2023 Boys Wrestling State Tournament Preview
By Josh Lowe
There are 14 individual weight classes contested in each division of the state tournament, and that has been the case since 1995. Before then there were 13 weight classes, an era that started in 1971, which was the first year of the boys’ state wrestling tournament having multiple divisions (Class AAA and Class A-AA).
In that 1995 season, Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit became the first team to crack the 200-point barrier, as the Warriors had 203 points on the strength of five state champions. Since then, the mark has been exceeded 13 times, four by Lakewood St. Edward (2005-2007, 2012) and nine by St. Paris Graham Local (2007-2011, 2015-2018). It should be noted the first 50 editions of the state tournament never saw a team even exceed 100 points, as Akron Coventry was the first to do so with their 158.5 points in the 1978 Class AA tournament.
However, only twice prior to this year has a team advanced all 14 of its wrestlers to the state tournament. St. Edward did so with its most recent national title team in 2007, along with their 2012 team that finished second in the country. This year an Eagles lineup that has zero seniors advanced its full complement of wrestlers to the state tournament, overcoming the absence of returning state placer Zach Delsanter (215) due to a season-ending injury sustained in mid-December.
With the cancellation of the 2020 state tournament, no wrestler can possibly be in position to win their fourth state title. Three seniors could possibly win a third this weekend: Joey Blaze (Perrysburg) in Division I at 165 pounds, Dylan Russo (Powell Olentangy Liberty) in Division I at 215, and Max Hermes (Milan Edison) in Division III at 120. Also seeking a third state title are a pair of juniors, Ty Wilson (Dublin Scioto) in Division I at 144 and Dillon Campbell (Xenia Legacy Christian Academy) in Division III at 126.
Twelve additional wrestlers will seek to repeat as state champion. Five in Division I: Marcus Blaze (Perrysburg) at 120, Jaxon Joy (Wadsworth) and Cole Evans (Perrysburg) at 132, Omar Ayoub (Dublin Coffman) at 138, and Chris Earnest (Wadsworth) at 157; another five in Division II, all in consecutive weight classes: Bryce Skinner (Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary) at 126, Brogan Tucker (St. Paris Graham) at 132, David McClelland (Columbus St. Francis DeSales) at 138, Mitchell Younger (Columbus Bishop Watterson) at 144, and Dominic Hoffarth (Louisville) at 150; and two in Division III: Casper Caizzo (Norwalk St. Paul) at 126 along with Connor Havill (Troy Christian) at 175.
Three others won state titles in 2021, and seek to regain that distinction this weekend: Ryan Bennett (St. Edward) in Division I at 138, along with Kyle Snider (Cuyahoga Falls CVCA) and Todd Allen (Medina Buckeye) in Division II at 190 and 285, respectively.
Also, in a bit of history, after 85 years of wrestling being a boys-only sport in terms of OHSAA sponsorship, the OHSAA is sponsoring a girls’ state tournament, which will take place concurrently with the boys event at The Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University.
St. Edward has won this tournament the last seven times it has been contested (2015-2019, 2021, 2022), and has now won 23 of the last 25 contested titles. As noted above, the Eagles qualified 14 to the state tournament, including six district champions, which is the joint most for any team statewide. Leading the district champion brigade are returning state placers Kade Brown (132) along with two-time state placers Ryan Bennett and Johnny Slaper (190); while they are joined by Ethan Timar (106), Behlen Waugh (215), and Nate Gregory (285).
Another six wrestlers took second at district, including returning state placer Bradley Eaton (150), returning state qualifier Tyrel Miller (165), and returning state runner-up Jarrel Miller (175). Returning state runner-up Adam Butler (120) qualified to state off a fourth-place finish at district.
