HEATH — Utica 125-pound wrestler Dylan Wheeler, scoring a pin and two technical falls on Saturday, is headed to the state tournament.
Wheeler, who placed fourth at the OHSAA Division II Districts competition, will be joined by teammate Kenny Poland, who made it to state as an alternate.
Wheeler pinned Braden Hale of Big Walnut at 2:43 of their second-round consolation match. He followed up with a technical fall in the third consolation round against Ethan Bennington of John Glenn High School, whom he downed 19-4.
Another technical fall, this time against Jesse Cohen of Granville, 23-7, in the consolation semifinals catapulted Wheeler to a berth in the state tournament.
“Dylan wrestled really well,” said Utica wrestling coach Mike Garven. “[Cohen] beat him in the sectional finals last week.”
“After the semifinal [against Cohen] I was living on cloud nine,” said Wheeler.
The only thing left was to figure out if he would go to the big dance as a third- or fourth-place finisher at the districts. Martin Overholt of West Holmes defeated Wheeler with a slim decision, 8-6, to win the third-place final.
“I was hoping to go into that last match, win it and get a better draw,” said Wheeler. “I had a hard day wrestling, so I was a little whooped. I couldn’t pull off that last one.”
“I told him, ‘No pressure, just have fun,’” said Garven. “He was winning and [Overholt] came back.”
Poland downed Steve Davis of John Glenn in a 9-4 decision in the second consolation round and got to the consolation semis with the help of a disqualification. He lost the semifinal match to Canal Winchester’s Conrad Rosch, 6-3.
Poland won the fifth place final, and a spot as state alternate, when Cody Garbrandt of Claymont forfeited the match.
“Kenny wrestled really well all day to come back all the way [to place],” said Garven. “He lost a close match to a kid [Rosch] who beat him really badly before.”
Utica’s 215-pound B.J. Douglas lost his fifth-place final to John Korth of New Albany, 10-4, just missing a state berth. Not bad for a senior who never wrestled before this season.
“He did a fantastic job,” said Garven.
As for Wheeler, Garven just wants to keep him healthy this week.
“I’m just working on neutral,” said Wheeler. “I’m not changing up the game plan. I’m staying on my feet. It seemed to work. I’m just getting better at it as the year goes on.”
“We’ll work on conditioning and drilling,” said Garven. “With this being a short week, you just want to stay healthy. His teammates said that they would come in to help him practice this week.”
Teammates Seth Ware and Pete Hughes will go with Wheeler to the state competition to give him team support — support that has been there all year.
“I also got my coaches,” said Wheeler. “My coaches are fun and I get along with them real well, so it shouldn’t be too lonely.”