COLUMBUS — Friday was a rough day for five of the area’s seven wrestlers still competing at the OHSAA State Wrestling Championships. Those five were eliminated from competition with losses. Two wrestlers — Johnstown’s Chris Block and Keith Tanner — celebrated wins and guaranteed themselves a spot on the Division III podium.
In Division I, Mount Vernon 119-pound senior Matt Belcher dropped his Championship Quarterfinal match against David Bolger of Strongsville. Despite a hard fight, Bolger pinned Belcher in 5:31, dropping Belcher into the Consolation rounds.
Belcher, who had won his first match on Thursday, faced Wadsworth’s Alex Gray in the Consolation Round 2. Gray and Belcher battled throughout the first two periods, with Belcher holding a 5-4 lead entering the third period. Gray swung the momentum in his favor in the period, however, and ended Belcher’s tournament run with a 9-6 loss.
“This is one of those things; we had the lead and felt real good about it,” said Mount Vernon coach John Brown. “I still felt good in the third period because Matt is really good on the bottom, but he just didn’t move well today on the bottom. It is one of those situations where, some times, you’ve got that lead and you want it so bad that you try so hard to hold onto it instead of continuing to wrestle through it. He really needed to explode and wrestle through it, and instead, he was playing it safe. That’s not how we train.
“When you get a match that close, you are looking for some things to go your way; Down here, that makes a big difference,” added Brown. “We definitely didn’t get those breaks this weekend. It just wasn’t our weekend.”
On a side note, Watkins Memorial’s Jay Kunzi lost in the Consolation Round 2 to Massillon Perry’s Nick Hannan, 9-3. Kunzi is formerly from Mount Vernon.
Utica’s Dylan Wheeler, who went 1-1 on the first day in Division II, was hoping for more success on Day 2. Facing Kenston’s Jake Kazimir in the 125-pound Consolation Round 2, Wheeler was called for a slam during the second period of their scoreless match. When Kazimir, who was visibly in pain on the mat, couldn’t continue after several minutes, Wheeler was disqualified for the previous move.
“(Dylan) was in good position, and was wrestling a good match,” said Utica coach Mike Garven. “I don’t believe it was a slam; even the referee didn’t believe it was a slam. He stayed there and when the kid quit moving, then he called it. (Dylan) didn’t hit him that hard. It was a freak accident. ... The way he was wrestling, I think he would have won the match.”
That disqualification ended Wheeler’s season on a sour note. Kazimir’s tournament was also over after he was unable to wrestle in the Consolation Quarterfinals.
“It was definitely unintentional,” said Garven. “It is disappointing to have it end like this.”
Block and Tanner had the strongest days out of the area’s five Division III competitors. Block and Tanner each won a consolation match to guarantee themselves a spot on the podium.
Block started the day in the Championship Quarterfinals, facing Cuyahoga Heights’ Zach Noernberg in a 140-pound match. Despite wrestling well, Block suffered a 3-2 defeat, which dropped him into the Consolation rounds. It was Block’s first loss of the season. He rebounded with a 1-0 victory over Lucas Freeman of Bluffton in the Consolation Round 2 to advance to the Consolation Quarterfinals. Block then finished the day with a tech fall over Woodridge’s Donny Montoney, 19-4.
“Chris lost a tough match,” said Johnstown coach Brad Todd. “He didn’t wrestle like he did all year. It was a different Chris. He wrestled tight, like he had a lot of pressure on himself. He was thinking too much. Unfortunately it happened in the quarterfinals at state, and it cost him. But, her came back and had the toughest match he has ever had. To dig out a 1-0 win was a big one. ... He found a way to get out and get that point. Then, he was able to hold on.”
Tanner, who went 1-1 on Day 1, came out strong on Day 2. He beat Jordan Thome of Troy Christian, 7-4, in the 135-pound Consolation Round 2. Tanner then followed that performance up with a 2-1 setback to David Malkus of Berkshire in the Consolation Quarterfinals.
“(Tanner’s first match today) was huge,” said Todd. “He was coming in to the match he needed to place, and had to beat the returning state runner-up. We knew the odds were going to be tough. We just told him to stay mentally strong, and keep it close. That’s what he did. ... He dug down deep because he knew he had to.”
Block will be wrestling for either third or fifth place and Tanner for seventh when wrestling resumes this morning.
“These guys have been working hard for four years, and they finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Todd said. “The confidence they’ve gained and the hard work they’ve put in this year is paying off. They are not satisfied with losing.”
Two 125-pound competitors found the state tournament shortened on Friday. Highland’s Mike Shepard, who won his first-round match, suffered a 3-0 defeat by Patrick Henry’s Alex Lopez in the Championship Quarterfinals to start the day. He then dropped his consolation match to Johnny Matacic of Jackson-Milton, 5-0.
Fredericktown’s Rodil Rodriguez, who went 1-1 on the first day, also saw his tournament run come to an end in the Consolation Round 2. Rodriguez, facing Edison’s Kyle Burns, dropped his match, 7-4.
Loudonville’s Scott Spreng (112 pounds) wasn’t able to duplicate the success he found at the state tournament in 2008. Spreng, who lost on Day 1, dropped his only match on Day 2. Taking on Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s Seth Powers, Spreng was defeated, 5-2, to end his tournament run.