Since 2007, the Oak Harbor wrestling team has established itself as a program perpetually in the hunt for Sandusky Bay Conference titles, individual state championships, and top 10 team team finishes at the state meet.
If their performance last week in the Oak Harbor Invitational is any indication, this year could be another in the long line of the Rockets’ success.
Four Oak Harbor wrestlers finished with perfect 5-0 records as the Rockets finished second out of 12 teams.
T.J. Lawrence, a state placer last season, won all five of his matches at 285 pounds to lead the way, followed by Rhett Petersen (132), Dylan Mansor (120) and Bruce Hrynciw (106), all of whom finished 5-0 and finished first in their respective weight classes. Devon Riley (113), who wrestled in two matches, went undefeated, too.
Seven other wrestlers, Jacob Huston (126), Mike Osbourne (138), Jeremy Balboa (145), Ben Petersen (152), Kian Thompson (160), Brody Hennig (170) and Ben Bergman (182) finished in second place with 4-1 marks.
As a team, the Rockets finished second behind perennial power Lakewood St. Edward, which has won three straight Division I state titles. Fremont Ross was third, followed by Alliance, New Lexington and Genoa.
“I was very happy (with our finish),” 22nd-year coach George Bergman said. “We lost to St. Edward, which had their ‘B’ team, but they had six of their No. 1 wrestlers. Our wrestlers did really well — they competed hard, went after it and had a nice first match.”
Bergman credits his club with their work during the offseason, most notably their second place finish at the AAU Scholastic Dual Meet National Championships, a.k.a., the Disney Duals, over the summer.
During his tenure at Oak Harbor, Coach Bergman has built up one of the state's best wrestling programs, and last season was another banner year for the school as the Rockets finished seventh in Division II behind a state championship at 170 pounds from Luke Cramer and a fifth place finish at 152 from Jared Chambers.
Unfortunately, Cramer and Chambers, along with three other key seniors, have graduated, leaving a void that must be filled if the Rockets intend to compete at the level they did last season. Cramer and Chambers are currently wrestling at the collegiate level at Ashland and Tiffin universities, respectively.)
Those other three seniors, Alec Bowlick, Josh Chambers and Hunter Gresh, were instrumental in leading Oak Harbor in 2013 — Bowlick was one win away from placing at state, Chambers was a district qualifier and many believe Gresh had a good shot at qualifying for state before suffering an injury late in the year. For the Rockets to have any shot at duplicating last season’s success, they’ll need contributions from a number of wrestlers who were previously under the radar.
“We’re young,” Bergman said. “We have no seniors. We had the highest finish at the Disney Duals and we’ll try not to have any holes this year. Luckily, we have some depth. You have to have depth, especially if you get injured.”
How the Rockets perform in December will go a long way in determining the direction of the season. In addition to the Bellevue Invite, Oak Harbor will face Perkins and Clay, both of which have state recognized programs, and compete in the Medina Invitational.
Bergman sees Perkins, Clyde and Edison competing with the Rockets for the top spots in the conference. He views the Pirates, who edged the Fliers for the league title last year, as the favorites.
“Perkins had seven kids that were in the match to go to state last year,” Bergman said. “They have a very nice junior and senior class.”