By Scott Springer, email@example.com
Four Greater Cincinnati high school wrestling teams were among the top 24 in Ohio at the OHSAA State Wrestling Dual Team Tournament Sunday at St. John Arena.
All entered as underdog seeds in their respective divisions, but only La Salle in Division I and Ross in Division II were able to advance to the semifinals where both fell short.
After beating No. 4 seed Elyria 40-30 despite forfeiting four weight classes, coach Ryan Root's Lancers squared off with Division I top seed St. Paris Graham Local. Faced with the same personnel issues as they had in the morning, the Lancers lost 43-16 to the favored Falcons. Freshman Duston Norris and junior Jacob Byrd won at 106 and 113 pounds, respectively. Senior Blake Wilson won at 182 pounds and junior heavyweight Robert Brown wrapped the day up with a pin, the equivalent of sinking a long putt on the 18th hole to end your round.
"There's a reason they're ranked in the top five of the country," Root said of St. Paris Graham Local. "We wrestled well in some places and they wrestled better in a lot of places."
Division II Ross advanced on a tiebreaker 37-36 over No. 3 seed Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary to earn a shot at No. 2 seed Mentor Lake Catholic. The Rams with little rest from the early afternoon sessions found it tough to hang with the highly-ranked Cougars losing 60-12. Brothers Tom (220) and Alex Coleman (285) finished with back-to-back pins to prevent the shutout.
"We were pretty exhausted from the previous round," Ross coach Rich Dunn said. "We gave everything we got to get to that. We didn't have enough reserve in the tank. We're proud to be in the final four."
In the morning quarterfinals, Division I La Salle eeked out a win over No. 4 seed Elyria, 40-30 even with missing a few weight classes. Norris and Byrd snared wins at 106 and 113, respectively. The Lancers then had four forfeits before Trey Sizemore won a decision at 170 pounds. La Salle then pinned out from there with Wilson (182), junior Michael Baker (195), junior Garrett Bledsoe (220) and Brown (285). The pins by big boys Bledsoe and Brown gave the Lancers the come-from-behind victory.
"We've got a couple of guys out," Root said. "You know the flu bug's beating everybody up and we have a couple of injuries we're coming back from. We're really just trying to make sure we're healthy for the state (individual) tournament. We won a match at 113 (Lucas Byrd vs. Dylan Shawver) that's probably the two best kids in the state. We had to juggle some things around to make up for our forfeits."
In Division III, No. 8 seed Bethel-Tate struggled with top seed Genoa, a team coach Tom Donahue figured would be at top of the podium this month and next month at the individual tournament at the Schottenstein Center. The Tigers lost 62-6.
Freshman Joe Reinert was pinned at 106, junior Zack Gutknecht lost a 2-1 decision at 113, junior Trey Sander fell at 120, sophomore Donnie Harrison was pinned at 126, senior Austin Carter pinned at 132, junior Mike Whittington lost at 138, senior Jonah Blankenship was pinned at 145, senior Matt Hall lost at 152, senior Cooper Dunn was pinned at 160, senior Owen Holtke pinned at 170, freshman Owen Mattes lost a decision at 182 as did senior Nate Owens at 195. Bradley Lewis then kept the Tigers from being shutout with a pin of Christian Aranda at 220. The match ended with sophomore heavyweight Jayce Glenn losing a decision.
"It felt pretty good, but still hurts because the team didn't do as well as expected," senior Bradley Lewis said of his pin.
Tom Donahue again had to load his kids up early after another quarterfinal loss, but was still optimistic given the competition was the best his team has faced in the state thus far. His message to the team was to treat the day like a mid-term exam and study harder.
"Our goal was to make it here and we achieved that goal," Donahue said. "We had a tough draw. Genoa's going to be state champs again this year. We didn't show our best selves today. It's a little bit disappointing, but in the scheme of things, this match wasn't on our radar. We have league next week, the sectionals the week after and districts and state."
The early afternoon sessions also featured Greater Cincinnati teams as underdogs. No. 7 seed Mason was matched with No. 2 seed Lakewood St. Edward in Division I, with Division II Ross the No. 6 seed against No. 3 seed Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
The Comets fell 48-12 to the Eagles of St. Edward. Mason won with sophomore Pacey Najdusak (106), junior Christopher Donathan (145), junior Kamal Adewumi (160) and a pin by senior Eric Vermillion (170).
"Our kids went out and wrestled tough against the best Division I team in the state," Mason coach Matt McIntire said. "We're proud of the effort and proud of what we did today."
Ross had the most dramatic comeback, down 36-12 at one point to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. After Garrett Boyle's decision win at 170, the Rams racked up 24 straight points on a disqualification, two forfeits and a dramatic pin by sophomore heavyweight Alex Coleman.
"It's pretty crazy when they pull out the rulebook and start going through it," Ross coach Dunn said. "It takes a little bit of time and it's really nail-biting as you wait to hear that final decision."
Criterion "C" was the eventual tiebreaker, which for lack of a better way to describe it, came down to 182-pounder Austin Hamblin's win due to the disqualification of his Fighting Irish opponent.
WIthout Alex Coleman's "have no fear" pin to force the decision, the Rams may have had an earlier bus ride home.
"For a sophomore, he's got some good tools," Dunn said. "You've got to go out with confidence. Timid? You're going to have big trouble."