HILLIARD — Saturday’s Division I District Wrestling Tournament at Hilliard Darby High School could have gone a little better for the Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets. The Jackets, which started six wrestlers competing, are sending two wrestlers — seniors Matt Belcher (119) and Brent Kramp (135) — to the state tournament this week, and three others are alternates in their respective weight classes.
“Districts are such peaks and valleys,” said Mount Vernon coach John Brown. “You are excited for this kid and you’re disappointed for that one. It keeps going in a cycle like that. We lost two really close matches on referees’ decisions. ... The one thing we talked about was not leaving it up to the referees, and I thought we did that a little bit. ... They came out, they focused and they wrestled hard. Right now, with three alternates and two state qualifiers, we should be happy, but we always want more.”
Belcher and Kramp reserved their spots by competing in the third-place finals on Saturday. Belcher won his first two matches before losing to eventual champion Sean Jordan of Teays Valley, 5-3. Belcher then won his consolation semifinal to reach the third-place match against Jeremy Jones of Beavercreek. Belcher scored a takedown in the third period to defeat Jones, 6-4.
“This went pretty good; I was hoping to get to state and that happened,” said Belcher. “I am pretty pleased with my performance this weekend. ... After I got those two wins, my confidence grew. I felt better about my chances of getting to the state tournament.
“(Jordan) was a tough kid and it was a tough match. I got a little sloppy at the end and got taken down.”
Kramp didn’t fair as well at the start, and had to fight his way through the consolation bracket. He won his first match on Friday, 10-1, and then fell 10-0. From there, Kramp posted wins of 10-4 and 7-4 (in overtime), and then pinned Westerville North’s Brandon Burkett in the consolation semifinal in just 24 seconds. That set him up for the third-place final, where he was defeated by Gavin Moore of Beavercreek, 10-1.
“I’m not surprised; I expected this,” said Kramp. “This feels great because this has been a goal for me the last four years. To finally achieve that goal feels pretty good. ... I knew the kid (I lost to on Friday) was pretty tough. I also knew that if I stepped it up today, I could make it out.
“I wanted to win (the third-place match) for seeding and placement at the state meet, but I was pretty pumped up just knowing I qualified. Maybe I lost a little bit of focus.”
Belcher’s third-place finish and Kramp’s fourth-place finish guaranteed them spots at The Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center. The other four Jacket contenders were not quite as lucky. Two — seniors Mason Smith (125) and Charlie Hill (130) — were upset in the consolation semifinals.
“Matt Belcher had a great tournament,” Brown said. “He lost to the champion in a real close match, and Brent came out today and wrestled real well. The one thing we talked about was beating your opponent to the punch, taking the first shot.
“For Hill and Smith, it was a surprise because I expected both of those two to go. If I had my picks of who had a shot early on, those two guys were my top two.”
Smith won his first match, 7-0, but then fell, 6-2. From there, he posted a win of 11-1, and the pinned Grove City’s Collin Whitt in 2:16 to reach the consolation semifinal. Hilliard Davidson’s Tyler Rich knocked Smith out of a guaranteed spot at the state tournament with a 9-1 decision. Smith, wrestling for fifth place, came back to defeat Justin Branham of Teays Valley, 11-4, to claim the alternate spot.
Hill also won his first match on Friday, pinning Beavercreek’s Zach Schaeffer in 1:42. He fell in the second round, however, losing 5-2. Hill regrouped to win his next match by pin, and then won his third consolation match, 12-10. That setup a consolation semifinal with Springboro’s Tyler Riegle. Riegle scored a late takedown to edge Hill, 2-0, and end Hill’s state tournament hopes. Hill rebounded to win the fifth-place match over Westland’s Sean Clutter. He scored twice in the third period to win, 4-0.
“I was real impressed with both (Charlie and Mason),” said Brown. “To come off of a loss and put all of the pieces back together like they did is tough. I’m real proud of both of them. Now, we just have to wait and see what happens. You hate to wish anything on anybody, but we would love to get these guys to state because they deserve to be there.”
Junior Dane Cullen also finished as a state alternate in the 215-pound weight class. Cullen pinned his first district opponent in 1:27 before losing his quarterfinal match, 12-4. He then posted a 5-3 win, and pinned his next opponent — Olentangy Liberty’s Matt Casey — in just 21 seconds. That set up a consolation semifinal against Cody Smith of Wayne. Cullen looked to have a takedown that wasn’t scored, and was defeated, 6-5. He won his fifth-place match by pinning Fairborn’s Lee Skinner in 2:36.
“Dane lost to a kid that was a state placer last year,” Brown said. “He wrestled a good, solid match. I wish a couple of breaks would have gone our way, but they didn’t and we have to live with that. Hopefully he will learn from it.”
The season also ended for Mount Vernon senior heavyweight Ian Mizer. Mizer got off to a rough start, falling 4-2, but rebounded by winning his first consolation match, 14-6. Mizer was stopped in the next round by Alex Karageorge, who pinned Mizer in 1:31 and put an end to his strong season.
“Ian is probably the biggest turnaround on our team this season,” Brown said. “He had 14 wins last year. Then he turned around and went 45-8 this year. That turnaround is an indication of how hard he has worked, learning how to wrestle at heavyweight. I’m real proud of him. He has done a tremendous job this year.”
Though the district tournament may not have gone at the Jackets had hoped, the two state qualifiers they do have will work to make Mount Vernon proud.
“As a team, we did OK, but we have more guys that should be going to state,” said Belcher. “Hopefully, they can get in as an alternate.”
“I don’t really know what to expect,” said Kramp. “I’m just going to wrestle my best and see what happens.”
Brown expects nothing but their best effort from his two qualifiers.
“Both of them, style-wise, can upset people,” said Brown. “If Brent shoots, he can beat anybody. When he is shooting and is finishing, he can compete. Sometimes he will catch guys looking ahead, cutting too much weight or whatever, they can upset people. The same thing goes for Matt.”
The state tournament begins on Thursday at 5:45 p.m.