Twenty grapplers vie for state success

Christian Wayt

West Branch Warriors

Senior, 120, 37-2

After working his way up the podium the past two seasons, Wayt’s hopes are high as he prepares for his third and final trip to Columbus.

“Christian is very motivated,” West Branch coach Chris Dorris said. “He does everything that’s required to be a great wrestler and he’s shown determination all year. He works every day to get better.”

Wayt, who is ranked as the top 120-pounder on borofanohio.net, is one of the top contenders for the 120-pound title. He is coming off a runner-up finish in last week’s Alliance district tournament where Louisville’s Garett Lautzenheiser dealt him only his second setback of the season. As a whole, the 120-pound division features a rugged bracket with five returning state placers as well as Beaver Local freshman Logan Ours, who claimed the Heath district title last week and is one of the prime contenders.

Wayt will open his quest against Tyler Masters from West Holmes (40-4), who is seeded third out of the Heath district. Lautzenheiser and Ours both lurk on the other side of the bracket. Dorris said Wayt has worked his whole career to be ready for this moment.

“Christian is a real student of the game,” Dorris said. “Ask him about other wrestlers and he’ll tell you what they did right off the bat. He lost early in the season to Cael Woods from West Holmes (a top contender at 113-pounds) and he got right to work breaking down film of the match. We spotted a small error in what he was doing, got it corrected and it hasn’t happened since. He’s confident and ready to go.”

Neil Ginnetti

West Branch Warriors

Senior, 182, 36-10

West Branch coach Chris Dorris said Ginnetti has served as an inspirational leader for the Warriors with his intense dedication. The senior’s perseverance paid off this season with his first trip to Columbus.

“Nobody is more deserving of this than Neil Ginnetti, it was Columbus or bust for him this year.” Dorris said. “Neil is the epitome of work ethic. “He shows up at 6 a.m. every day to put in extra work and works very hard on all aspects of the game. It’s very valuable for the other guys in this program to see this pay off for him. They see what can happen when you put the work in.”

Ginnetti is the fourth seed out of a very strong Alliance district and is ranked seventh by borofanohio.net. He has a tall order in the first round with Heath district champion Keegan VanMeter from Granville, who is ranked fourth by borofanohio.net. Canfield’s Anthony D’Alesio is considered the favorite and is on the same side of the bracket.

“Neil and VanMeter already wrestled earlier this season,” Dorris said. “Neil slipped early in the match and the other kid got him with a five point move right away. The score looked a lot worse than the match actually was.”

Kenny Marra

West Branch Warriors

Sophomore, 195, 36-10

Marra is back for more after falling in the second consolation round as a freshman in last season’s state tournament.

“Last year’s experience was great for him,” Dorris said. “He knows what it takes and what to expect down there. He was right on the cusp last year and is hungry for a podium spot.”

Marra will get thrown right into the fire when he takes on projected favorite Matthew Cover (41-2) from Bay Village Bay in the first round. Dorris said that Marra has the ideal mentality to take on the challenge.

“Kenny is a brawler,” Dorris said. “He goes in looking for a fight and doesn’t care who’s across from him. He’s not going to back down from anybody.”

Regardless of what happens this weekend, Marra has a bright future with the West Branch wrestling program.

“Kenny has gotten better and better as the year has gone on,” Dorris said. “He’s somebody we’re going to be looking for to help lead the program after Neil and Christian are gone.

Drake Decker

Minerva Lions

Sr., 106, 42-12

Decker is one of the area’s most pleastant surprises by gaining a state berth in his first season as a varsity wrestler.

“He’s a senior and this is his first season he has wrestled at the sectional tournament,” Minerva coach Chad Hilliard said. “He has battled through a lot of adversity and fought through it.”

He said Decker was ineligible the last two two seasons after not being able to crack into the varsity lineup as a freshman.

“He came to me this summer and said he wanted to put a whole season together,” Hilliard said. “It says a lot about his character. He wants to go and serve his country (by enlisting in the Navy). It says a lot bout what kind of man he is becoming.

“He’s always had some sort of distraction. This year he made a lot of commitment to wrestling. He was in it for the long haul this season. This season was all about the finish.”

Decker is ranked 13th in the Division II 106-pound class by InterMat and was the Heath district runner-up.

