1. Can Massillon Perry get that elusive state championship at The Schott?
While the Panthers did win the state dual meet tournament three weeks prior, there is something extra special about winning that first place trophy in the traditional/individual tournament. They have finished second to St. Edward each of the last three years, and nine of the last eleven years. With four projected state champions and eleven state qualifiers, both of which are most in Division I, they are the clear favorites.
Thomas Genetin (106), Isaac Bast (170), and Stefano Millin (220) join three of the projected state champions -- Jose Rodriguez (113), David Bavery (126), and Casey Sparkman (152) -- as the six Massillon Perry wrestlers to win district titles in the Panthers' runaway championship at the Mentor district. Projected state champion Tony Dailey (160) along with Jake Newhouse (120) finished in second at the district tournament, while Jason Spencer (132), Nick Steed (138), and Seth Maylor (285) all qualified with third place finishes.
Only four other teams in Division I have as many participants as Massillon Perry had district tournament champions. Leading that group is Cincinnati Moeller, champion at the Kettering Fairmont district, which qualified nine wrestlers. That number includes three district champions -- Jacoby Ward (132), along with defending state champions Dakota Sizemore (182) and Chalmer Frueauf (220). Three others are returning state place-winners: Conner Ziegler (120) and Quinton Rosser (170), who finished second at district, and district third place-finisher Jerry Thornberry (195). Returning state qualifier Connor Borton (126) finished third, as did state tournament debutants Stuart Morton (145) and Austin Bohenek (160).
Brecksville, district champions from Cleveland State and runners-up at the state duals earlier this month, is one of two teams to qualify eight wrestlers to the state tournament. The Bees are led by four district champions, three of whom placed at state last year: projected state champion Austin Assad (120), Austin Strnad (160), and Josh Murphy (195). Justin Demicco (126) also won district, and is a returning state qualifier, as are district runners-up Austin Hiles (132) and Troy Lang (170). State tournament debutants Jarod Bronstrup (106) and Grayson Davis (145) each finished third at state. They will feel the loss of returning state placer Sonny Lucas (138), who finished as a state alternate, in their quest to improve on a third place finish at the individual state tournament last year.
Also qualifying eight wrestlers were Perrysburg, which finished third at the Cleveland State district. The Yellow Jackets are led by returning state placer J.P. Newton (152), who is their only district champion. Projected state champions Rocco Caywood (182), now a three-time state qualifier, and returning state placer Cale Bonner (285) finished third and second respectively at district. Kadin Llewelyn (195) joined Bonner as a district runner-up, while returning state placer Mario Guillen (113) joined Caywood as third at district. The other three qualifiers finished fourth at district: Moises Guillen (120), Dan Waltermeyer (160), and Mark Delas (220).
Three-time defending state champion St. Edward qualified only six to state, and finished as runner-up at the Cleveland State district. It will be a battle for them to finish even third or fourth this weekend. They will be led by district champion L.J. Bentley (113), district runners-up Gabe Dzuro (182) and Parker Knapp (220). Additonal state qualifiers include district third place finisher Ralph Nichols (285) along with fourth place finishers Alan Hart (106) and Kevin Khoma (170).
Hilliard Darby district champions Marysville are among the group of squads to qualify five wrestlers to the state tournament in the big-school division. The Monarchs feature four returning state placers, three of whom are district champions: Hayden Lee (113), David Sparks (138), and Austin Pfarr (220); while two-time placer Taleb Rahmani (145) was runner-up at district.
2. Whither St. Edward?
As mentioned earlier, St. Edward qualified only six wrestlers to the state tournament this year. For many programs that would be a record-high; however, for the perennial mega-power Eagles, it's a cause for alarm. Putting this into perspective is the following:
(1) Going back to 1990, when they last did not have a state champion, they have PLACED six or more wrestlers at state 19 of 23 years -- the other four years (1991, 1993, 1999, 2009) they placed five.
(2) In 2010-2012, they had six-plus wrestlers in the state FINALS. They also did that in four consecutive years during the middle of last decade, 2004-2007.
Furthering the context of their dynasty, in the last 40 years (1974-2013), they have had a state finalist in every year but one. That was 1975, when Tom Cousineau placed third at 285 pounds. They have had a state champion in every year since 1978, but for 1990.
Going forward, they return three of their six state qualifiers -- Hart is a freshman, while Bentley and Knapp are juniors. Furthermore, they had four underclassmen earn state alternate designations: freshman Jared Campbell (195), sophomores Isaac Collier (126) and Hunter Ladnier (132), along with junior D.J. Williamson (152). So bury the Eagles at your own peril, they will be back.
Micah Jordan (Photo/Rob Preston)3. Four times the fun!
A pair of senior wrestlers is seeking their fourth state titles this year, Micah Jordan (145) of St. Paris Graham and Jacob Danishek (152) of Dayton Christian. Should they see their hands raised on the raised mats of The Schott on Saturday night, they would become the 26th and 27th such wrestlers to earn four state titles in Ohio high school wrestling.
