Norwalk sophomore Ethan Hernandez was one of them, and the only participant in Division II to pull off a third-place finish after losing his opening match. And best of all, he got to get some revenge in the process.
Coming up on the losing end of an 11-3 major decision against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s David Johnson in Thursday’s prelims, Hernandez got a takedown in the final 20 seconds of the pair’s overtime match Saturday, earning a 5-3 victory in the 160-pound consolation finals.
Hernandez’s win wrapped up a year that saw the Sandusky Bay Conference champion win 44 straight matches prior to dropping a 4-1 decision to Wauseon’s Xavier Torres in the district final.
“It feels great to be able to wrestle all the way back like that, and then in consolation semifinals to wrestle a kid (Carrollton’s Brandon Daniels) that dropped down from the championship semifinals and beat him too, that’s a great accomplishment for myself,” said Hernandez, whose season ends at 49-2. “That’s a kid that had wrestled all the way to within a match of the championship, and had I been there, I probably could’ve gotten to the same place or even better. But he gave me a tough first match today.
“Then that finals match was a rush,” he added. “I was real nervous in that first match Thursday, even more so than I was in my first match last year. But I remembered what (Johnson) did, and this match I shot from space and just worked a little more cautious than I normally do. There’s so much energy and so much adrenaline still.”
Johnson got an escape on Hernandez to take a 3-2 lead in the overtime before Hernandez was able to shoot and get a takedown as the match wound down.
“Us wrestlers kind of talk telepathically and when there’s a few seconds left, we usually just stop,” Hernandez said. “But at that moment, I felt (Johnson) stop and let go, and I knew there was still seconds on the clock and I was able to turn the corner quick and get that last-second two pointer.”
Against Daniels in the consolation semifinals, the pair were deadlocked in a 0-0 stalemate for the longest time until Hernandez was able to finally get an escape and hold him off.
“I just couldn’t give up after that loss Thursday, I got a lot of goals and dreams ahead of me that I really want to accomplish. I’m getting there. I didn’t expect to be third in the state right now,” Hernandez said. “Truth be told, I thought I was going to get fifth or sixth. My goal coming in was top four, so this far exceeds that. I couldn’t have done it without my coaches and drilling partners.”
One of those partners, sophomore Gabe Phillips, took sixth at 182, dropping two matches a day after nearly pulling what could’ve been the upset of the tournament Friday night in a 12-9 loss to Canfield’s David Crawford — a defending state champion. Phillips fell victim to a 16-1 tech fall against Upper Sandusky’s Noah Clary in the consolation semifinals prior to losing the fifth-place match, 9-5, to Keystone’s David McCullough. He finished his season at 38-9.
Norwalk’s third state-qualifying sophomore, Alec Maloney, went 1-2 at state at 195 to wrap up a 43-7 campaign.
“Gabe went into that semifinals match last night thinking he was going to lose and by the end of the third period, he looked at the scoreboard and thought, ‘Wow, I can beat this kid,’” Hernandez said. “In the car ride back to the hotel, he was talking about how much he regretted not wrestling that first period. Had he done that, he could’ve been wrestling tonight and I’d of been beyond proud of what I am already of him, and a little jealous, too.
“But the three of us are just sophomores, this is just learning experience right now,” he added. “Alec didn’t do what he wanted down here, but he’s a big boy. Sometimes his best opponent is his own head, which he tends to get into sometimes. If he can get over that, he’ll be unstoppable in the two years to come.”
One of Hernandez’s biggest rivals, Bellevue’s Justin Mayes, wrapped up his first state appearance with a win in the 1t60-pound seventh-place match. The freshman topped McConnelsville Morgan’s Wesley Pauley by a 4-3 decision to finish his rookie year at 47-8.
In the match prior to Mayes’ bout, Redmen senior Nick Smythe also earned a seventh-place medal at 152, topping Mentor Lake Catholic’s Luke McKeon in a 7-5 match. Smythe, who will wrestle at Tiffin University, finishes his final year at 46-10.
Edison’s Adams takes fourth, Keegan sixth
Edison junior Ray Adams survived a highly-contested bout with Newcomerstown’s Gavin Weaver in Saturday’s Div. III 113-pound consolation semifinals, but wasn’t quite as fortunate in his finals match.
Adams pinned Weaver in overtime, getting the call at 5:55. However, he dropped another overtime decision to Rootstown’s Caleb Edwards, who got an escape point in the extra session en route to a 3-2 victory.
“Stuff happened and I lost my focus. I didn’t guard my legs as much as I should’ve and I got taken down, which is what put it into overtime,” said Adams, who finished the year at 52-10. “This gives me stuff to focus on for next year. Obviously, I wanted to place higher, but everyone does.
“For next year though, I got to work on the bottom,” he added. “I’m alright on the bottom, but I got to work on it more … getting up quicker. I got to work a lot more on my feet.”
The Chargers’ other wrestler in the consolation semifinals was junior transfer Jordan Keegan. At 138, Keegan (33-6), who lives in Vermilion and wrestled previously for Elyria, dropped a 10-1 major decision to Genoa’s Dustin Morgillo in the semifinals, then fell victim of an 18-1 tech fall by Troy Christian’s Jared Ford.
“I’m disappointed I couldn’t finish higher, but honestly, I’m proud of my performance down here,” Keegan said. “It’s hard to get to this point. I just have to keep working.
“I don’t think it’s too soon to start thinking of the positives from my first time at state.”