The OHSAA Wrestling Championship will go on as scheduled.
But it’s going to feel a whole lot difference because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association, based on comments made by Ohio governor Mike DeWine, are limiting the number of people who are able to attend state tournament functions.
Per the OHSAA, state qualifying student-athletes will each be permitted to designate four family members who will be permitted to purchase all-session ticket books. State tournament coaches will each be permitted to designate two family members to purchase tickets. Tickets will only be sold as all-session ticket books.
“We are still excited to go wrestle at the state tournament,” Clinton-Massie coach Spencer Running said. “Our guys wrestle because they love the sport and we are glad they are allowed to wrestle.”
The tournament is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State University.
Division III preliminaries begin 3 p.m. Friday with Division II matches starting at 4:10 p.m. Friday. First round of consolation matches start 7:05 p.m. Friday. Wrestling continues 10 a.m. Saturday.
Here is a look at each of Clinton County’s five state qualifying wrestlers:
James Peters, BHS
Blanchester senior James Peters is a pretty smart kid. He learned from his experience last season at the state tournament and again from a loss earlier this season to Gary Powell of Western Brown.
He hopes to take those ideals, as well as a district championship defeat, in to the state tournament this week and finish on the podium (top eight).
“I remember the first thing my coach said to me last year before the tournament … ‘Whatever you do don’t look up’ and, of course, that was the first thing I did,” said Peters. “Now that I’ve seen what the state tournament has to offer, I feel better prepared.”
Peters has had a strong senior season, but lost to Powell in the 220-pound championship match in the SBAAC tournament.
“I knew that he was ranked pretty high but I felt like I could beat him,” said Peters, who was pinned in that title match. “I was very stunned.”
Admittedly taken aback with the loss, Peters regrouped and is now charging forward.
“I was very humbled,” he said. “It was a wake-up all. In a way, I was glad it happened. It motivated me to get revenge. Powell motivated me to pick the pace up.”
At the district last week, Peters lost a cliff-hanger, 5-3, to projected state champion Nolan Neves of Graham Local.
“I wanted to see how I would do against him,” said Peters. “We recorded the match and I’ve been watching it, evaluating his moves. Now, just like Powell, I’m motivated. I’m ready to see him again.”
That wouldn’t happen until the finals. Peters (43-3 on the year) opens with 42-7 senior Derek Witsberger of St. Clairsville (No. 7 ranked by Boro Fan Almanac). The winner of that match has a potential second round battle with 2019 220-pound state runnerup Max Fausnaugh of Bowling Green (No. 3 ranked by BFA).
Colton Doyle, CMHS
Most athletes, regardless of sport, would say reaching the state level one year is very helpful the next year.
Clinton-Massie junior Colton Doyle agrees.
But is then quick to point out, “Thoughout the season it didn’t help much. It may have made it harder just because I had a target on my back.”
Now that he’s headed back to Columbus, Doyle knows what to expect.
“I can’t let the moment be too big,” he said. “I just have to put all the extra stuff that goes along with qualifying behind me and focus on making a run at a podium spot.”
Last year, Doyle lost twice – first to Keith Bodnar of Steubenville then to Kenny Mara of Beloit West Branch. Both are back in the 195-pound class with Doyle. Bodnar is on Doyle’s side of the bracket while Mara is in the opposite bracket.
Also in the opposite bracket is BFA projected state champ and 30-0 Gabe Phillips of Norwalk.
Doyle has Cody Miles of Ontario in the opening match. Miles is 35-8 and projected No. 7 by BFA. Aurora sophomore and projected No. 4 Evan Anderson is a potential second round matchup.
After an escruciating 5-3 loss to Noah Harrison of Valley View in the semifinal round, Doyle dropped to the consolation bracket. He’d have to win three matches to reach state.
“I went home Friday night pretty down in the dumps about it,” he said. “But my family, teammates and coaches helped me get my head back. I came back Saturday determined and stress free and it worked out in the end.”
In his state go-to match against Sam Oaks of Monroe, Doyle registered a pin in 13 seconds.
“It was a great feeling,” Doyle admitted. “Just the feeling of knowing all the extra work I put in to make sure I made it back paid off.”
