COLUMBUS – Graham won its seventh straight team duals championship Sunday night at St. John Arena. The Falcons have won a championship in each of the event’s seven years of existence, having moved up to Division I last season and winning that title to go along with six Division II trophies.
Graham defeated Aurora, 38-24, in the final on Sunday night to clinch the D-II championship.
Graham had what looked to be an insurmountable lead before Aurora rattled off five wins in a row from 160 pounds to 220.
The Greenmen technically weren’t mathematically eliminated until Trey Pence lost his 220-pound match for Graham in the ultimate tiebreaker – a loss that didn’t surrender bonus points. A match earlier, William Mannier suffered a shoulder injury early in his 195-pound bout, but gutted it out for a 6-3 loss, keeping Aurora at bay.
In the evening’s final match, Johnny Shafer (285) put the exclamation point on the Graham victory with a pin of Aurora’s Marcus Barroun. The bonus points snapped a five-bout losing streak for the Falcons.
“I have my assistant coaches looking at points and we think ‘this could happen and this could happen.’ But I’ve got to give it to my guys. My guys know how to wrestle,” Graham Coach Travis McIntosh said. “They’re very competitive. We don’t give up a lot of bonus points, and that was the key factor of the dual. We score a lot of bonus and we don’t give up very much bonus. I’m very proud of them.”
Nick Moore (132) added six points to the Falcons’ total with a forfeit victory and Jack Mefford (145) added his own six points with a pin when he looked dead in the water. Losing 5-1, Mefford looked like he may take a fall of his own before he turned things around and pinned Kyle Peterson, stunning the Aurora faithful and igniting the Graham bench.
Nolan Gessler (106), Dawson Show (120), Chris Kelly (126) and Alek Martin (138) also added bonus points.
It was the first state championship for McIntosh as a head coach in his first season taking over for the uber-successful Jeff Jordan.
“It’s exciting. It might not have been the expectation from everybody that Graham was still going to be the team to beat. We still have to keep competing, but winning the team state title is awesome,” McIntosh said. “Everybody is involved – the jayvee guys, my assistant coaches. To come out here and beat the rest of the teams in Division II head-to-head, it gives our guys something to train for. And confidence is deadly.”
In the afternoon semifinals, Graham rolled over Perkins, 58-13.
Trace Braun (113), Chris Kelly (126), Nick Moore (132), Alek Martin (138), Jeffrey Thomas (152), Isaiah Stickley (160) and William Mannier (195) each earned six points for the Falcons via pin. Johnny Shafer (285) got a forfeit.
Nolan Gessler (106) earned a major decision and Dawson Show (120) and Jack Mefford (145) earned decisions.
In the morning’s quarterfinals, Graham defeated London, 62-8.
Graham lost just two matches, with Antwaun Burns taking down Jack Mefford for a technical fall at 145 pounds and Darian Huff earning a decision over Eric Thomas at 170.
Every other class belonged to Graham, with Trace Braun (113), Dawson Show (120), Nick Moore (132), Alek Martin (138), Isaiah Stickley (160) and Johnny Shafer (285) earning bonus points with pins.
Nolan Gessler (106), Jeffrey Thomas (152) and Nolan Neves (182) each earned tech falls, with Chris Kelly (126) and William Mannier (195) getting major decisions.
Tigers at Thomas Invite
PLAIN CITY – The West Liberty-Salem Tigers wrestled at the Ron Thomas Invitational at Jonathan Alder High School on Saturday.
Major Stratton placed second in the 195-pound class. Stratton was 4-1 with 4 pins.
Hayden Phillips (126), Shawn Casto (220) and Kyle Wolfe (285) also added pins for the Tigers.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.