By Tom Gamble, GCL South Commissioner
La Salle will have five wrestlers competing for state titles in their respective weight classes when the third and final day of matches resume this morning in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Individual Wrestling State Tournament at the Jerome C. Schottenstein Center on The Ohio State University campus in Columbus. La Salle will open competition in second place in the Division I team standings, trailing only perennial state power and 36-time OHSAA team or individual state champion Lakewood St. Edward, 176-151.5.
The Lancers wrestling for state titles are Dustin Norris at 113 pounds, Lucas Byrd, who won a state crown at 113 last season but is wrestling at 120, Jake Niffenegger at 138, Trey Sizemore at 182, and Michael Baker at 195. Byrd, Sizemore and Baker are looking to close out their high school careers in style, with each already having amassed more than 100 victories during their time in the Lancers’ wrestling program.
Moeller senior Jordan Ward also will wrestle for a state title at 132. The University of North Carolina recruit placed sixth in the same weight class last season and finished seventh at 126 as a sophomore.
Six other La Salle wrestlers have an opportunity to reach the podium in the state tournament – Cole Skinner at 106, Antoine Allen at 126, Casey Wiles at 132, Darnai Heard (seventh place) at 145, E’lan Heard at 152 and Robert Brown at 285. La Salle is scheduled to only wrestle St. Edward in two matches today, those being the 132 consolation semifinal and the 138 state final with Niffenegger set to oppose the Eagles’ Bryce Hepner.
Elder’s Austin Belcher will wrestle for seventh place at 182.
St. Edward and La Salle have been competing against each other all season. La Salle defeated the Eagles, 35-27, in a dual match at La Salle in mid-December. St. Edward then rebounded to edge La Salle, 29-28, in the OHSAA Dual Team State Wrestling Tournament on February 10 at St. John Arena on OSU’s campus. The one point separating the two teams was the smallest margin of victory in the event’s history. La Salle wrestlers won the first five matches that day and held a 19-0 lead before the national high school wrestling power St. Edward came alive to win six straight weight classes and capture seven of the final nine titles to emerge victorious.
There are two sessions scheduled today. Doors open at 9 this morning, with Session 4 set to begin with the DI consolation semifinals and finals at 10 a.m. Doors open at 4:15 p.m. for Session 5, which features the Parade of Champions beginning at 5:30 p.m. followed by the DI championship finals at 5:45. Tickets for each session are $15 and are available at the Schottenstein Center Box Office.