One point. That was the difference between Northwood junior Devon Dunbar qualifying for the Division III state wrestling tournament last winter.
Dunbar, competing at 106 pounds, fell in heartbreaking fashion, 1-0, to Woodmore’s Evan Ulinski, in the consolation semifinals, the match that would determine who would advance to the state tournament. Oddly enough, Ulinski finished second at state, an indication of just how close Dunbar might have been to making noise had he gotten down to Columbus.
This season, that loss has been the primary motivation for Dunbar in his quest to get to Columbus. But Dunbar doesn’t just want to get to Columbus, he wants to place, and should he get out of his district, one that includes Ulinski, he’ll have a good shot at doing so.
“It comes back to my mind every day,” Dunbar said of last year’s loss to Ulinski. “I’m always thinking about it.”
Dunbar, who’s been wrestling since he was in fifth grade, is 29-8 while winning his weight class at three separate invitationals and being named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the last two.
Dunbar, who’s been wrestling primarily at 120 this year, competed in a number of other weight classes, including 126 at the Ohio Wrestling League meet and the Rossford Invite, for both of which he earned MOW honors. He also finished first at the Woodmore Classic in early January and defeated some of the area’s best wrestlers at both the Perrysburg and Clay Invites.
“I was up at 132 for about a month and was at 138 once,” said Dunbar, who also plays wide receiver and cornerback on the Rangers’ football team. “I don’t find it difficult switching weight classes, but you can tell the difference when you move up. The only real difference is the muscle.”
Had he not been consistently wrestling against heavier wrestlers, Dunbar likely would have an even better record.
As for his accomplishments, Dunbar doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself.
“I don’t want any of these MVPs to get to me because I know that if I get too big of a head, it will get worse,” he said. “I start anew each week. I try to keep everything the same and I practice the same way each week.”
“With the way he’s been wrestling and training, I think we’ll do great, said Cannon. “He’s trying to peak at the right moment. He’s aggressive and he’s beating kids that he’s not supposed to beat. It’s been a rough road getting here.
“But I’m worried about districts. The district at 120 is loaded. I think we can get out of districts at 126 with no problem but I don’t think we’d get on the podium in Columbus. If we make it out in 120, then we can get on the podium. Devon’s not afraid to wrestle anybody, even if it means missing out on state for a year.”
Dunbar is hopeful that his late-season push will be enough to help him perform well in the tournament.
“I think that (being) undefeated two weeks in a row and winning MVP going into sectionals will help me a lot,” he said. “It’s a big momentum swing.”
Cannon, now in his third year at the helm, is trying to build a strong program at Northwood, something that he says can be very challenging at a small school. Thus far, however, he appears to be on his way.
The Rangers finished fourth at the OWL meet on Feb. 1 with Dunbar and Trevor Mack (138) finishing first and Brad Meeks (113) placing high. It was the second consecutive year in which Northwood had the MOW. Brandon Kretz won the award in 2013.
Cannon feels that if he had his full team at this year’s meet, they would’ve come close to challenging Gibsonburg for second place.
“We’re small but mighty,” said Cannon, who is confident that Mack and Meeks can advance to districts. “We had four guys on the team last year and we have six this year. I do feel (like we’re making progress). I have a few kids coming out of junior high next year. My goal is to get a wrestler to place at the state tournament.”