COLUMBUS – The first day of the state wrestling tournament was a resounding success for Champaign County wrestlers.
Graham – well on its way to yet another state title – finished the day in first place in Division II with 40 points.
Mechanicsburg was in the hunt in Division III with 20 points, good enough for a second-place tie. Delta was first with 27 points.
The Indians took care of business in the Division III championship bracket, with seven of eight wrestlers advancing to Friday’s contests.
Tyler Wetzel (113 pounds) won a major decision, Alex Rhine (120) won a major decision, Nick Miller (132) won a close 8-7 match, Tanner Smith (138) won via technical fall, Wade Smiddy (145) had a win by major decision, Corey Bogan (152) took an 8-3 decision and Kaleb Romero (160) earned a technical fall.
“The biggest thing is just to take it one match at a time,” MHS Coach Cameron Doggett said. “We wrestled pretty solid this first round. Some of the guys need to pick it up a little bit, but the first round is always nerve-wracking. Tonight we’ll just relax and eat a little bit and get ready for tomorrow.”
Dylan Hartley (220) got pinned in his opening match, then was pinned again later in the evening’s consolation bracket and was eliminated.
Also in Division III, Triad’s Jacob Thompson won his opening match by pinning his opponent in just 40 seconds.
“I’ve been working day in and day out. Coach always tells me, I’m not here to just win. I’m here to dominate,” Thompson said. “Everyone down here is a great wrestler. I’m going to have to push for everything.”
Thompson, done for the day so quickly, was pumped up and ready for more after the match.
“I think it’s sweet. I love it. It’s a rush coming out here to wrestle in front of all these people,” Thompson said. “I had some nerves going on. Coming out of that real dark tunnel to this bright room with all these seats … it’s a shock. But at the same time, it gets your adrenaline pumping and gets you ready to go.”
The next round of matches belonged to the Falcons, as Graham picked apart opponent after opponent.
Jordan Crace (106) won by major decision, Jeffrey Thomas (113) earned a pin, Justin Stickley (120) earned a technical fall, Mitch Moore (126) pinned his man, Ryan Thomas (132) earned a major decision, Brent Moore (138) won via pin, Rocky Jordan (145) picked up a technical fall victory, Joey Sanchez (152) won a 5-2 decision, Garrett Jordan (160) won by major decision, Alex Marinelli (170) pinned his man, Gage Braun (182) won a 6-4 decision, Kavan Sarver (195) took a 3-2 decision and Johnny Shafer (220) earned a 6-2 win.
“I’m really happy. We had a couple tight ones there,” GHS Coach Jeff Jordan said. “We’ve got to fight again tomorrow. We had a good run. We’ve just got to keep it going tomorrow and keep the guys focused.”
Also in Division II, Urbana’s Jack Harris (195) pinned Thornville Sheridan’s Owen Loughman to win his first match.
Harris has finished as state runner-up the past two seasons and has taken those losses harder than perhaps anybody. This year, it’s different.
“The first day is probably the most stressful, trying to get the nerves out,” Harris said. “I’ve just taken things too seriously. Frankly, I don’t want to sound bad, but I don’t care if I lose. I wrestle loose, I wrestle fast, I’m wrestling to wrestle. I’m not wrestling to win, not wrestling to lose, not wrestling to place. I’m wrestling because I enjoy it.”