The story at this year’s state wrestling tournament, to be held Thursday through Saturday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, will be as it always is: the Graham Falcons will dominate in Division II. The only uncertainty will be how many points the Falcons will win by and how many champions they will crown.
Jordan Crace (106 pounds), Jeffrey Thomas (113), Justin Stickley (120), Mitch Moore (126), Ryan Thomas (132), Brent Moore (138), Rocky Jordan (145), Joey Sanchez (152), Garrett Jordan (160), Alex Marinelli (170), Gage Braun (182), Kavan Sarver (195) and Johnny Shafer (220) will all represent Graham in Columbus.
That many wrestlers would virtually guarantee a championship for any team, but the Graham group is especially dangerous, as perhaps as many as half of the participants could wind up in the finals. Marinelli and the Moores are returning state champions, with Rocky Jordan a runner-up last season.
Also in Division II, Urbana’s Jack Harris will try to capture a title after finishing as the runner-up in his class the last couple of seasons.
“It’s Jack’s year,” UHS Coach Ryan Pine said. “He’s put in tons of hard work and has consistently won over top contenders.”
In Division III, Mechanicsburg will have a slew of boys in purple at the Schottenstein Center.
Tyler Wetzel (113), Alex Rhine (120), Nick Miller (132), Tanner Smith (138), Wade Smiddy (145), Corey Bogan (152), Kaleb Romero (160) and Dylan Hartley (220) will all be on the mats for the Indians.
“It definitely helps that we were able to qualify as many kids as we did,” MHS Coach Cameron Doggett said. “It reaffirms (our) family approach. I think they respond well to my style and my philosophy.”
The Indians are clicking on all cylinders and have continued to get better under Doggett.
“I don’t know that there’s any secret,” Doggett said. “I just tell the guys what I believe in – them. The kids keep buying in. I just keep trying to be positive with them. The kids know we believe in them, no matter what.”
That works to keep almost everyone involved and hungry, according to Doggett. It keeps them focused and driven – even a two-time state champion like Romero.
“We set different goals for each kid,” Doggett said. “That’s part of what keeps Kaleb hungry. If you watch him, his technique is better in each match he’s been in.”
Joining the Indians in Division III will be Triad’s Jacob Thompson (170), who also is getting stronger as he goes along with his undefeated season.
“Jake’s got high goals,” THS Coach Tyler Graff said. “It’s about breaking barriers. He’s constantly pushing the limits. He’s got great fundamentals. We’re very confident.”
Thompson is definitely pushing the limits in Triad’s history books. And he’s helped Graff make the transition in his first year at Triad.
“Jake’s a great leader. He’s very responsible and very dedicated. He makes my job easier,” Graff said.
With so much local talent at the tournament, it’s likely the podiums at the Schottenstein Center will have more than a few Champaign County grapplers atop them on Saturday.