After 75 years of individual state wrestling tournaments, the debut team state championship went off at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday with excitement across all three divisions.
Two of the opening round dual meets in Division III (small schools) were decided in the last bout; Versailles scored a 40-30 victory over Upper Sandusky when Andrew Smith got the fall 54 seconds into the match, and Johnstown Northridge earned a 35-33 victory with a fall coming from returning state qualifier Anthony Verhovec at the 4:48 mark.
Opening round wrestling in Division II had one upset, a 31-30 criteria victory for Hamilton Ross over CVCA; while it was all chalk in Division I with the four nationally ranked squads pulling out victories: No. 2 St. Edward defeating Pickerington Central 66-4, No. 16 Massillon Perry with a 49-24 victory over Marysville, No. 20 Cincinnati Moeller with a 49-12 victory over Centerville, and No. 26 Brecksville with a 40-19 victory over Oregon Clay.
Both Division III semifinal bouts were blowouts, with Delta earning a 45-24 victory over Versailles, and Tuslaw securing a 51-15 victory over Johnstown Northridge. Semifinal dual meets in Division II were similarly one-sided with No. 5 St. Paris Graham scoring a 43-18 victory over Toledo Central Catholic, and Claymont earning the 48-22 victory over Hamilton Ross. One match of interest in the Division II semifinals had No. 2 Micah Jordan (St. Paris Graham) moving up a weight class to 138 pounds to face Alex Mossing, the projected state champion in that weight class; two-time state champion Jordan earned a 13-5 major decision victory over the Preseason Nationals runner-up and two-time state placer.
The Division I semifinal bouts were also non-competitive, as St. Edward beat Brecksville 48-15, while Massillon Perry beat a short-handed Cincinnati Moeller squad 41-23 In the St. Edward vs. Brecksville dual meet, L.J. Bentley opened up with a pin for St. Edward at 106 over reserve wrestler Jared Bronstrup, while the Assad brothers for Brecksville (No. 3 Austin and No. 1 Aaron) earned tight victories up a weight class; Austin getting a 7-6 victory over Sal Corrao at 113, and Aaron a 3-1 victory over Austin Hiles at 120. Major decisions from Chance Driscoll (126), No. 4 Edgar Bright (145), and No. 9 Markus Scheidel (152); a technical fall from No. 17 Colin Heffernan (138); and a pin from No. 3 Dean Heil (132) would give the Eagles a 29-6 lead to put the dual meet more or less out of reach.
The anticipated competitive nature of the other semifinal in Division I was taken away when state alternate Connor Borton (126) did not weigh in and returning state third place finisher Dakota Sizemore (160) failed skin check. That resulted in the Crusaders having to take a forfeit at 126, and having to send out a reserve wrestler (Campbell Morton) at 160 against projected state placer Bruno Millin.
Things did not start good for the Crusaders either, when Massillon Perry was able to get a pin out of backup Tommy Genetin at 106 pounds, and bumped up No. 5 Jose Rodriguez to 113, where he earned a 4-3 win over projected state placer Conner Ziegler. The Crusaders did get a 5-0 victory from freshman Jacoby Ward at 120 and an 11-3 major decision victory from senior Andrew Mendel at 132 sandwiched around state champion David Bavery getting the forfeit for the Panthers at 126 to cut the deficit to 15-7. However, four consecutive victories from Casey Sparkman (138), Isaac Bast (145), Tony Dailey (152), and Bruno Millin (160) would make it 32-7 for Massillon Perry, which meant it was all over but for the final score.
All three championship matches on Saturday night had electric starts with leads switching multiple times. Though the Division III match ended up being a blowout victory for Delta, 52-17 over Tuslaw, the lead did switch four times in the first six matches. Things opened up with freshman Jacob Speiss, the projected state champion, scoring a fall at the 1:31 mark to give Delta a 6-0 lead. The next two matches were victories for Tuslaw, Jake Johnston scoring a 25-9 technical fall at 113 and two-time state qualifier Dion Perez earning a 9-4 victory against returning state placer Kyle Keller at 120, to give the Mustangs the lead at 8-6. Freshman Dustin Marteney answered back for the Panthers with a 9-1 major decision at 126, while in the next match senior state qualifier Dylan Marthey gave Tuslaw their last lead at 11-10 with a 6-1 decision over fellow senior James Dailey. The pin by junior Christian Valentine at 3:04 started a string of eight consecutive Delta victories, including six pins in that stretch, which gave them the first-ever team state title.
Having won the last 12 individual bracket team state titles in Division II, the No. 5 ranked in the nation Falcons had a battle on their hands with the Mustangs, as there were six lead changes and two ties in the first eight weight classes. The opening match did not go the Falcons way, as freshman Tyler Warner scored a 7-4 upset victory for Claymont over No. 8 Eli Stickley. The second match was also a tight one, as the Falcons tied up the dual meet with a 6-4 overtime victory by state placer Eli Seipel against state qualifier Dustin Warner. Freshman Brent Moore gave St. Paris Graham their first lead of the night at 6-3 with a 6-4 decision over junior Kollin Clark.
