Over the next six weeks, area wrestlers will be competing for team, league and state individual championships, starting with the OHSAA team dual regionals on Saturday. Across the state’s three divisions, a total of 26 regions will be competing for a spot in the state quarterfinals set for Feb. 10 at St. John Arena in Columbus.
In Division II, two longtime area foes will be among the 15-team field at the Region 9 site in Lexington. The action will begin at 9 a.m.
Norwalk is the No. 2 seed behind No. 1 West Holmes, and opens with a matchup against No. 15-seeded Galion, with the winner facing either No. 7 Ontario or No. 10 Mansfield Senior.
No. 6 Medina Buckeye vs. No. 11 Lodi Cloverleaf and No. 3 Caledonia River Valley and No. 14 Delaware Olentangy Berlin are the other teams in the Norwalk side of the bracket.
“We were pretty fortunate getting the two seed, but I think our three big horses and heavyweight helped out a ton based on our bios,” Norwalk coach Frank Staley said. “To be honest, it was probably the best possible scenario to get shipped south and be in bottom half of the bracket.”
Up top with West Holmes includes No. 4-seeded Bellevue, which faces No. 13 Clear Fork in the first round. The winner of No. 5 Columbian vs. No. 12 Lexington awaits the Redmen should they advance. No. 8 Marengo Highland takes on No. 9 Warsaw River View, with the winner facing West Holmes, which received a first-round bye.
“I think we could get to the finals, but obviously everyone has to wrestle up to potential, and we can’t get pinned in our losses,” Staley said. “We are in pretty good shape right now, though we may have a possible skin problem, but we’ll see. Our lineup is about as good as it will be. I think we’re poised to make a run.”
In the past, the regional portion of the duals was wrestled on consecutive Wednesdays during the week, as opposed to Saturday’s single-day event. While Staley said he doesn’t mind the new format, he said it could hurt those who lose right away.
“That’s a long drive for some schools just to lose one match and have to go home,” he said. “I wish there was something like alternate matches, so a team that gets bumped right away can get at least a second match — almost so it’s like a tri-meet. But I know they are on a time crunch and I get that.
“I don’t mind it so much, but it’s a tricky thing with the weather and teams that are sitting on extra points,” Staley added. “It would be a good weekend to potentially get matches back lost to the weather at a tournament.”
In Div. III, Edison is again expected to be a contender to reach the eight-team championship field. State champions in Div. III two years ago, the Chargers have won a school-record 30 dual matches this winter, blowing past each of their previous two high marks in the process. Not even the 2016-17 team claimed more than 25 wins. The mark surpassed that of the 2014-15 squad that won 26.
“Surprisingly, this year is going very well,” Edison coach Dave Hermes said. “I knew coming into the season that we had a pretty good team but if you told me we’d be 30-2, I’d say there’s no way. We’re young. We’re starting seven freshmen, and six of those are 145 and higher, which is unheard of. Those are usually junior- and senior-filled weights.
“We’ve been banged up with kids in and out of the lineup. Hopefully this Saturday will be the first time that we have everybody back healthy.
The Chargers went 9-1 over the two-day D3 Duals held at St. Mary Central Catholic this past Saturday, finishing second overall to No. 1-ranked Genoa, which topped Edison 38-28 in the finals.
“We make it out of the regional, we’ll probably be re-seeded second at state and could easily see Genoa again in the state finals,” Hermes said. “We’ve had some great matches with those guys the last few years.”
Casey Barnett, the defending Div. III champion at 106 pounds, got a state finals rematch with Coschocton’s Lucian Brink this past Friday, falling 4-3 for his first loss of the season. This time that met at 113 and it was an exact reversal of the score from this past March when Barnett reversed Brink in the final three seconds to win state as a freshman.
“Casey was disappointed, but like I told him, I think it’s good he got a match like that,” said Hermes of the Barnett losing his state finals rematch. “Our schedule is setup for kids to lose in December and January. I don’t think anyone needs to be undefeated. I think it just adds unnecessary pressure. Plus, Lucian exposed a couple things that we’ve known that Casey has to get better at.”
Barnett isn’t alone with a single loss. Jacob Brewer, who was out the first part of the year, sits at 25-1 for the Chargers at 195.
Edison’s only other team loss came in a 44-30 loss to Div. I powerhouse Oregon Clay in the finals of Fricker’s Dauls in Defiance back in mid December. The Chargers are the top seed in Region 10, which will take place at Elmwood Saturday. They’ll face 16th-seeded North Baltimore in the opener with possible matchups with host Elmwood in the semifinals and traditional Div. III power Delta — the No. 2 seed — in the finals. The Panthers, who won the first four Div. III team dual championships after the event started back in 2013, is a team Edison hasn’t wrestled in a dual since the 2013 state semifinals.
“It should be a fun event, I think the state did a good job of putting all the regionals into one day instead of having them on two Wednesdays,” Hermes said. “The goal with having it on a Saturday was to split up some of the best teams in the state, which I think they did a better job of that.
“We’ll probably have the winner of Elmwood and Liberty Center in the semifinals, and we’ve seen both of those teams. Then if we make it to the finals, you got to think that Delta is going to be the team we see. Delta is a lot like us, too. They strategize for duals, their kids are going to try and stay off their backs, and they got two Mattin kids [Zack at 106 and Cole at 132] there yet.”
Also in Div. III, St. Paul is the No. 11 seed out of 15 teams at the Genoa site. The Flyers open with a matchup against No. 6 Gibsonburg, with the winner advancing to face either No. 3 Eastwood or No. 14 Margaretta.
Meanwhile, Plymouth makes the one-hour trip to Centerburg where it is seeded sixth among 15 teams. The Big Red open with No. 11 Newcomerstown, and that winner moves on to face either No. 3 Ashland Crestview or No.14 Lucas. A third Firelands Conference school, Mapleton, is the No. 8 seed at the site that is led by top-seeded Coshocton.
Register sports writer Kevin Shields contributed to this story.