Sanction Ohio and the Race for Four

(L to R: Hayley Snyder [Jay Bennett/The Marietta Times]; Josie Davis [Josh Brown/AIM Media Midwest]; Alaina Jackson [John Hulkenberg])

The last time we tapped into the #SanctionOH movement, back in mid-December, Kimberly Root was beating the "Sanction!" drum from way out in California. A month later, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) made waves in the wrestling community when they became the 33rd state in the Union to sanction girls wrestling at the high school level, approving a girls, stand-alone state tournament for the 2022-2023 season. The decision to sanction girls wrestling in the great wrestling state of Ohio only adds to the national chorus calling for the advancement and promotion of girls and women's wrestling from the youth through the NCAA Division 1 level.

The decision by the OHSAA also adds a dramatic layer to the coming season for a few particular competitors. While bureaucrats debated, high school girls in Ohio have been competing for their individual state titles - "unofficial" or otherwise - since 2020, under the authority of the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association (OHSWCA). With official, OHSAA-sanctioned state titles on the line in 2023, three girls will have the opportunity to secure for themselves an unprecedented fourth Ohio state title. And just as previous states experienced as they mulled over the decision to adopt girls wrestling, the competition in Ohio has only grown fiercer in the lead up to achieving official sanctioning.

Hayley Snyder (Warren High School), Josie Davis (Sidney High School), and Alaina Jackson (Minerva High School) have each won three consecutive OHSWCA state titles - with a year remaining in their high school careers. A mix of achievement and serendipity has placed them each in a position to make history in the very first year of the OHSAA state tournament era. And if history is any indicator, all three have a very strong chance of becoming the first "four-timer" in the Ohio girls high school wrestling record books.

Hayley Snyder of Warren has dominated the lightweight class, winning the 2020 and 2021 state titles at 101lbs, before winning the 110lbs OHSWCA state title this year. She has enjoyed consistent success at the state tournament, recording seven falls in eleven total matches between 2020 and 2022. Snyder's closest match was in the 2021 state final, a 3-0 shutout. A potential threat to Snyder's bid for a fourth state title is Chloe Dearwester of Harrison High School. Dearwester, a two-time OHSWCA state champion in her own right (106lbs in 2021; 105lbs in 2022), enters the 2022-2023 season as a junior and is on track to be a four-timer herself. It would not be the first time a state champion moved weight classes in an attempt to "block" another champion from earning four. Snyder will need to be prepared to defeat an opponent of her own caliber, or at least the caliber of Dearwester (whichever is higher), when she takes the mat at the OHSAA state tournament if she intends to be the first four-timer.

Another hammer chasing history is Josie Davis of Sidney High. Davis has won state titles at 126lbs, 121lbs, and 125lbs - in that order - in the past three years, and has little intention of stopping. Davis has pinned all of her opponents at the state tournament so far, earning ten falls in eleven matches. Her only non-fall victory came in the 2021 finals, a 9-2 decision over Rachel Nusky of Badin High for Davis's second title. Davis separated that result this year, pinning Nusky in 56 seconds for her third title. Nusky, the Badin senior-to-be and twice a state runner-up, will need to make a big jump to threaten Davis's aim of a fourth state title.

To say Minerva heavyweight Alaina Jackson has "dominated" the field would be almost disingenuous. Jackson has pinned every opponent at the state tournament en route to three state championships at 235lbs, and it doesn't look like there will be much in her way of a fourth. Jackson defeated Karlie Harlow of Greeneview High in the state finals the past two seasons, earning first and second period falls, respectively. Harlow, a three-time Ohio state placer, returns as a senior next season and will aim to close the gap against Jackson. Another potential threat to Jackson's pursuit of a fourth state title is Savannah Isaac of Whitmer High, a two-time state champion that has locked down the 189lbs/190lbs division the last two years. Entering 2022-2023 as a junior, Isaac may be in the middle of her competitive upswing, which could put her on a collision course with Alaina Jackson for the inaugural OHSAA heavyweight title.

As of USAWrestling's February 11th national rankings, Snyder is ranked No. 24 at 112lbs; Davis, No. 14 at 127lbs; and Jackson, No. 10 at 225lbs. Keep an eye on these Ohioans, on the mat and in the national rankings, as they chase a membership into the exclusive "four-timers'' state champions club over the next year. With the official stamp of the OHSAA on the medals, a fourth state title may taste that much sweeter when the final whistle blows.


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