March 1, 2010
Anticipation is always high for the Ohio
High School State Wrestling Championships, but this year there is
even more excitement than usual. Much of that is the result of four
factors that promise to make the 73rd edition of this tournament one
that will long be remembered.
First, there are an unprecedented number
of returning wrestlers who have already won more than one state
championship, led by the phenomenal Logan Stieber (Monroeville), who
will seek to become Ohio’s 19th four-time state champion. Second,
there is a strong likelihood of a sensational team competition in
Division I, where Wadsworth seeks to unseat Lakewood St. Edward in a
battle that may not be resolved until the very last bout Saturday
night. Third, the tenacious Paige Nemec (Mantua Crestwood) qualified
at the difficult 103 weight class at the Firestone District, thus
becoming the first female wrestler to reach the state tournament.
And fourth, there are more than the normal number of weight classes
that feature compelling match-ups and widespread parity.
The individual highlight of the
tournament will be Logan Stieber’s quest for a fourth state title.
He currently owns a lifetime record of 170-1, with his only loss
occurring during the first week of his freshman year to another
four-time champion, David Taylor. Since then he has reeled off 167
consecutive victories, setting a new state record in that category.
None of his 12 state victories to this point have gone the full six
minutes and he can become the first four-time champion to win every
state bout by fall or technical fall. Already one of the greatest
high school wrestlers in Ohio history, he is an overwhelming
favorite to win this, his last high school competition.
Substantial interest has been generated
in the Division I team competition by the emergence of Wadsworth as
a co-favorite this weekend. Lakewood St. Edward has won the last 13
state titles and established a new all-sports record last year
breaking a tie with the St. Xavier boys swimming team of 1970-1981.
However, Wadsworth, state dual meet champions the past two years,
has mounted a major threat to that dominance. They qualified 12
wrestlers out of the tough Ashland District, including six
champions, and are led by three powerful upper weight
wrestlers—Caleb Busson, Nick Tavanello, and Ben Buzzelli—and the
Squire brothers. Should they triumph, it would be their first team
title since 1942.
However Lakewood St. Edward will not go
easily. They qualified 11 wrestlers out of that same Ashland
District with six champions and outscored Wadsworth to win the
district title. They, too, have five potential finalists in Dean
Heil, Gus Sako, Jamie Clark, Anthony Salupo, and Nick Sulzer. By
exiting the same district, many key match-ups may have to wait until
Saturday in what could be the closest Division I race in 33 years.
Other strong teams include perennial powerhouse Massillon Perry, who
won the always difficult Mentor District and qualified nine
wrestlers, Marysville and Cincinnati Elder with eight qualifiers,
and Springboro with seven.
It seems altogether appropriate that
this year as we honor the 48 three-time state champions in Ohio
wrestling history, that we have a tournament record six wrestlers
seeking a third state title. In Division I, the brilliant Jamie
Clark (Lakewood St. Edward) will compete for a state title at 130
pounds after winning championships at 119 and 112 the last two
years. Clark has been hobbled by injuries and illness virtually the
entire season, but still has posted a 124-8 record over the course
of his outstanding career. His overtime loss in the state finals of
his freshman year is all that prevented him from looking for a
fourth state title. Bound for the University of Illinois, he would
become the 10th wrestler representing Lakewood St. Edward to win
three or more state titles.
There are eight other returning state
champions in Division I, all of whom are seniors. Scattered
throughout the 14 weight classes many will likely face familiar foes
as they try to double up. Perhaps, the most crowded weight class is
at 125, where former state champion Gus Sako (Lakewood St. Edward)
must fend off the challenges of three wrestlers—Jake McCombs
(Marysville), Jake Corrill Cincinnati Moeller) and John Dillon
(Youngstown Boardman)—all of whom placed third last year. With each
of the four exiting a different district it could make for a
sensational semi-final round. Also expected at this weight class was
two-time state runner-up Nick Lawrence (Westlake), who recently
broke his foot and was, sadly, unable to compete.
