A trio of Clinton County wrestlers will be competing in the 82nd annual OHSAA State Wrestling Championships beginning Thursday at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
Blanchester senior Clayton Schirmer, Blanchester junior James Peters and Clinton-Massie sophomore Colton Doyle will represent Clinton County in Columbus with an eye on a state title.
Schirmer and Peters will compete in the Division III tournament while Doyle is in the Division II championship. Schirmer wrestles at 152 pounds, Peters at 220 and Doyle at 195.
The Division III tournament begins 3 p.m. Thursday while Division II is set for a 4:10 p.m. Thursday start.
While the wrestling mat is the same as the ones they’ve been on throughout their careers, the venue is certainly not. That can be intimidating to some wrestlers who simply can’t get over competing in the cavernous Schottenstein Center with thousands of people in the stands.
“We’ll report around 10 o’clock,” said BHS coach Scott Nicely, who” take his kids through much the same routine as other coaches to get them acclimated to their surroundings. “We’ll take a walk, step out (through the tunnel) and it’s probably like the (movie) stars being on the red carpet. We’ll make that walk. In the staging area they have all the two-time champions, three-time champions, four-time champions. We’ll do a dry run and tell ‘em ‘It’s going to be like this … but with a bunch of people in the seats. Just stay focused.’”
A returning state qualifier, Schirmer is the veteran of this group.
“It’s not going to be as big of a shock when I walk out there for the first time and I look up and go ‘Holy … ‘” said Schirmer.
He looked up despite the suggestions of those who’d gone before him.
“Everyone told me when I was going last year getting ready for my first match ‘Don’t look up,’” he said. “It’s such a big arena. I took a few glances and went ‘Oh … ‘
“This year, I’m going to feel more comfortable and hopefully more willing to open up and show my stuff instead of being more conservative when I wrestle.”
However, Schirmer was a 6-3 winner in his opening match last season against Carlton Roberts of Rossford, so the surroundings weren’t overwhelming.
Ironically, Schirmer and Roberts will meet again in a first-round match Thursday afternoon.
“Crazy coincidence,” said Schirmer. “For me, I think (the rematch) would be a good thing. I’ve wrestled him before. He’s a familiar opponent. Don’t have to do any digging on him because I did all that last year.”
Schirmer, who has 50 wins this season, lost his second match at state in 2018 to Gavin Stika of Creston Norwayne, then was knocked out of the tournament by Bethel-Tate’s Matt Hall.
Schirmer said a top five finish is his goal this weekend.
After a loss last week in the second round to Dylan Schenk of Milton-Union, Schirmer dropped to the consolation bracket and dispatched his next four opponents all by pin, two in the first period.
“It took me five, ten minutes (to get over it),” he said. “I’ve been in that situation before where I lost a match I thought I should have won but it’s over and there’s nothing you can do to change it.”
For Blanchester’s James Peters, last weekend’s Division III Southwest District tournament at Troy’s Hobart Arena was typical of the “on any given day” cliche.
In the second round, Peters lost to Clayton Finney of Tri-County North 4-2. Peters had beaten Finney earlier in the season at the Thunderbird Invitational by a 5-3 score.
In his state go-to match last week, Peters held off Brenden Dalton of Miami East 3-2. Dalton defeated Peters earlier in the year at that same Thunderbird Invitational 3-2 in an ultimate tiebreaker match.
Now the self-proclaimed “overthinker” has gone where neither Finney nor Dalton will be this week.
“I’m not really concerned with podium spots,” said Peters. “I just want to … there are opponents there that I’ve been keeping my eye on throughout the season. I want to wrestle them. Test my mettle. See where I am.”
Peters wasn’t certain he’d be in this situation after losing to Peters last week in his last match of the day on Friday.
“Right after that match was over, I went through a big emotional dip,” he said. “I was debating whether I’d make it (to state). I had to regather myself.”
Said BHS coach Scott Nicely, “He’d been fighting the flu; missed two days of practice last week.”
Thankfully, Peters had a night in a hotel room to ponder his immediate future. The next day, a revived Wildcats stormed through the consolation bracket to finished third and earn a state berth.
“In consos, you win a couple of matches and get that momentum going, you have stuff on your side,” Nicely said.
In the end, the overnight stay may have been the difference between bouncing back successfully and seeing his season end prematurely.
“When I went back to the hotel, everyone kinda fell asleep before I did,” he said. “I had a lot of things on my mind. Was I going to make it? My season would be over after (another loss) and I didn’t want that. The time I spent in the hotel room kind of to myself was good for me. ‘Yea, I lost. Big deal. We gotta go. Gotta work harder.’”
Only a sophomore, Colton Doyle has been wrestling “the year before kindergarten” and is making his first appearance in Columbus for the state’s ultimate prep wrestling event.
“I want to try to get on the podium,” Doyle said of a top eight finish as a goal this weekend.
More importantly, getting to the state as a sophomore gives a wrestler a year to be in awe of the surroundings before pinpointing a true goal.
“Live the experience,” he said. “So coming back next year it’s nothing new to me.”
Doyle is 29-8 this season. He finished third at 220 in last weekend’s Division II Southwest District tournament. His “go-to” match at Wilmington was a 4-3 nail-biter over Garrett Gross of Bellefontaine.
“I was just trying to stay focused on the match,” Doyle said. “Going in, though, I was a little nervous but trying to keep my head.”
Big picture aside, Doyle reaching the pinnacle this early is a good topic of conversation at family gatherings. His uncle is former Clinton-Massie standout and 2004 graduate Jacob Bryant.
“When my uncle wrestled in high school he made it to state as a sophomore so I kind of wanted to match him,” said Doyle.
Bryant went 1-2 at state in Division II as sophomore then finished fifth as a junior at Division III 145 pounds. He did not place as a senior.
“He’s always, ever since I started wrestling, he’s always helped me, mentored me,” Doyle said. “(Monday) he came in and practiced with me.”
Bryant gave his nephew a few pointers, though, going through the state tournament in person is truly an awe-inspiring feeling.
“Soak in the moment, appreciate what you’ve done but when it comes down to it, don’t let the moment get too big for you,” Doyle said Bryant’s words of wisdom were in preparation of Thursday’s first match. “Just focus on going out there and getting the job done.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email email@example.com or on Twitter @wnjsports