He opens the state tournament against Bellevue sophomore Gabe Aida and if he wins, a possible matchup against projected state champion Kyle Rowan of Perry.

“He’s been very consistent,” Hilliard said. “His draw is a draw. Drake doesn’t look at who he wrestles. No matter who he wrestles against he is going to wrestle the same way. He showed that in districts.”

Ethan Mueller

Minerva Lions

Jr., 138, 38-9

Mueller is a two-time state qualifier after reaching state at 126 pounds last year.

“He went 0-2 and was very dissatisifed with his state tournament,” Minerva coach Chad Hilliard said. “He has done nothing but work since the end of last season, He is going down there to place. Ethan will outwork everyone in the training room.”

Mueller was a standout goalkeeper on the Minerva soccer team, but gave up it this school year to focus on wrestling.

“It was a tough decision for him, but he and his family sat down and he put it on the line he wants to be a state champ,” Hilliard said. “Now that he was down there, his eyes are open. He has put in a trmendout amount of work.”

Mueller is ranked 10th in the Division II 138-pound weight class by InterMat.

He will open against Norton senior Kaleb Kiss and, if he advances, could possibly meet No. 2 Micah Norward of Bishop Hartley.

“I would argue it is one of the best weight classes in the state and has a lot of of depth,” Hilliard said. “When is it a go-to match when everything is on the line, Ethan can perform with the best in the state.”

Jarrett Burress

Minerva Lions

Soph., 285, 43-9

Burress emerged this season and was the Heath Division II district runner-up at 285 pounds.

“He went from being a .500 wrestler as a freshman to being the starting heveyweight,” Minerva coach Chad Hilliard said. “He leads the team in pins and points and placed in every tournament.”

Hilliard said Burress won’t be intimidated by the atmosphere at the state meet after wresling at the nationals in Fargo, N.D.

“He is wrestling as a upperclassmen as a sophomore,” he said. “I don’t think he is going to go down there and be surprised by the caliber of competition of the state tournament. There is nothing scary about this to Jarrett.”

Burress is ranked 13th by InterMat. He will open against second-ranked Johnny Shafer of St. Paris Graham. Girard senior Jack Delgarbino be back to try to defend his state title.

Burress and Shafer, who was third at state last year, were teammates on Team Ohio and practiced against each other.

“He is raining this week for that first match, just like all of our guys,” Hilliard said.

Mark Emmerling Jr.

Beaver Local Beavers

Fr., 113, 38-12

Emmerling gets his first taste of the state tournament after a very strong freshman season highlighted by a first-place finish at the Hoppel Invitational. He also placed at both the EOWL and OVAC tournaments.

“Mark has has continued to improve each week and has benefited from great teammates that push him to get better,” Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams said. “He is solid on the mat and on his feet, he has the ability to score a lot of points quickly, and is very tough in the top position.”

Emmerling, who finished fourth at last week’s Heath district tournament will get going with a first round matchup against top-seeded freshman Branton Dawes (39-2) from Washington Court House Washington. Two of the top contenders are Cael Woods from West Holmes and Jacob Decatur from Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. Decatur is on the other side of the bracket, while Emmerling would avoid Woods until at least the semifinals should he advance.

“Mark sits in a nice spot,” Williams said. “He is in a quarter of the bracket with kids that are very even with him. He needs to continue to stay in a solid position and he will make some noise in a tough bracket. He is peaking at the right time and wrestling with a lot of confidence. He is in for a fun weekend.”

Logan Ours

Beaver Local Beavers

Fr., 120, 32-4

Ours continued a stellar freshman season by capturing the Heath district title last weekend. He was ranked second by borofanohio.net and enters as one of the main contenders in a very tough 120-pound bracket.

“Logan has had a tremendous freshman season,” Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams said. “He is an attack minded wrestler and has an incredible ability to finish from any position. He is physical, clean with his technique and is always in solid position. He will push the pace for 6 minutes and force his style of wrestling on his opponent. He uses every moment and position during a match to gain an advantage.”

Ours, who also has an OVAC championship and a Cambridge tournament title to his credit, will open against fourth-seeded Anthony Trivisono (26-9) from Mentor Lake Catholic. A potential matchup with Louisville’s Garett Lautzenheiser (ranked third by borofan) looms in the semifinals. Ours pinned Lautzenheiser in a regional dual match last month. Top-ranked Christian Wayt from West Branch is on the top half of the bracket. Ours and Wayt did not meet during the season.

“Logan’s goal of being a state champion is something he has trained for his entire life,” Williams said. “He has wrestled in big tournaments, multiple times in his career, so this tournament won’t be a shock to him. He is at his best when he is loose and confident. He is ready to go and is peaking at the right time.”

Cole McComas

Beaver Local Beavers

Jr, 126, 40-7

McComas is no stranger to the big stage, as he has taken home state runner-up finishes the past two seasons at 106 and 113 pounds.

“When you have had the success Cole has had during his career you understand what it takes to be the best and he takes that approach to everything he does,” Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams said. “He has put himself in a position to reach his goals. His past state experience and his ability to win tight matches are going to pay off for him this weekend.”

McComas has battled through injuries during the season and hopes he can peak just in time for this weekend.

“Cole is such a consistent person in his approach to wrestling and life,” Williams said. “He has battled an injury most of the season but used every opportunity available to him to get healthy and put himself in a position to be at his best for this tournament.”

The 126-pound bracket is considered to be wide open, with the third-seeded McComas taking on second-seeded Chris Kelly from St. Paris Graham Local in the first round. Projected state champ Peyten Kellar from Vincent Warren is on the other side of the bracket.

“Cole’s bracket has a lot of kids who have gone back and forth beating each other all season long,” Williams said. “Cole trains and prepares every day for these moments. He loves these types of challenges and he always responds appropriately to difficult situations.”

Skyler Lasure

Beaver Local Beavers

Jr, 145, 34-6

Lasure is another veteran of the state tournament, with a seventh and a fourth place finish the past two seasons.

“Skyler’s previous state experience should pay off in a tough bracket,” Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams said. “He has an ability and track record of winning tight matches and always wrestles his best when the lights are the brightest. He looks forward to tournaments and competition like this weekend.”

The second-seeded Lasure will get his weekend started against third-seeded Brody Conley (47-5) from Tiffin Columbian. Up next is a potential second round matchup with Bellefontaine’s Jordan Crace, who is 35-0 and the projected state champion.

“Skyler wrestles confidently and he always believes he can win regardless of the opponent,” Williams said. “He is a physical wrestler who can score in a multitude of ways. He has incredible quickness and the ability and confidence to score in all three positions.”

Logan Krulik

Beaver Local Beavers

Soph., 152, 41-9

After narrowly missing the state tournament last season. Krulik broke through with a third-place finish at last week’s Heath district tournament.

“Last year fueled Logan to do more wrestling in the off-season,” Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams said. “He has improved in every position. He has an incredible gas tank and the ability to wear his opponent out. He is smooth on his feet and wrestles loose, has a lot of fun competing, and has a style that is fun to watch.”

Krulik opens up with against Sam Price (27-4) from Monroe. Top contenders Jax Leonard from Louisville and Anthony Rice from Steubenville are on the other side of the bracket.

“This is the state tournament and there are no easy matches,” Williams said. “Logan is one of the top wrestlers in this weight class and is in a position to make a nice run, but it won’t come easy. He will compete with anyone in this bracket.”

Beau Smith

Beaver Local Beavers

Sr., 170, 42-9

Smith has served as a cornerstone of the Beaver wrestling program during his career and will be making his fourth straight trip to Columbus. He enters the state tournament as the school’s all-time wins leader with a record of 164-46 and has OVAC and EOWL titles to his credit this season.

“Beau has had a great season going 3-2 at the Ironman Tournament, placing at Brecksville and winning OVAC and EOWL titles,” Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams said. “He has been tested with great competition all season long. Beau is explosive, he takes his style of wrestling to his opponents and can quickly put his opponents in bad positions. Beau is dangerous in all positions and is never out of a match with his pinning ability.”

Smith earned his way onto the podium with a fourth-place finish last season and will look to close his career on a high note in a wide-open bracket. He has a stiff challenge right off the bat with top-seeded Xavier Torres (47-5) from Wauseon.

“Beau’s bracket is very even and with his ability he could climb to the top of the podium,” Williams said. “He has been a consistent force in our lineup for four years and is one of the best wrestlers to graduate from Beaver Local. He will bring his best this weekend, just like he has for the past four years.”