Perrysburg, which finished second to St. Edward in the state tournament last year by 10.5 points, returns six state finalists from that team to the tournament this weekend. The Yellow Jackets advanced a school-record ten to the state tournament, six of whom were district champions: returning state champions Joey and Marcus Blaze; returning state runners-up Ryan Avalos (126), Wynton Denkins (150), and Myles Takats (175); along with Jake Wood (157). Finishing second at district was 2021 state placer Diego Chavez (138), while returning state champion Cole Evans finished third.
However, the team to advance the second-most to state in any division statewide was Brecksville-Broadview Hts. The Bees have 11 in the state tournament, which ties their 2021 state runner-up team for most in school history.
Among that group are four district champions: freshman Rylan Seacrist (106), 2021 state runner-up Brock Herman (144), along with two-time state placers Luke (175) and Max (215) Vanadia. Other returning state placers include Kaden Jett (132), a district runner-up; while Brett Stanley (113) and Chase Pluhar (138) each placed third.
The field in this year’s big school division is arguably the deepest and most experienced we have seen in a long time. Three consecutive middleweights have seven or more returning state placers, and each feature multiple wrestlers that have appeared in state finals during their career.
At 132 pounds, returning state champion – and two-time state finalist – Jaxon Joy could face returning state champion Cole Evans in the quarterfinal round, and that is if Evans is able to beat two-time state placer Jack McCall (Lebanon) in his first-round bout.
In the other half of the draw, the district champions are returning state runner-up Holden Huhn (Cincinnati LaSalle) and returning state placer Kade Brown, who beat Evans by 11-3 major decision in the district semifinal. It is likely that Huhn will face returning state placer Vinnie D’Alessandro (Mayfield Village Mayfield), while Brown will face 2021 state placer Kaden Jett in the quarterfinal round.
The 138-pound weight class features an all-division most eight returning state placers. It is led by returning state champion Omar Ayoub and 2021 state champion Ryan Bennett, who both anchor opposite half-brackets. Returning state runner-up, and two-time state placer, Dy’vaire VanDyke (Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit) is the other district champion in Bennett’s half of the draw. VanDyke could face returning state placer London Murphy (Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller) in the quarterfinal, while Bennett is looking at an opening round match against 2021 state placer Charles Curtis (Massillon Perry).
Ayoub is looking at a potential quarterfinal date with the winner of the opening round match between returning state placer Chase Pluhar and 2021 state placer Diego Chavez, while the other district champion in his half-bracket is Wyatt Brock (Harrison), who could face returning state placer Antonio Shelley (Mentor) in the quarterfinal round.
The 144-pound field includes seven returning state placers, but it is a potential semifinal showdown between two-time state champion Ty Wilson and 2021 state runner-up Brock Herman that is one of the big stories of the whole state wrestling weekend. It should be noted that Wilson is drawn against returning state placer Nick Humphrys (Wadsworth) in the first round.
In the lower half-bracket, returning state runner-up Jeremy Ginter (Toledo Whitmer) and returning state placer Matthew Szczepaniak (West Chester Lakota West) are the district champions. Possible quarterfinal matches place Ginter against 2021 state placer Nick Hart (Marysville), and Szczepaniak against returning state placer Israel Petite (Macedonia Nordonia).
When looking at the state finals on Sunday night, arguably the most anticipated projected match across the three divisions come here at 157 pounds. Returning state champion Chris Earnest and returning state runner-up Ethan Birden (Dublin Coffman) have split matches this season. They are in opposite half brackets, and four other returning state placers feature in this weight class.
In the other quarter of the Earnest half, returning state placer Logan Smalley (Reynoldsburg) could face district champion Jake Wood in the quarterfinal. Birden is drawn with returning state placer Aydan George (Centerville) in the opening round, with the other district champion in his half bracket – Maclain Morency (Cincinnati Anderson) – being one of the two big school wrestlers to enter the state tournament undefeated. Returning state placer John Metzger (Ashland) is in the same quarter as Morency, though he lost to first-round opponent Andrew Supers (Medina) in the Medina Invitational final.
