Five Clay wrestlers were at Value City Arena in Columbus this past weekend seeking a Division I state championship.
Among them are junior Nick Garcia (42-9), a Mentor district runner-up at 103;
senior Richie Urias (45-5), fourth at district in 119; senior Kirk McLaughlin (46-3), fourth in district at 130; senior Justin Wharton (42-7), third in district at 160; and Mike Ackerman (30-10), third at district at 215. Dan Fisher is a sixth wrestler who will be in Columbus as an alternate, meaning if someone out of the Mentor district does not participate at state in the 140 pound weight class, Fisher moves into a fourth place seed.
Joining them at the Division I level is Waite 189 pound wrestler Tyler Benton (36-8), who was second at district.
The only local wrestler who participated in Division III was Cardinal Stritch junior Kyle Gladieux (36-2) after winning a 152 pound district championship.
In Division II, Oak Harbor had four wrestlers participating at state, Eastwood had one, and Central Catholic had one local resident.
For Central, East Toledo resident Jake Henderson (35-5) sought a title at 189 after winning a district championship, and in Henderson’s same weight class is Eastwood senior Ashton Brown (51-6)
Three Oak Harbor wrestlers won district titles at the Fostoria Division II District last weekend and one more took second as the team took fourth place overall in what ended up being a close team race.
As a result, the four Oak Harbor wrestlers are all headed to the state tournament this weekend at Value City Arena in Columbus.
Parma Padua Fransiscan won the district team race with 125½ points, followed by Lexington (124), Toledo Central Catholic (122½), and Oak Harbor (118).
“Oak Harbor knew it would be a tough district tournament but were well prepared after coming out of a tough sectional,” Rocket wrestling coaches say on their website. “Every one of the eight qualifiers won at least one match, but it was just not enough to take the team title.”
Rocket coaches believe Oak Harbor’s three titlists have set themselves up for this weekend’s state tournament with good draws, ensuing that they will not meet another district champ until the semifinals, if they take care of business in the preliminary rounds and quarterfinal rounds.
Junior Drew Stone (36-2) won his first district title at the 119 pound class in what became a carbon copy match from his sectional final. Stone was matched up against sectional runner-up John Worthington (34-5) from Shelby for the second week in a row, and once again, Stone had to come back from a 4-0 first period deficit. The Rocket grappler ended up conditioning his opponent by beating him 8-6 on a series of takedowns.
In the 135 class, sophomore Ian Miller (40-2) continued his quest for a state title by dismantling his opponent from Lima Bath 15-3. After starting out with a 4-1 first period lead, Miller “poured it one for the next two periods leaving no doubt he is focused and ready to make a run for that coveted state title,” coaches say.
Sophomore Konner Witt (37-7) showed what he was made of in the 140 weight class by defeating a fifth-ranked Jon McKee (31-8) from Medina Highland, 3-2. With very little time left, Witt clung to his defense in what could have been a match changing takedown. Coaches say Witt’s “edge of the seat antics” earned him Oak Harbor’s third individual district crown.
In other finals action, junior Mike Mallernee (34-8) was downed by second-ranked wrestler from Padua, Riley Kilroy (46-5), 9-2.
“Although close on several takedown attempts, Mallernee just could not finish and had to settle for second place,” Rocket coaches state.
Freshman Alex Bergman left the tournament with a fifth place finish after batting what Rocket coaches called “a close and controversial match.” He will be Oak Harbor’s lone state alternate, meaning if someone from his district does not make it to the state, he will fill in.
Stone, Witt, and Mallernee are all making their second trips to the state tournament. District opponents McKee, Kilroy, and Worthington will also all be in Columbus setting up potential re-matches.
Three other wrestlers ended their season wondering what if, coaches said, and will have to wait until next year to compete at state. Juniors Zach Bergman, Drew Bahnsen, and Zach Sandwisch each won matches, but not enough to make it out.
Coaches say the four qualifiers and alternate “will be working hard this week preparing for the state tournament,” which starts Thursday, Mar. 5 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.