The Press Newspaper
Oak Harbor came T-H-I-S close to crowning three individual champions at last week's Division II state wrestling tournament in Columbus.
Junior Ian Miller won the 145-pound title with an impressive display in the finals, while teammates Drew Stone (125) and Konner Witt (152) also reached the championship match in their weight class.
The Rockets crowned three state champions in 2008, when Kirk Tank (152), Keith Witt (171) and Cody Magrum (189) all won titles.
Oak Harbor qualified seven wrestlers to this year's tournament, including junior Jake Cramer, who placed fifth at 140. The other qualifiers were senior Mike Mallernee, who went 1-2 at 171, senior Zach Sandwisch (285) and junior Tyler Hackworth (119).
Coach George Bergman's squad capped an impressive season by taking second place in the team standings to the nation's top-ranked team, St. Paris Graham. The Falcons, who earned their 10th straight state title, had six champions and 223 points, while Oak Harbor finished second with 78.5.
The Rockets also took second in the state in 2008 and 1981, and placed third in
"That's our state championship," Bergman said of his team's runner-up finish. "St. Paris Graham is the No. 1 team in the country. You don't want to say you can't beat them, but you can't beat them. For us to finish second, that's our state championship. That's what everyone in Division II is going for when they go down there.
"We went 17-1 in dual meets this year and the only loss we had was to Graham. Our kids performed well all year. This team just performed at a very high level all year."
The Rockets won their fourth straight Sandusky Bay Conference title this season, then added sectional and district titles heading into the state tournament.
In Columbus, Miller won the 145-pound title with a 19-4 technical fall over Dylan Ice of Lisbon Beaver Local.
At 125, Stone reached the finals in a rematch of last year's 119-pound state championship match, against Johnni DiJulius of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit. DiJulius (51-1) beat Stone 1-0 a year ago, and took control early last weekend against Stone en route to a 5-1 decision.
Stone finished the season with a 39-4 record.
"DiJulius is obviously an outstanding wrestler," Bergman said. "Drew got caught in a barrell roll. Johnni doesn't make mistakes, and it was tough for Drew to come back. He took (the loss) pretty well. He had a tough match in the semis and won 12-10, and he was losing in that match.
"That win was good for our team. We went 4-for-4 on Friday night, and for all intents and purposes that helped us clinch second place. That was huge."
Konner Witt suffered a 5-2 loss in the 152-pound finals to Harrison Hightower, a three-time state champion from Hunting Valley University School. Witt finished 48-4.
"Konner wrestled great," Bergman said. "His first match he was a little bit nervous. He got the win, but he wasn't particularly sharp. The second match was a pretty big match and Konner was real sharp. He had a kid from Ravenna and wrestled lights-out - probably his best match of the tournament.
"In the finals, being on the big stage, Konner seemed really nervous. He didn't get going until the last period, but by then the match was all but over. The experience will help him for next year. His goal is to win it next year."
Cramer moved from 145 pounds to 140 when Miller decided to wrestle at 145.
"It was a good move for Jake and the team," Bergman said. "He only ended up with three losses at 140. His goal was to place at state. His first match, he had a defending state champ and was tech-falled. He had another match on Thursday and won by one point, and that was big. The next day he came back and won by a point to place and then got a pin.
"Jake had four wins to help our team. He had gone to state as a freshman, but last year he couldn't crack our starting lineup. I think this will help him for next year. It gave him a lot of confidence."