Three returning top three finishers are among five returning state placers at 175 pounds. After beating fellow returning state runner-up Jarrel Miller 5-3 in a district final, Myles Takats is in the opposite half of both Miller and two-time state placer Luke Vanadia. Vanadia could face fellow two-time state placer Colton Powers (Marysville) in the quarterfinal for a second straight year, and at state for a third straight year; while Miller is in the same quarter-bracket as district champion Jack Kowalski (Springboro), a fellow sophomore. Takats is joined in his half-bracket by returning state placer Jeremy Olszko (Nordonia), who lost 11-9 to Vanadia in the district final; while Olszko is in the same quarter bracket as district champion Storm Beane (Dublin Coffman).
Dylan Russo won his first district title after winning state the previous two years, and losing district finals in the previous three seasons. He is joined by three other returning state medalists at 215 pounds. Russo opens the tournament with returning state placer Wyatt Walker (Trenton Edgewood), an opponent he pinned in 30 seconds in the state quarterfinal last year. The other two returning state placers, Max Vanadia and Brentan Simmerman (Morrow Little Miami) could meet in the quarterfinal round. It should be noted that Russo and Vanadia are in opposite half-brackets.
The other undefeated wrestler in this division is two-time state champion Joey Blaze, who is headed to Purdue in the fall to wrestle collegiately. There is only one other returning state placer in the 165-pound weight class, and that is Brandon Batson (Canton Glen Oak), who is in the opposite half bracket.
Other notable teams in the Division I field are Wadsworth, who qualified ten in finishing second at district to Brecksville; Olentangy Liberty, who qualified nine but finished second at Hilliard Darby; Dublin Coffman, district champions at Hilliard Darby, and Massillon Perry with eight state qualifiers each; along with Springboro and Cincinnati LaSalle, who qualified seven each in finishing first and second respectively at the Kettering Fairmont district.
St. Paris Graham Local has now won the last 21 contested individual state tournaments (2001-2019, 2021, 2022), including last year’s 81.5-point differential between the Falcons and second-place Aurora. While staggering, it should be noted that ten of those titles have come with a gap of greater than 100 points to second place. This year’s Falcons team has qualified ten to the state tournament, which is most in the division.
Five of those qualifiers won district titles this past weekend, led by returning state champion Brogan Tucker (132) and returning state runner-up Gunner Cramblett (165); also winning titles were returning state qualifier Hayden Hughes (138), Eli Jacks (150), and returning state placer Luke James (157). Returning state qualifier Bryce Kohler (144) was one of three to take second at district, while returning state qualifier Colt Ryan (120) placed fourth.
There are two teams expected to provide a robust challenge to Graham this season, Medina Buckeye and Columbus St. Francis DeSales. Buckeye advanced eight to state, which ties the 2020 team for most in program history, and beat the Falcons last month to win the OHSWCA State Duals title. The Bucks join Graham in having five individuals to win district titles, a group led by 2021 state placer Eddie Neitenbach (175) and two-time state placer Todd Allen; also winning titles were returning state placer Colyn Limbert (113), Jesse Badiu (138), and Kaden King (157).
The Stallions qualified seven to state, including six district champions, but were only able to finish second in the standings at the Norwalk District. Those winning district titles were returning state champion David McClelland and Max Shulaw, returning state placers Owen Eagan (157) and Lincoln Shulaw (175), returning state placer Andrew Barford (165), and Zack Lopez (150). Returning state qualifier Aidan Rush (144) placed third at district.
The most returning and/or previous OHSAA state tournament placers in a weight class in this division is four, six weight classes meet that description, with three of those featuring a wrestler that has won state before.
Up three weight classes from last year’s state title, Brogan Tucker enters the state tournament off a district tournament in which he won his first match by pin in 70 seconds before earning technical falls in his last three bouts. Fellow sophomore Brody Saccoccia (Steubenville) was runner-up at state last year down at 120 pounds, and is in the opposite half-bracket. The other two returning state medalists in this weight class – Donovan Paes (Streetsboro) and Parker Lee (Vandalia Butler) – wrestle in a first-round bout, with the winner slated to face Saccocia in the quarterfinal.
