COLUMBUS – Mechanicsburg and Graham each won a state title at the 80th annual OHSAA wrestling championships on Saturday.
In Division II, Graham finished with 232.5 points, well ahead of second place Canfield’s 87.
In Division III, Mechanicsburg finished with a 118.5-95 edge over Genoa Area.
It was the 17th straight state title for Graham – a record across all sports.
It was a record for M’burg, too – its first-ever state title.
“I’m still on cloud nine. I’m still trying to process it. It hasn’t really completely sunk in,” Mechanicsburg Coach Cameron Doggett said. “It’s a great group of kids and they’re going to be missed.”
Doggett himself is a former Graham wrestler, literally learning the sport from GHS Coach Jeff Jordan and his championship formula.
“Coach Jordan taught me wrestling. Anybody can win a state title, you just have to put the work in,” Doggett said. “Coach Jordan taught me that. All the techniques that I do. I’m just trying to pass that down to every kid I come into contact with.”
The Indians had four finalists, with Alex Rhine (132 pounds), Tanner Smith (145) and Kaleb Romero (170) taking individual championships. Rhine won in sudden victory, 8-6. He celebrated with a backflip.
Smith took a 5-1 decision.
“Last year I was top three and I got hurt, and it was the biggest disappointment of my life,” Rhine said. “Last year, I got home and ripped out my bracket and it’s been duct-taped on the back of my wall ever since, so every time I see that I know what I’m working for.”
Romero captured his fourth title and became the 29th Ohioan to complete the task. He finishes his high school career with a 202-3 record.
“My competitiveness has stayed the same. I just continued to work as hard as possible and be the best I can be at everything I do,” Romero said. “The drive I have – whatever I do, I want to be the best at. I can’t stand losing.”
Colt Yinger made the finals at 152 pounds, but dropped a 6-3 decision.
For Graham, it was just business as usual. The Falcons had seven finalists, with six claiming individual titles. Jordan Crace (120), J.D. Stickley (138), Ryan Thomas (160) and Kavan Sarver (195) won their first titles. Gage Braun (182) finished second with a 2-1 defeat.
Mitch Moore (132) and Rocky Jordan (152) repeated as champions. It was Moore’s third victory in as many tries, while Jordan was able to claim his family’s 24th championship.
“It wasn’t easy. I broke my thumb,” Moore said. “The only thing that really changed was my shape. I was a little out of shape when I came back for state duals.”
It was a hair-raising night for Graham, despite the high success rate. Crace won his match on a last-second score while down 1-0, turning that into a 2-1 victory. Thomas won on a throw in sudden victory overtime, 6-4. And Sarver, who trailed in the season series against Valley View’s Stone Day, got the last laugh with a 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker victory over his season rival.
“You can never stop wrestling. One mistake in a match like that can make you lose. He’s wrestled me so tough and he’s such a great opponent,” Sarver said. “I was tired, but mentally, I knew I had to do it. That’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”
It was the perfect ending to another championship season in a storied program’s history – its senior captain standing up for a long-awaited victory.
“There were just some guys that just needed to win tonight,” Coach Jordan said. “I just can’t be any happier with the team than what happened this year.”
In the placement matches earlier in the day, Graham had Tanner Jordan (106) and Jeffrey Thomas (126) finish third. Joey Sanchez (145) was fourth and Johnny Shafer (220) was seventh. Mechanicsburg’s Tyler Wetzel (126) was third.
So what is Graham’s secret? How do they do it?
A younger team member explained.
“Coach Jordan demands hard work. That helps a lot. We want it more when we step out on the mat,” Stickley said after his championship.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as that.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.