At 152 pounds, two three-time state
place-winners will likely battle one last time. State champion David
Habat (Cleveland St. Ignatius) and Pierce Harger (Cincinnati
Moeller) have combined for 295 high school wins and their possible
Saturday evening match-up should be a classic. In a potentially
critical bout in the team competition, former state champion Brad
Squire (Wadsworth) and two-time state placer Anthony Salupo
(Lakewood St. Edward) will compete at 145 pounds for a third time.
The winner of this meeting would not only take home an individual
state title, but also provide points in the team race. Squire’s
brother Kagan allowed only two points in five state bouts last year
while finishing third and has a possible date with defending state
champion Jerome Robinson (Cleveland St. Ignatius) in another bout
with possible team implications. It would be a classic confrontation
of defensive wizardry and unstoppable offense.
One possible state final rematch could
occur at 135 pounds where defending state champion Shawn Fayette
(Miamisburg) could once again square off with state runner-up Ty
Davis (West Chester Lakota West), but this time their battle would
be a semi-final classic. Other returning champions are the powerful
Robert Shepherd (Mason), the charismatic Korey Mines (Maple Hts.)
and the athletic Josh Demas (Westerville North).
While there is anticipation of close
team races in Division I, no such expectation exists in Division II.
Mighty St. Paris Graham, ranked as the nation’s best team by most
experts, features four returning state champions and five other
state placers. Last year they obliterated a number of team records,
scoring 282 points (breaking the old record by an unheard of 53
points) and crowning seven individual state champions, eclipsing a
record that had stood for 58 years. Their overall 50 individual
state titles vaulted them past Maple Heights and put them second on
the all-time list behind only Lakewood St. Edward. This year they
are again likely to dominate as they seek their 10th consecutive
team title and their 12th overall. That would give Coach Jeff Jordan
his ninth state title and move him into fourth place overall behind
only Greg Urbas, Howard Ferguson and Mike Milkovich.
The team battle will be for the
runner-up trophy and there will be plenty of contenders. With St.
Paris Graham earning so many points, there is more fragmentation in
Division II, giving squads with three or four outstanding wrestlers
a solid opportunity for a high placement. Top on the list is Oak
Harbor, which qualified seven out of the Marion Harding District,
including top contenders Drew Stone, Ian Miller and Konner Witt.
Other top teams include Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, Lewis Center
Olentangy, Lexington and Toledo Central Catholic.
There are some exceptional match-up
opportunities in Division II. The most anticipated might be two-time
state champion and three-time placer Ty Mitch (Aurora), perhaps the
best wrestler in Aurora history, facing off with state champion Nick
Brascetta (St. Paris Graham). Mitch defeated Brascetta the first two
times they met, including a victory early in the year that snapped
his 49-bout winning streak, but Brascetta has twice turned the
tables since then evening their series at two apiece. Just to make
the final, Brascetta will have to get past state runner-up Brandon
Gambucci (Lexington) in what will be a highlighted semi-final
contest. We may see a rematch at 125 pounds, where defending state
champion Johnni DiJulius (Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit) could well
meet his finals opponent from last year, Drew Stone. That ended with
a one-point DiJulius victory and this year’s final could be just as
There is a lot of history at 140 pounds,
where state champion Felipe Martinez (St. Paris Graham) and former
teammate Tucker Armstrong (Kenton Ridge) could do battle for the
sixth time this year. Both boys are state champions, with Martinez
winning last year after beating out defending state champion
Armstrong for a varsity spot at 130 pounds. Now back at Kenton
Ridge, Armstrong has given Martinez a series of rousing battles, but
has lost all five of their previous bouts. Three-time state placer
and former state finalist Brad Wukie has one last opportunity to win
a coveted state title at 160. A tough battler, he could well face
defending state champion Kyle Ryan (St. Paris Graham) in what would
be a compelling struggle.
Joining Mitch as a potential three-time
champion in Division II is the outstanding Hunting Valley University
School middleweight, Harrison Hightower. Often overlooked, Hightower
is a strong pinner who has won 126 bouts the last three seasons and
been a dominating winner at major Ohio tournaments. The other
returning champion in this classification is another wrestler who
may not have received his full due from the media, but Max
Thomusseit (St. Paris Graham) is almost certain to win his second
state title and place for the fourth consecutive year. He has lost
only once to an Ohio wrestler the past two seasons and is probably
the strongest favorite in Division II.