Jon Cline, ECHS
Jon Cline’s wrestling career has come full circle.
A member of East Clinton’s first wrestling team some 11 years ago when he was in first grade, Cline will cap his career in an Astros uniform on the sport’s biggest stage.
Cline will be the first Clinton County wrestler on the mat Friday when the state tournament begins at 3 p.m.
After missing out on the state the past three seasons, the most decorated wrestler in East Clinton history finally gets his chance.
“Not qualifying for state the past three years was something that stuck with me in my head and really pushed me throughout the season to achieve my goal to make it to state,” he said.
At last week’s district tournament in Troy, Cline finished runnerup to Steele Boysel of Ben Logan. However, all four of Cline’s matches were decisions over a full six minutes.
“I don’t think I have gone a tournament without a pin throughout high school but I went in to districts expecting to wrestle some of the toughest matches of the year and focus on getting to state no matter what,” Cline said.
The go-to match for Cline last week was against Chase Martin of Delphos St. John’s. Cline gutted out a 6-2 win.
“After the ref blew the whistle to end the match I was in shock,” said Cline. “After working so hard throughout my wrestling career to finally meet my goal was something that will stick with me the rest of my life.”
Cline, 36-6 on the year, will square off against senior Connor Hrubik of Garrettsville, Garfield (36-6) in the first round. Hrubik is projected No. 11 by BFA.
A possible second round match for the winner would be Conor Becker, a 30-0 senior from Galion Northmor who is the defending 170-pound state champion.
Robby Frederick, CMHS
Clinton-Massie senior Robby Frederick has been on a roll lately.
SBAAC champion at 152, Division II Sectional champion at 145 and Division II Southwest District runnerup.
After a long, rugged football season, it took Frederick a few weeks to get in to wrestling shape, he admits.
“Chad James and the Strength Lab were a huge help,” he said. “It takes a couple weeks because football shape and wrestling shape are way different things. You don’t get double black eyes in football.”
Once in wrestling shape, Frederick has been tough to beat.
After breezing through two matches last week at the Wilmington district, Frederick faced Nathan Bryan of Wyoming. In a back and forth match, Frederick took control in the second period.
“He was good on his feet,” Frederick said. “I knew that if I wanted to win I had to do it on the ground.”
At the 3:10 mark of the match, the referee blew the whistle and slammed his hand on the mat. Frederick won by pin.
“When the ref hit the mat, all I wanted to do was run up to the stands and hug my grandma and papa,” an elated Frederick said. “I wanted that match. I wanted to be in the finals with the state champ.”
Alek Martin of Graham Local was next for Frederick and though the Massie senior was defeated 21-7 he had earned his first trip to Columbus.
Frederick (42-7) opens state competition with junior Aaron Ferguson of Steubenville (40-8). Second round matchup for the winner could be 2019 132-pound third place finisher Elijah Hunter of Sandusky (32-4), projected No. 9 by BFA.
Kadin Berwanger, BHS
It was a mental rollercoaster for Blanchester senior Kadin Berwanger at last week’s district wrestling tournament at Wilmington.
Berwanger faced Jack Mefford of Graham Local in the second round.
“Didn’t believe I could win honestly; I was beat before I even got on the mat,” said Berwanger. Mefford won by pin late in the first period.
“After that match I got a talk from my coaches and parents and decided I was going to give it my all because I didn’t want to end my senior yeasr on that note.”
In the consolation bracket, Berwanger had a tough road to reach state. He won a 9-8 match, recording a five-point move in the first period and then holding on for the win.
Then it was Braxton Green of Clinton-Massie in a state go-to match.
“I had beat him three times this year but they were all close matches,” said Berwanger. “He was having a good tournament … so I knew he was confident and I had to be too.”
This was another close one with Berwanger coming out on top 5-3 in a nail-biter. When the buzzer sounded to end the match, Berwanger was elated.
“Best feeling in the world,” he said. “Never in my high school career did I think I would be going to state.”
As the state unfolds Thursday, Berwanger, 40-9 this season, begins with a bang, facing 182-pound defending state champion Anthony D’Alesio of Canfield, who also was third in 2018 at 170 and fourth in 2017 at 152.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports