COLUMBUS – Every competitive high school wrestler has aspirations of winning a state title.
At this weekend’s state wrestling tournament, 18 area wrestlers brought their talents to the Jerome Schottenstein Center at Ohio State in hopes of accomplishing the ultimate goal.
For Shawnee sophomore Hunter Lucas, making it to the state championship match Saturday night was his dream. He came into this year’s state tournament 36-0.
However, Lucas’ dream was cut short Friday when he lost a tough semifinal match to Claymont’s Tyler Varner in the 106-pound weight class in Division II, 7-2.
On Saturday, Lucas battled back, winning his consolations semifinal match against St. Paris Graham’s Justin Stickley, 10-8, giving him the opportunity to wrestle in the third-place match later in the morning.
In the third-place match against Toledo Central Catholic’s Josh Venia, Lucas looked to have things under control for most of the three periods. Lucas was leading 3-2, heading into the final seconds of the match.
However, in the closing moments of the match, Venia scrambled and scored back points to squeak out a 4-3 victory over Lucas. With the loss, Lucas finished fourth in his first-ever state tournament.
At last week’s district tournament at Bowling Green State University, Lucas defeated Venia for the district title, 5-3.
“I told him to go out there and be aggressive,” Shawnee coach Kyler Washam said. “He kind of backed off a little bit there in the end, trying to hold on a little bit, and he made a couple little mistakes.
“I told him that on the last shot, I wanted him to get in, get a leg and try to get around and get your two (points). He got in on the leg and let it go just a little bit. …The kid’s good. Down here at state, they can get around on you.”
Washam said Lucas has better years ahead of him.
“To only be a sophomore and come down here is great,” Washam said. “He’s a great kid to come down here and perform as well as he did. In my eyes, he’s still a state champ.”
Shawnee sophomore Dylan Hefner (182, Division II) had tough second and third days at the state tournament. After winning his opening bout Thursday against St. Paris Graham’s Hayden Bronne 13-7, Hefner quickly found himself in the consolations Friday, battling for a spot on the awards podium.
On Saturday, Hefner finished eighth, losing his seventh-place match to Indian Lake’s L.J. Henderson. Henderson pinned Hefner late in the first period.
“I’m happy about getting eighth,” Hefner said. “My goal was to place. It gives me experience. …I won’t be so rattled next year.”
Hefner wrestled at 170 most of this past season, but opted to bump up to 182 before the postseason tournament. Hefner doesn’t foresee wrestling at a lower weight class next season.
“I want to be big enough to go 195 next year, but I’ll probably still go 182,” Hefner said.
Indian Lake’s Heath Lange (145, Div. II) pinned Claymont’s Caden Herron in the third-place match. Lange, a senior, is a three-time state qualifier.
“I placed fourth last year,” Lange said. “I didn’t come down to place. I came down to win it. Getting beat in the semifinals was pretty bad. But, I knew I had to rebound. …It was hard to get my head back into it. I’m glad I did. It got a little of the bad taste out of my mouth. But, what can I do? It’s only six months of my life.”
After graduation, Lange will be wrestling at the University of Indianapolis.
Besides Lange and Henderson, teammate Reyse Wallbrown placed at the state tournament. Wallbrown finished third at 152, giving Indian Lake three state placers.
Wallbrown, a senior, was making his first trip to the state tournament.
“It’s just the way I wanted to end it,” Wallbrown said. “It’s my senior season, and it’s great to end it with a win.
“I’ve had some bad luck. I’ve had some injuries the past three seasons. I finally had a healthy full season and was able to show everybody what I’m able to do.”
Bath’s Colin Ingram (120, Div. II) finished eighth Saturday. Ingram, a senior, lost to Lorain Clearview’s Markus Cruz, 5-3, in his seventh-place match.
Elida’s Blaine Hunter (113, Div. II) finished eighth at the state tournament.
In Division III, Coldwater’s Justin Post (220) finished sixth. Other state placers in Division III included Ada’s Austin Windle (seventh, 160); Van Wert’s Zack Thomas (eighth, 285) and Lima Central Catholic’s Jack Huffman (seventh, 195).
Huffman, a junior, had a tough seventh-place match. He defeated New Lebanon Dixie’s Jacob Campbell 1-0.
“It’s a great feeling to be down here,” Huffman said. “Whenever hard work pays off, it’s a good feeling. Everything I did in the offseason, all the extra practices, it’s all worth it.”