Over the years, Ohio has produced some
fine female wrestlers, but none that were able to compete at the
state meet. However, this year the very talented Paige Nemec
qualified in fourth place at a difficult district that featured at
least six state-caliber wrestlers. Nemec, who began wrestling at age
five, is a strong four-year performer at Mantua Crestwood and has
earned well over 100 varsity wins. This year alone she took first in
five important tournaments this year while amassing 33 victories.
Her first round opponent, returning state placer Trevor Fiorucci
(Lewis Center Olentangy) will be a tough opening match-up, but Nemec
has proven to be a solid competitor over her varsity career.
As has recently been the case, much of
the interest in Division III revolves around the sensational quartet
of wrestlers representing Monroeville. While Logan Stieber closes in
on his fourth state title his three teammates, Hunter Stieber, Cam
Tessari, and Chris Phillips will be heavy favorites to capture their
third. The four of them have combined for a 174-1 record this year.
About the only goal they have so far failed to achieve is a team
title, but they head into this meet as the favorites.
There are three other returning state
champions in Division III and all of them face stern opposition this
year. Nick Goebel (Bloomdale Elmwood), whose 60 bout winning streak
was snapped earlier this year, will likely match-up at 112 pounds
with the powerful Alex Dronzek (Beachwood) for the second
consecutive year, but this time as a semi-final struggle. This has
all the makings of an epic battle with Goebel at 99-1 the past two
years, while Dronzek is 82-4. Last year Goebel prevailed by a single
point and that could again be the margin this year. Waiting in the
wings for the winner could well be William Spangler (LaGrange
Jake Howe (Blanchester), already a
three-time place-winner, strolled to the 152 pound title last year,
outscoring his four opponents by a combined 41-14 margin. He has 177
career wins, but could face a tough battle with powerful junior Cody
Walters (Bedford St. Peter Chanel), already a two-time place winner,
who was third last year. A state quarterfinal overtime loss cost
Walters an opportunity to compete with Howe last year. Corby Running
(Clarksville Clinton Massie) was his school’s second individual
state champion last year at 189 pounds, and returns to defend that
title at one of the most competitive weight classes in Division III.
For example, the Maple Heights District qualified state runner-up
Jonathon Beam (Waynedale), state third-place finisher Kurtis
Schaefer (West Salem Northwestern) and state fifth-place medallist
Royal Brettrager (Kirtland) in what shapes up as an exciting battle
from the very first round.
The team competition could be a real
classic. It will likely pit the individual brilliance of Monroeville
against the superior numbers of Bedford St. Peter Chanel in a battle
where team depth will be tested. Monroeville, with its outstanding
quartet of wrestlers, may have the inside track to the school’s
first ever state team title, but they will need to perform at peak
efficiency. Last year they fell one point short, losing to Troy
Christian in an exciting contest. That gave Troy Christian its
third-consecutive team title, becoming only the second Division III
team to accomplish that milestone. This year Monroeville has
qualified two additional wrestlers, including junior Cal Clark who
has placement potential. Bedford St. Peter Chanel with a tournament
leading 10 qualifiers will likely be the major obstacle for
Monroeville. A young, beautifully balanced team with only two senior
starters they should score heavily in many weight classes after
emerging from the brutal Maple Heights District. They feature two
potential finalists in senior, Mike Kovach, and junior, Cody
Walters. Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (CVCA) had a hard-luck
district, but still qualified five wrestlers in that same demanding
district. Four of those wrestlers have finalist possibilities—Alex
Utley, Nathan Tomasello, Zak Vargo, and Brandon Sommers—which could
put them near the top of the leader board. Three-time team champ
Troy Christian also qualified five wrestlers, all of whom have
placed in prior years, while West Jefferson put seven wrestlers into
the state tournament, a number exceeded only by Bedford St. Peter