By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
La Salle came within one point of becoming the first school from Southwest Ohio to win the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I Team State Wrestling Tournament held last Sunday at St. John Arena on The Ohio State University campus in Columbus. The Lancers won their first two matches to make the final and, after winning the first five weight classes, appeared primed to capture the title. That is, before perennial state wrestling power Lakewood St. Edward came alive to reel off wins in the next six weight classes and finish by winning seven of the final nine matches to record a 29-28 victory in the title match.
The finish was the best ever by a Cincinnati-area team in the event.
St. Edward’s championship was its fourth in the seven years of the state duals tournament. The Eagles were runner-up last year, falling to St. Paris Graham in the title match, 28-23. This time, St. Edward defeated Dublin Coffman, 60-15, in the quarterfinals before besting Brecksville-Brookview Heights, 40-17, in the semifinals to earn a shot at No. 1 seed La Salle – which beat St. Edward, 35-27, in a dual held December 15 at La Salle High School. At the time, La Salle was ranked No. 4 nationally with St. Edward right behind at No. 5.
The one-point margin in the final is the smallest in OHSAA dual state history. St. Edward has now won a state-record 36 state wrestling championships in both the team and individual state tournaments in its storied program history. The Eagles also won the duals state in 2013, and then back-to-back in 2016 and 2017, while winning all but eight individual state titles since 1978 and every year but one, 2014, this century. La Salle finished fourth in last year’s state individual tournament, with Greater Catholic League South Division colleagues Elder coming in sixth place and Moeller narrowly missing a Top-10 finish, winding up at No. 12.
La Salle is enjoying one of the top wrestling seasons in school history. The Lancers easily defeated Lancaster, 56-12, ands Elyria, 40-25, in its quarterfinal and semifinal matches, respectively, to advance to the final. And, after sophomore Cole Skinner (106 pounds), sophomore Dustin Norris (113), junior Antoine Allen (120), senior and defending state individual champion Lucas Byrd (who moved up to 126 in the title match) and sophomore Casey Wiles (132) each won their matches against St. Edward, the Lancers had a 19-0 lead. That is, before the talent-laden Eagles rallied back to win six weight classes in a row to pull ahead, 20-19, and then the 220-pound class to earn just enough points for the title.
Senior Michael Baker (195) and Robert Brown (285) also won their matches for La Salle in the final. The Lancers, who will set their sights on the OHSAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament to be held March 7-9 at the Jerome C. Schottenstein Center on the OSU campus, had four wrestlers win all three of their matches in the duals state tournament – Skinner, Byrd (now 32-1 this season), Baker (25-4) and Brown. Norris did not wrestle in the quarterfinals, but won both of his matches in the semifinals and final. La Salle will next compete in the DI sectional and district tournaments the next two weeks, respectively.