COLUMBUS – It’s that time of year again – the OHSAA state wrestling tournament, which begins here on Thursday.
Graham will be going for its 19th consecutive Division II championship, but the first under head coach Travis McIntosh.
“The biggest thing, all I can really ask for, is for my guys to compete at their highest level. It’s a little late now, but I need to make sure they’re in a position to be fully focused mentally,” McIntosh said. “As a coach, we go out there and tell them, ‘Well, I think you need to do this in this position.’ And that’s all we can do. I wish I could go out and wrestle for them, but unfortunately, I can’t.”
Graham won the Division II title by 154 points last season, but returns no state champions from last March.
“It’s interesting. It’s definitely going to be more interesting this year. I have some guys that are maybe projected to win a state title, but as far as guys that have done it, I don’t have anybody like that on my team,” McIntosh said. “There’s going to be a lot of firsts this week.”
Alek Martin is projected to be the state champion at 138 pounds, with Nick Moore projected to finish as runner-up for the second consecutive year at 132.
Moore and Martin look like squad favorites to have their hands lifted Saturday in Columbus, but Nolan Gessler (106), Jeffrey Thomas (152) and Isaiah Stickley (160) also won district titles last week in Wilmington.
District runner-ups who could make some noise are Trace Braun (113), Dawson Show (120), Chris Kelly (126), D’artagnan Spitler (145) and Nolan Neves (182). The Falcons also have Johnny Shafer, who finished third at 220 last season, at 285.
Urbana freshman Trevor Stewart finished third at the district competition at 170 pounds and will be seeking the podium in his first attempt.
In Division III, Mechanicsburg has fewer athletes in the field than in previous years, but still features Jaron Patterson at 170 pounds and freshman Jake Hurst at 132.
Miami East students/St. Paris residents Max Shore (113) and Olivia Shore (106) will wrestle in the D-III state competition for the first time.
Max, a freshman, won the district tournament at Troy last week. Olivia, a sophomore, was fourth. She is only the second female ever to qualify for the state championships.
The Shores’ older brother, Graham, won the 120-pound title last season as a senior.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.