COLUMBUS — Delta arrived at the state wrestling team tournament as the No. 1 seed in the Division III field.
The Panthers showed up at Ohio State’s St. John Arena on Saturday looking to make the top ranking a reality.
At the end of a long and grueling day, it was mission accomplished for Delta.
The Panthers collected the D-III state team championship by defeating Massillion Tuslaw 52-17 before a spirited crowd, many of whom were Panthers supporters.
Jake Spiess (106 pounds), Christian Valentine (138), Tyler Fahrer (145), Todd Miller (152), Seth Colvin (170), Mark Francis (195), and Devon Richards (220) recorded pins for Delta to help register a decisive victory over Tuslaw, which was the No. 2 seed in the tournament.
Dustin Marteney (126), Jared Mattin (160), and Conner Keller (182) also were victorious in their respective matches against Tuslaw.
"They wanted to win, and they came in with nerves of steel," Delta coach Tony Carrizales said. "They went out and got it.
"The bottomline is that Tuslaw team is too good for us to beat that bad. They just went out and got it."
First-time regional champions Clay and Central Catholic also competed in the state team wrestling championships sanctioned for the first time by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Clay, a D-I state tournament participant, was defeated 40-19 by Brecksville-Broadview Heights in a quarterfinal encounter. Central, a D-II state participant, advanced to a semifinal match, where it fell 43-18 to top seed Graham Local.
The Panthers trailed the Mustangs 11-10 in the team scoring early in the match before consecutive pins by Valentine, Fahrer, and Miller rallied the Panthers.
Valentine's pin of Damon Little at the 3:04 mark of the 138-pound match provided the biggest boost. The Delta junior found himself in trouble early against Little before he made a strong recovery to come away with the pin. His victory brought the Panthers fans and his teammates to their feet.
"It wasn't that Christian won that match, but it was the way he did it," Carrizales said. "He was fighting off his back, and then coming back, I think the kids fed off of that."
Valentine wanted to do it for his teammates.
"We knew what we could accomplish and we just showed it," Valentine said. "It's such a great feeling to see everything come together that we've worked hard for."
Fahrer, a two-time individual state qualifier, said winning a team title is a "momentum booster" for the Panthers’ program.
"Having the name of being a state champion is just really cool," Fahrer said. "It's a great accomplishment."
The Panthers earned a spot in the D-III finals match by handling their business against Versailles in a semifinal showdown.
Delta defeated Versailles 45-24 by winning eight of the matchups, seven by way of pin. Spiess (106), Dailey(113), Kyle Keller (120), Fahrer (145), Miller (152), Mattin (160), and Colvin (170) recorded pins against Versailles.
Delta opened the day by destroying Keystone 59-13 in a quarterfinal match that lasted barely over an hour.
The Panthers recorded nine pins on their way to a decisive victory over the Wildcats.
Spiess (106) and Dailey (113) led the way with the fastest pins of the match. Spiess' opening match against Daniel Cropp was over in 28 seconds. Dailey topped his teammate by pinning Matt Dobrilovic in 25 seconds.
Central Catholic's journey to the state tournament ended against a Graham Local team that entered the tournament with as much talent and depth as any among the three divisions. The Falcons won 10 of the first 11 matches against an overmatched Irish group that didn't disappoint their coach or the Irish supporters that made their presence known in the crowd with plenty of supportive cheers.
Nate Hogan (126), Mike Gregory (195), Chris Norwood (220) and JQuan Fisher (285) won their matches against Graham Local. Norwood and Fisher closed out the evening for Central on a good note with back-to-back pins.
"It was a good experience for the kids," Central coach Tony Guerra said. "We knew [Graham Local] was good, but I'm happy with my guys. They went out and wrestled hard, and that's all I could ask of them."
The Irish advanced to the semifinals by scoring an impressive 37-30 victory over Lexington in a quarterfinal match earlier in the day.
The Irish came out strong in the lower weights against Lexington and won eight of the first 10 matches, including pins by Matt Pool (113), Rosendo Beltran (120), Alex Mossing (138), and Shawn Murney (170). Lexington made it close by winning three of the final four matches by forfeit due to the Irish not putting anyone on the mat at the 182-, 195- and 220-pound weights.
"We knew that our lower weights had to get off early and get us some points," Guerra said, regarding the Irish matchup with Lexington.
The Irish's lighter wrestlers came through with victories right on up to Colin Kaucher (152) pulling off a 3-1 decision over Lexington's Gabe Benjamin.
"That was one of the matches we had to have," Guerra said.
Clay's trip to the state tournament came to a halt against Brecksville-Broadview Heights in a D-I quarterfinals pairing. Brecksville-Broadview Heights ousted Clay from any title hopes in one of the earlier matches by taking 10 of the 14 matches.
Yet, losing in a quarterfinal at state wasn't seen as a setback to Clay coach Ralph Cubberly.
"It was an accomplishment for the program," Cubberly said. "We're the second team to ever make it to state in any sport in boys athletics at Clay, so it's a big deal to these guys.
"I think we might have been happy with that, but making it down here is the first step in the process for this program. It's another step, and now that we've been here and experienced it, I hope we get back again and we're a little more prepared."
Clay's Antonio Zapata (285), Richie Screptock (120), Matt Stencel (182), and Jarred Gray (220) accounted for the Eagles' victories against Brecksville-Broadview Heights.
Zapata led the way by pinning Rich LeAnza at the 5:47 mark of their match.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.