DELTA — The Delta wrestling team has one state championship already this season and begins its bid for a second crown today at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
Earlier this month, the Panthers won Ohio’s inaugural state team tournament championship in Division III at OSU’s St. John Arena.
Third-year coach Anthony Carrizales, who was a state champion as a senior for Delta in 1999, is hoping that the five Panthers competing in Columbus can bring home the school’s first team title since then from what is now called the state individual tournament.
Competing in Division III are four district champions — senior Jared Mattin (160 pounds, 36-7 record), juniors Kyle Keller (120, 36-3) and Tyler Fahrer (145, 43-6), and freshman Jake Spiess (106, 41-4). Joining them will be freshman Dustin Marteney (126, 47-10), who was a district runner-up.
Fahrer was a state runner-up last year when Delta finished third in the team standings. Fahrer lost 5-4 in the 145-pound title match to Jordan Marshall of Troy Christian.
Keller and Mattin each placed fifth at state in 2012. Luke Kern, who graduated, won the Panthers’ lone title at 138.
“This is huge for us,” Keller said of the individual tourney. “We’re really motivated to win another state title for this team. We have a good possibility with the five guys we have at state.
“For us to be on top, we’re going to have to go out there and dominate our first few matches and pick up some bonus points. We have to do what we’re supposed to do and win the matches we’re supposed to win.”
Top-ranked Waynedale and third-ranked Troy Christian are expected to be second-ranked Delta’s chief competitors for the team title along with Miamisburg Dayton Christian.
Waynedale and Dayton Christian each have five wrestlers competing at state, and Tory Christian has six.
When Carrizales was competing for former coach Robin Rayfield, he was part of the greatest run in Delta’s wrestling history. The Panthers won Division III state team titles in 1996, 1998, and 1999, and were runners-up in 1997.
The Panthers haven’t won a state title at this event, which rewards teams with depth.
In winning the state team tournament, Delta defeated LaGrange Keystone 59-13 in the quarterfinals, Versailles 45-24 in the semifinals, and Massillon Tuslaw 52-17 in the championship of the dual-meet format.
“In all honesty, I wasn’t that sure we were that good of a dual team coming into this year,” Carrizales said. “But we went with it, and the kids just wrestled great. We’ve been blessed with having kids step up and peaking at the right time.
“This weekend — trying to win the team championship at the individual tournament — was really our goal all year long. Obviously, being able to win the team duals just gave us extra incentive.”
This weekend’s tournament — which for now will still award team champions along with the individual winners in the 14 weight classes in all three divisions — is more favorable to teams that have qualifying wrestlers capable of winning individual titles or earning high placements to score significant team points.
If Fahrer is going to improve on his runner-up finish from a year ago, he has his work cut out for him. Two-time state champion Jacob Danishek (112 pounds in 2011, and 132 last year), a junior from Dayton Christian, is up to 145 and is favored to win his third state title.
If Fahrer and Danishek each win their first three matches, they would meet for the title.
“I had never been on that stage before [in finals match],” said Fahrer, who placed seventh as a freshman in 2011. “I had been really close before, but getting there last year was the best feeling in the world.
“It drives me every day to get back there and win it. Everyone knows I have a two-time state champion there [in same weight class] in Jacob Danishek. It’s going to be really tough. I’ve been working really hard to try to compete on the level he’s at. If I get the chance to meet him face-to-face, I’m going to give him all he can handle.”
Added Carrizales of Delta’s off-season wrestling club: “Tyler’s an example of how good a kid can get by going through our club.
“He wrestled so many matches while he was growing up, and has a ton of mat experience. There is no place on the mat where he’s not good — top or bottom. On top of being a good athlete, he’s just a good wrestler.”
Carrizales also likes the prospects from his other state returnees.
“Kyle Keller is more gifted athletically,” Carrizales said. “He’s tall and does a good job of using leverage to his advantage. There can’t be too many 120-pounders in the state who are as tall [6-foot] as he is.”
“Jared Mattin is a pure wrestler. Some kids get by on being athletic or super strong. Jared is just a good wrestler. He’s smart and has a lot of mat sense. He doesn’t make very many mistakes, if any. He just grinds out the wins.”
The Delta coach, who was a two-time Mid-American Conference runner-up while wrestling at Ohio University, sees Spiess as a uniquely gifted wrestler, and has been pleasantly surprised by his rapid progress.
“Jake Spiess is just a crazy talent,” Carrizales said. “He was a two-time state champion in junior high, and he’s been ranked No. 1 in the state pretty much all year. I put him right there with Tyler Fahrer. They grew up together.
“Jake’s spent so much time on the mat, and he’s a good athlete. Some of the things he does already, most kids don’t pick up until they’re seniors, or even in college. He’s really ahead of the curve.”
Carrizales added: “Around Christmas time, Dustin Marteney was wrestling really well, and we looked at him as someone we felt could have a really good end of the season for us. Now, we’re looking at him as maybe being the missing link to a state [team] title if he’s able to place.”
Carrizales credits his coaching staff, and that of Delta’s club program, for creating a family environment that has paved the way for the school’s return to wrestling prominence in Ohio.
Included in that mix are Panther assistants Danny Carrizales (his cousin), Doug Ford, and Tyler Yant, all former Delta wrestlers. Former Panthers mat star Mike Mattin, an emergency room physician, runs the Delta Wrestling Club, and Rayfield also still works with the high school and club wrestlers.