be a considerable underdog against Wadsworth's two-time state champion Nick Tavanello, whom Gray lost to 7-3 in the district final last week.

"Win," Gray said. "Just win. That's all I have set in my mind."

Gray's teammate, Mike Screptock, dropped his 126-pound semifinal bout, 4-1, to Lewis Center Olentangy's Trevor Fiorucci.

St. John's Jesuit's Ted Schoen (195) also lost in the same round, falling 6-3 to Massillon Perry's JoJo Tayse.

Grapplers in position to place third through sixth Saturday morning are Clay's Screptock, Jacob Conine (132), and Angelo Amenta (138), along with Schoen, and Perrysburg's Luke Boff (182).

Competing for seventh will be Clay's Jared Davis (106) and Richie Screptock (113), and Perrysburg's Ryan Roth (138).

Gray's nerves "were jumping" in the hotel room as he prepared for the biggest match of his life.

They didn't subside any as he stepped onto the mat against a much larger Pipkins. A first-period takedown calmed Gray, and he was never in peril of losing the bout from that point forward.

"After I got that first takedown I was set, I was in my zone, I knew what I was doing, and I knew I wouldn't lose," he said.

Gray advanced to the semifinals with a fall of Loveland's Andrew Allen in the morning session.

Moments earlier, Amenta's thoughts of winning a title vanished in a 10-4 loss to Twinsburg's Mike Labry.

Amenta, a senior, inexplicably slipped on the mat in the first period to allow Labry to go up 4-1.

"That might as well be punching your ticket to the [consolation bracket]," Amenta said.

Amenta reacted by crying for the first time in years, he said, but he chose to shake away his sorrows -- in part -- to help his team remain in the top five.

He rebounded, scoring a late takedown and two near fall points to top Powell Olentangy Liberty's Jake Ryan, 5-2.

"It would have been easy to give up but our team's in the race," Amenta said. "I've never been in that position before, with our team in the top five, fighting for top three.

"That was an extra boost to get me out of my funk this morning."

Mike Screptock will try to emulate Amenta's resiliency. Screptock was unable to generate any offense in his loss to Fiorucci, a four-time state place winner.

Skilled in the top position, Screptock allowed a reversal in the third period before he had much of a chance to rack up points.

"Probably needed to attack more on my feet," he said. "He felt stronger than me, I guess. I could have wrestled a lot better."

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.



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