Projected state champion Cody Burcher gave Claymont a 9-6 lead with a fall at the 1:34 mark against freshman Mario Kastl, while No. 2 Micah Jordan answered back with a pin at the 3:10 mark against Drew Dillon to give the Falcons the lead at 12-9. Consecutive decision wins for the Mustangs from senior Drew Avery and junior state qualifier Caden Herron gave them back the lead at 15-12. A 19-4 technical fall from freshman sensation Alex Marinelli, ranked No. 10 nationally, and pin from arguably the nation's best wrestler Bo Jordan gave St. Paris Graham a 23-15 lead from which they would not look back.
However, it took three consecutive victories from some of the Falcons less heralded wrestlers to make sure that was the case. Lane Thomas earned a 15-3 victory over Matt Dennis, an outcome which was unexpected for its margin in a battle of juniors, at 170; sophomore Josh Couchman earned the mild upset at 182, with a 4-2 overtime victory over junior Colt Crall; while senior Anthony Welty slid down a weight class to 195, and earned the pin at the 5:08 mark against sophomore Nate Gray to clinch the victory. The Mustangs did cut the deficit to a 36-24 final score with a pin and decision in the last two matches.
The big-school match between No. 2 St. Edward and No. 16 Massillon Perry was easily the most anticipated match of the day in Columbus, and it was also the most intense. The Eagles, winners of 15 of the last 16 state titles through the individual tournament in Division I, faced off against the Panthers, who have finished second or third in each of the last ten years.
If the Panthers were to pull off an upset, the opening four weights of the dual meet would be a key, as those matches had the combination of favoring the Panthers and/or not involving the meat of the St. Edward lineup. The opening three went -- more or less -- in favor Massillon Perry, as No. 5 Rodriguez scored a 3-1 victory over fellow sophomore L.J. Bentley at 106; sophomore Jason Spencer earned a 3-2 decision at 113 over senior Sal Corrao; and state champion David Bavery got the 11-7 decision over freshman Austin Hiles at 120, though the Panthers were hoping for bonus points there.
Facing a 9-0 deficit, the Eagles got a crucial victory from senior Chance Driscoll at 126 pounds, 3-1 over sophomore Austin Phillips on a third period takedown. Further cutting the deficit would be No. 3 Heil, a three-time state champion, with a 13-3 major decision over fellow senior Jamie Norris. However, that was somewhat a victory for the Panthers, who were further buoyed by a 5-4 upset victory from junior Casey Sparkman over No. 17 Colin Heffernan. Heffernan trailed 3-1 with 30 seconds remaining, but went ahead on a second stalling for Sparkman immediately followed up by a takedown at the edge of the mat. Then, on the immediate sequence after, Sparkman got the reversal and was able to keep Heffernan down for the last seconds of the match.
However, senior Edgar Bright -- ranked No. 4 nationally -- scored the pin against Panthers reserve junior Justin Burns at the 1:22 mark to give the Eagles a 13-12 lead, their first of the match. Massillon Perry bumped up returning state placer Isaac Bast into this weight class to face fellow state placer No. 9 Scheidel, and it was Scheidel extending the Eagles lead to 17-12 with an 11-2 major decision. Also bumping up weight classes for the Panthers were Tony Dailey and Bruno Millin, whose decision victories at 160 and 170 gave the Panthers at 18-17 lead; for Dailey it was 15-9 over senior Robbie Rogers, and it was 5-2 for Millin over junior Ray Barr, though Massillon Perry was looking for bonus in either match.
A key strategy for St. Edward in the end game was weighing in junior Gabe Dzuro at 182 and senior Domenic Abounader -- who is ranked No. 2 nationally at 182 -- up in the 195 pound weight class. Dzuro was able to secure a 3-1 victory over sophomore Brady Durieux to move the Eagles ahead 20-18, a lead that would stand the rest of the night. Sending out Abounader first, Massillon Perry chose to void the weight class, as they only had one wrestler weighed in there. That wrestler was defending state champion Joe Tayse, who the Panthers chose to bump up to 220 pounds.
Trailing 26-18 in the dual meet with two matches to go, Massillon Perry still had a shot to win the dual meet, but would need wins and bonus points. Tayse went out to the mat at 220 charged with the task of winning and getting bonus points. However, it was the sophomore Parker Knapp who showed fire to start the match, getting the opening takedown. Tayse did respond to win 7-3, but Knapp had done his job. Then, it would come down to the 285 weight class, where it was a battle of juniors, state qualifier Stefano Millin for Massillon Perry and Ralph Nichols for St. Edward.
Trailing 26-21, the task was clear for Millin. Not only to win, but get a pin, something he had done against Nichols at the Ironman without that added pressure on. However, in this match, it would be Nichols scoring the only two takedowns, as he won 4-2 in overtime, and was one of many heroes in the Eagles 28-21 victory (team point deduction during the last match) and the maiden Division I team state wrestling title.