Also in the weight class is Brogan Fielding (Jefferson Area), who placed in the New York state tournament last year. Finally, the district champion in Tucker’s half-bracket is Dylan Rhoads (Louisville), who beat both Fielding and Paes to win the championship.
At 190 pounds, Kyle Snider seeks to regain the state title he earned in 2021; and is looking at a possible quarterfinal against Hunter Hutcheson (Mansfield Madison Comprehensive), who was a state semifinalist last season in this weight class. Returning state placer Max Ray (Tiffin Columbian) beat Hutcheson 13-6 in the district final, also has an in-season win over Snider, and resides in the opposite half-bracket. Returning state placer Kaiden Haines (Minerva) is in the opposite quarter of Ray’s half after losing in the final to Drew Lincicome (Philo) in the final for a second straight week; Lincicome is in the same half, opposite quarter, of Snider and Hutcheson.
From an individual perspective, the most anticipated projected semifinal in this division comes at 175 pounds, where 2021 state placer Eddie Neitenbach and two-time state placer Dylan Newsome (Columbus Bishop Hartley) are the district champions occupying the bottom half-bracket. The top half of features returning state placer Lincoln Shulaw as a district champion with returning state placer Dickie Engel (Reading) in the other quarter after his loss by fall in the first period to Newsome in the district final.
Finally, the 215-pound weight class feature a pair of wrestlers that have finished as state runners-up in the last two seasons. Max Shulaw (Columbus St. Francis DeSales), who beat Snider in the state semifinal last year, is undefeated on the season after beating returning state placer Mekhi Bradley (Mansfield Senior) by 14-3 major decision in the district final.
Bryson Getz (Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary) was runner-up to Snider in 2021, but went 0-2 at last year’s state tournament, and lost to district champion Aiden Mozden (Alliance) 8-2 in the semifinal round. The fourth state medalist here is Elijah Llewelyn (Wintersville Indian Creek), fourth in this weight class in 2021; he is in the opposite half of Shulaw and Getz, with Mozden and Bradley occupying the other quarter of that top half.
Three additional wrestlers join Shulaw to enter the state tournament undefeated in this division: Ethan Burkhart (New Lexington) at 106, Tate Hisey (St. Mary’s Memorial) at 113, and Aiden King (Bishop Hartley) at 126. Burkhart is in the opposite half-bracket of two-time state placer Javaan Yarbrough (Copley); returning state placer Hisey is in the same half-bracket as returning state placer Colyn Limbert (Buckeye), with two-time state placer Mason Taylor (Millersburg West Holmes) in the opposite half; while King is in the same half-bracket as 2021 state placer Collin Twigg (Wauseon), which is opposite returning state champion Bryce Skinner.
The other two teams to win district titles last week were Wauseon and West Holmes. The Indians beat Columbus St. Francis DeSales for their title, and join the Stallions in advancing seven to state, while the Knights won the title at Steubenville with six state qualifiers.
Legacy Christian is the two-time defending champion in the small school division, and is well positioned to make it a third straight state title come Sunday evening. The Knights qualified six to state, which is tied for second-most in the division. However, all six wrestlers made it to their district finals bout, with it being at least the second state tournament appearance for all five of the district champions.
Two-time state champion Dillon Campbell is the obvious anchor with two-time state placer Eli Campbell (120), returning state placer Boede Campbell (144), along with Brayden Brown (138) and Ethan Cooper (157) joining him as district champions. Freshman Nathan Attisano (120) finished second at district.
Qualifying the most to state was Barnesville, with a program-record eight out of the Harrison Central district. The Shamrocks, who seek their first individual state champion since Tim Moxley won his second of back-to-back state titles at heavyweight in 1985, had five wrestlers win district titles: two-time state placer Dakota King (132), returning state placer Skyler King (138), 2021 state placer Reece Stephen (150), returning state qualifier Ayden King (157), and Jonathan Huntsman (106). Returning state qualifier Logan Tague (144) finished as district runner-up.