Each wrestler is undefeated this season, and has not lost an in-season match since the 2012 Walsh Jesuit Ironman final, and is prohibitive favorites in their respective weight classes this weekend.
4. Fourteen-peat, gets boring after a while, doesn't it?
St. Paris Graham is a very strong favorite to win their 14th consecutive title in the Division II individual state tournament. The Falcons qualified twelve wrestlers to state, which are joint-most in any division and the highest in Division II. They ran through the Wilmington district, as all their state qualifiers made the finals on Saturday night, with eight winning titles: Justin Stickley (106), Eli Stickley (113), Mario Kastl (120), Brent Moore (132), Kyle Lawson (138), Micah Jordan (145), Alex Marinelli (160), and Josh Couchman (195). Returning state champion Eli Seipel (126), state placer Lane Thomas (170), along with state tournament debutants Garrett Jordan (152) and Hayden Bronne (182) were the runners-up.
They are the strong favorites with projected state champions in Eli Stickley, Moore, Lawson, Micah Jordan, and Marinelli. In addition, Justin Stickley, Kastl, Seipel, and Thomas are all projected to be mid-to-high placers. That should be able to overwhelm the rest of the field.
Two-time state dual meet runner-up Claymont was dominant champions of their own district tournament, as the Mustangs qualified eleven to the state tournament. That includes five district champions: projected state champions Tyler Warner (106) and Dustin Warner (120), Kollin Clark (126), Cody Burcher (138), and Colt Crall (182). Past state qualifier Cade Herron (145) finished second, as did Lane Peters (113) and Kyle Henry (285); Garrett Harding (220) finished third, while Chandler Golec (132) and Nate Gray (195) finished fourth. The other three Claymont wrestlers were state alternates, including past state qualifier Matt Dennis (170). They are the most likely team to finish second to St. Paris Graham, though the term challenger would not be accurate.
Bowling Green DII district champions Toledo Central Catholic have the next most qualifiers with nine, which are led by four district champions: defending state champion Alex Mossing (152), Josh Mossing (138), Chris Norwood (220), and J'Quan Fisher (285). District runners-up included Josh Venia (106), 2012 state placer Nate Hagan (132) and Richard Jackson (145); while Rosendo Beltran (120) and Lucas Beauch (160) qualified from third and fourth place positions respectively.
The other two teams in the hunt for second and third place exited the Alliance district in first and second place. Champion Akron SVSM qualified seven, while second place Perry -- last year the Pirates were second at state -- advanced six to state.
The Irish are led by a pair of district champions in Drek' Brumley (220), who upset the projected state champion in the district final, and defending state champion Aaron Adkins (182). Finishing as runners-up were returning state placer Garrett Carter (132) and Ryan Skonieczny (138); Sal Ferrise (120) and Ben Knauss (152) finished third, while Walter Gibson (145) made it from a fourth place position.
The Pirates also are led by a pair of district champions in defending state champion Billy Miller (285) and two-time state placer Aaran Gessic (132). Returning state placers Collin Dees (120) and Alec Schenk (182) exited as runners-up, while Kyle Kremiller (195) and Brady Toth (106) were third and fourth respectively.
5. Looking for a team race, check out small-school Division III
Even though we discussed team title races with Division I and Division II, if you want a real team race, turn your attention to Division III. Even though Delta is going to overwhelm everyone on volume with 12 state qualifiers; the top-heavy power of Dayton Christian, which qualified eight to state, can give a significant push to the Panthers this weekend. Delta was champions of the Bowling Green DIII district, while the Warriors won the title at Troy.
Two-time state dual meet champion Delta was second in the individual state tournament last year, and is led by five district champions: freshmen Drew Mattin (106) and Jesse Beverly (152), defending state champion Jake Spiess (113), three-time state placer Tyler Fahrer (160), and Ryan Patchin (182). Four wrestlers finished as district runners-up: two-time state placer Kyle Keller (120), Noah Mattin (126), returning state placer Dustin Marteney (132), and Chance Vellor (285). The other three qualifiers -- Todd Miller (170), Mark Francis (195), and Devon Richards (220) -- each finished fourth at district.
Dayton Christian was runners-up at the state duals earlier this month and finished third at the individual tournament last year. They have five district champions as well, led by three-time state champion Jacob Danishek (152); past state placers in Hunter Bray (106), Christian Clary (113), and Michael May (120); as well as returning state qualifier Nate Jackson (285). Joining that quintet at state are state placer Alex Becker (138), a district runner-up; Florida state runner-up Nick Vestal (145), who placed third at district; and district fourth Josh Clary (126).
