COLUMBUS — For the Delta wrestling team, it is time to start dreaming big.
The Panthers’ hopes of giving Northwest Ohio its first state wrestling title in 14 years gained an early surf of momentum on the opening day of the Division III tournament.
Freshman Jake Spiess and junior Kyle Keller set off a Delta sweep with back-to-back pins Thursday at the Schottenstein Center, and the Panthers’ run of dominance continued from there. Delta vaulted atop the team standings as all five of the school’s state qualifiers advanced to today’s quarterfinals — including four via bonus-point victories.
The second-ranked Panthers finished the first day with 16.5 points. Troy Christian, which qualified six wrestlers, is second with 16 points while Loudonville is third with 13. Defending state champion Waynedale is fourth (12.5) and Archbold is fifth (12).
“Going into this day, if you had said this is how it’s going to go, I’d say, ‘Yep, we don’t need to show up,’ ” Delta coach Anthony Carrizales said, smiling. “We’d take that and I’d be happy. I’m pretty pleased.”
It was a resounding opening statement.
The Panthers, who won the area’s last state title in 1999 when Carrizales was a senior state champion, know their work is far from finished. Waynedale and Troy Christian were first and second at states last year, and they are similarly strong this season. Waynedale is ranked No. 1 in Division III.
But three weeks after romping to the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s first state duals tournament title, Delta is squarely in the conversation for a championship sweep.
Carrizales believes the team race will pivot on the Panthers’ ability to pile up bonus points — an emphasis put into practice from the start Thursday.
Spiess (42-4) pinned Ashland Mapleton’s Josh Smith in 3 minutes, 4 seconds at 106 pounds, and Keller (37-3) did the same to Allen East’s Tyler Backer in 55 seconds at 120.
Then Dustin Marteney earned a 9-6 decision over Loudonville’s Josh Weber at 126 pounds, defending state runner-up Tyler Fahrer cruised to a 16-0 technical fall against Tuscarawas Valley’s Josh Wallace at 145, and Jared Mattin won at 160.
Even Mattin (37-7) earned bonus points despite a scoreless first period. The senior answered with a series of late takedowns in an 8-0 major decision against Wayne Trace’s Sawyer Temple.
“I knew he was getting tired,” Mattin said. “And if I just kept fighting, I knew I could get those takedowns and get those points for my team.”
The lone Panther not to tip the bonus scales, meanwhile, still earned a critical win. Marteney, a freshman who Carrizales said has emerged as the potential “missing link“ in his team’s pursuit of a team title, returned strong from a district finals loss.
“It’s huge because I wanted to come in here and avenge that loss,” Marteney said. “That way, I can help my team in the team race. I’ve wrestled hard all year, I’ve earned my way onto this team, and I think I can do this.”
Elsewhere, North Baltimore senior Dalton Ishmael (43-1) continued his push for an individual state title at 195 in familiarly dominant form. Ishmael, who placed third last season, pinned Elyria Catholic’s Austin Kuchta in 3:43.
“Losing in the semifinals last year, it definitely woke me up a little bit and made me realize I need to push a little harder in the room,” Ishmael said. “I needed to get better to capture the state title.”
Other opening-round winners included Woodmore’s Evan Ulinski (106 pounds), Liberty-Benton’s Tyler Sarreshteh (113), Archbold’s Logan Day (138), Liberty Center’s Zach Niner (138), Van Buren’s Chance Sonnenberg (160), Fostoria’s Tony Reynolds (170), and Genoa’s Jay Nino (220).
Contact David Briggs at: email@example.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.