State runners-up the last two years, and third-place finishers in three of the previous five tournaments contested before 2020, all four of Milan Edison’s state qualifiers have previously placed at the state tournament. Two-time state champion Max Hermes, returning state placer Abe Hermes (113), and Kohen Horvath (150) were district champions, while Marcus Medina (144) finished second at district.
Three weight classes in the small school division feature six returning state medalists, and they come consecutively in the lower weights.
The 120-pound weight class is anchored by two-time state champion Max Hermes and two-time state placer Cooper Shore (Casstown Miami East), who is one of just two undefeated wrestlers in this division entering the state tournament. They are in opposite halves of the bracket.
Returning state placer Cowin Becker (Galion Northmor) is the other district champion in the half with Hermes, while returning state placer Michael Hagan (Covington) is in the same quarter as Hermes. In the half-bracket with Shore, returning state placer Joey Romano (Mentor Lake Catholic) is the other district champion. Two-time state placer Trevor Wilcox (Tontogany Otsego) is in Romano’s quarter bracket.
Two-time state champion Dillon Campbell has won all eight of his career state tournament matches by bonus points. However, five additional state placers will join him in the 126-pound weight class this weekend, including Casper Caizzo (Norwalk St. Paul), who won state last year at 106 pounds. Those two wrestlers are in opposite half-brackets.
Two-time state placer Brock Durbin (Ashland Mapleton) and returning state placer Jason Shaffer (Troy Christian) could meet in the other quarterfinal of the Caizzo half-bracket, while 2021 state placer Nathan Parks (Attica Seneca East) and returning state placer Drake Kanyuch (Sarahsville Shenandoah) could meet in the other quarterfinal of the Campbell half-bracket.
At 132 pounds, there are three two-time state placers among the six returning placers. Dakota King (Barnesville) and Brock Christian (Perry) each anchor one half of the draw, with Christian having beaten fellow two-time state placer Landen Duncan (Southington Chalker) 6-3 in the district final. King could face returning state placer Caden Schmeltzer (Apple Creek Waynedale), who lost 11-3 to Duncan in a district semifinal, in the quarterfinal; while Duncan could face district champion Wyatt Hinton (Norwood) in the other quarter of the upper half-bracket. Christian could face returning state placer Chase Vanderhorst (Covington), who lost 7-5 to Hinton in the district final, in the quarterfinal round; with returning state placer Hunter Vogus (Monroeville) the other district champion in the lower half-bracket.
The other robust field in Division III comes at 144 pounds, where there are five wrestlers that have previously placed at the state tournament. Two-time state placers Brodie Dominique (Archbold), a state runner-up last year, and Daxton Chase (Marion Pleasant) are the district champions in the lower half-bracket.
In the upper half-bracket, returning state placer Boede Campbell (Legacy Christian) and 2021 state placer Marcus Medina could meet in the quarterfinal, with two-time state placer Hayden Kuhn (Ashland Crestview) a possible semifinal opponent; Dominique beat both Medina and Kuhn to win his district tournament title.
It should be noted that returning state champion Connor Havill lost 7-6 to Kane Epperly (Versailles) in his district final bout at 175 pounds. The other two returning state placers in that weight class both reside in the lower half-bracket, district champion Xander Myers (Liberty Center) and Owen Berner (Defiance Ayersville), with Berner set to face Epperly in the opening round of the tournament. Returning state runner-up Adam Mattin (Delta) joins Shore as the only undefeated wrestlers in the small school division; Mattin did miss most of the season prior to post-season with an injury, and is the only returning state placer in the 106-pound field.
Also qualifying six wrestlers to the state tournament were district champion teams Archbold and Rootstown, who also matched up in the OHSWCA State Duals final last month. For state duals champion Archbold, the six qualifiers tie a school record set back