While Delta and Dayton Christian each had five district champions, no other team qualified more than five to the Division III tournament. Those teams with five include Garfield Hts. district champions Waynedale; Covington and Mechanicsburg, who finished second and third at Troy; as well as Norwalk St. Paul and Genoa, who finished second and third at Bowling Green DIII. Many teams qualified four to state, including Heath district champions Bishop Hartley.
6. Triple the pleasure
Rare is it to see multiple state champions come together in one weight class, even rarer to see three of them in one weight. That's the case this year in Division II at 126 pounds, with defending state champions Anthony Tutolo (Lake Catholic) and Eli Seipel (St. Paris Graham) joined by 2012 state champion Cameron Kelly (Bellbrook).
The last such occasion came in 2004, when in the Division II 119 pound weight class, Ricky Deubel of Kenston bookended his career with state titles, in a weight class that included sophomores Kevin Lipp of Beachwood and Pat McLemore of Padua. Lipp and McLemore had won state titles the year before, and on this occasion came in third and one match short of placing (back when only six placed at state).
In terms of this weight class, separation principles dictate that district champions who have finished top three at the state tournament will be in opposite half-brackets. Tutolo was champion of the Alliance district, while Kelly beat Seipel by 3-1 decision for the title at Wilmington. That district final outcome was a reversal of the district and state finals last year at 113 pounds, when Seipel beat Kelly on both occasions.
As a result, Tutolo and Kelly are in opposite halves the draw. Seipel is the district second in the opposite quarter of the half-bracket with Tutolo, which means they are most likely going to meet in the state semifinal round on Friday night. Tutolo will also have to face a state placer in the quarterfinal round, the winner of a first round match between Chandler Minnard of Bloom Carroll and Cole Tawney of Gallia Academy.
7. More madness in Division II
The 138 pound weight class in Division II is arguably the most stacked weight bracket of the 42 being contested in Columbus this weekend with six past state tournament placers lined up in pairs within three of the quarter brackets.
The first quarter of the draw features Alliance district champion Kyle Kaminski of Padua and three-time state placer Preston Bowshier, last year a state runner-up and this year runner-up at Wilmington. The most likely winner in terms of gambling may be one of those two, even though they might be the fourth and fifth rated wrestlers, just because of how barren the other quarter is in the top half. Josh Mossing of Toledo Central Catholic was champion at Bowling Green DII, and is the likely semifinalist.
In the third quarter of the draw, it is a pair of three-time state placers: Cody Burcher of Claymont, a runner-up in 2011 and 2012, and returning state runner-up Ryan Skonieczny of Akron SVSM; Burcher was champion at Claymont, while Skonieczny has lost to Kamsinki in both the sectional and district finals. Lastly, the fourth quarter of the draw features freshman Kyle Lawson of St. Paris Graham, a runner-up in Kentucky last year, and 2012 state placer Jake Zemaitis of Crestwood; Lawson has beaten Bowshier four times this year, including three of the last four weekends (league, sectional, district).
8. 120 pounds of pain
The 120 pound weight class in Division I features nine wrestlers who have either earned Fargo All-American honors in freestyle or placed at the state tournament already in their careers. The nine wrestlers in question have accrued eight state medals and seven Fargo AA honors between them. Going through the draw by quarter, it is the following.
Alex Mackall of Walsh Jesuit, seventh at state last year and a Cadet freestyle fifth place finisher last summer, was champion at the Mentor district. Runner-up at Top Gun, and a placer at Ironman and Powerade, he will likely face the winner of a first round bout between state placers Santino DiSabato of Westerville North (state 7th) and Josh Heil of Brunswick (state 3rd).
Freshman Corey Shie of LaSalle was seventh in Cadet freestyle last summer and champion of the Kettering Fairmont district. He finished runner-up to Assad at Brecksville, with a win over a Michigan state champion in the semis, and beat Mackall to win the title at Top Gun. He is looking at a quarterfinal date with Armando Torres of Elyria, a returning state runner-up and a two-time Fargo All-American (seventh in Junior freestyle last summer).
Jonathan Furnas was champion of the Hilliard Darby and placed seventh at state last year. This season, he split matches with Torres on the way to a third place finish at Brecksville (lost quarterfinal, won consolation final). Most likely he will be facing Conner Ziegler of Cincinnati Moeller, runner-up to Shie at Kettering Fairmont, who placed sixth at state last year.
Projected state champion Austin Assad of Brecksville finished as runner-up at state each of the last two years, and was a Cadet freestyle All-American in both 2011 and 2012. He placed third at both the Ironman and Beast of the East, beat Torres and Shie to win the title at Brecksville, and beat Heil to win the Bill Dies (along with wins by default in both the sectional and Cleveland State district finals). His likely quarterfinal is against Jake Newhouse of Massillon Perry, who placed eighth in Cadet freestyle last summer, and lost a one-point match to Mackall for the second time this year in the district final. Newhouse also beat Heil to win the title at Medina, and lost to Assad 3-1 in the state dual final.