Garrett Givens

Beaver Local Beavers

Sr., 220, 34-8

Givens’ season got off to a late start with him competing in the Blue-Grey All-American football game in Dallas, but he has shown steady progression according to Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams and will look to put it all together this weekend.

“Garrett is built on hard work,” Williams said. “He is constantly finding ways to improve himself. He has improved each week and committed to learning new technique and improving his conditioning. He has had a great season placing at the OVAC and EOWL Tournaments and has wrestled the top kids in the state along the way.”

Givens, who will play football at Wheeling Jesuit in the fall, will open with second-seeded Alec Maloney (45-6) from Norwalk. Both East Liverpool’s Skylor Wooley and projected favorite Tyler Stein (an Ohio State recruit and defending state champ) are on his side of the bracket and could loom as potential semifinal opponents.

“Garrett’s bracket sets up nice for him,” Williams said. “With his improvement each week he has put himself in a position to make a deep run this weekend. “I know it would mean a lot to him to put a number beside his name on the state board in the gym. He has progressed throughout the season to give himself an opportunity at doing that.”

Daniel Wirth

Beaver Local Beavers

Sr., 285, 36-8

At 230 pounds, Wirth is small for a heavyweight, but he nonetheless broke through to Columbus with a third-place finish last week at Heath. He enters this week with OVAC and EOWL runner-up finishes to his credit as well as a Buckeye 8 and sectional title.

“What Danny lacks in weight, he makes up in heart,” Beaver Local coach Jordan Williams said. “He is a high tempo heavyweight who scores a lot of points and keeps the pace up. He has continued to improve on his scoring positions and work on winning situations using every position to wear out his opponent. He is great in the practice room and he loves to compete. He has continued to get better as the season went on.”

With will open against second-seeded Lane Cluff (48-3) from Hillsboro. Looming potentially in the second round is Girard’s Jack DelGarbino (25-0) who the defending state champ and the heavy favorite to repeat.

“Danny is wrestling very confident right now,” Williams said. “He believes in what he is doing and he is having a lot of success. He is very excited about another opportunity to wrestle great competition and evaluate himself against some of the best wrestlers in the state. Danny will embrace that competition and give his best effort like he does every time he steps on the mat. “When you’re willing to lay it on the line for your teammates and yourself the way he does, you are going to win a lot of matches.”

Brandt Virden

Columbiana Clippers

Sr., 113, 26-7

Virden has wrestled only 33 matches this season as he is resting up for the state tournament.

“He’s battled some injuries so we’ve had to manage his workload and practice,” Columbiana coach Doug Velasquez said. “Some of the tournaments we held him out. We want him to be helathy because we knew he could make a run.”

Virden was bothered by shoulder and knee injuries from football season.

“He’s been banged up this season,” Velasquez said.

Virden will open against Caldwell senior Marshal Niswonger, ranked No. 7 by InterMat. If he wins, then he could meet No. 3 Casey Barnett of Milan Edison in the secon rounds.

“His draw he’s got a lot of like opponents,” Velasquez said. “We haven’t wrestled any of his possible opponents. I did talk to Beaver Local’s coaches. Brandt is going to have to be peaking at the right time and that may be good for him.

“For Brandt, its a good thing we haven’t seen him. The way he wrestled at district, I was very, very happy and impressed with. When he is on the mat, I keep saying fast and phyical. I think seeing a guy for the first time, he may overwhelm them with his style.”

Nathan Whitehead

Columbiana Clippers

Sr., 195, 31-5

“Nathan didn’t wrestle last year, he played basketball,” Columbiana coach Doug Velasquez said. “He had no plans of wrestling this season. When I got the job, I started recruiting him. He said when he qualified for district his sophomore year, it was nice, but he didn’t have that drive. When he was done with districts, he decided to hang it up. Wrestling is a sport that can wear you down and wear you out. You have to have your heart into it.”

Whitehead decided to give wrestling another try.

“I think the season has gone perfect for him,” Velasquez said. “He finished second at Kenston and that gave him some confidence. He’s defintely peaking at the right time.”

Whitehead, ranked No. 12 by InterMat, will open against Liberty Union sophomore Casey Fleahman and could be headed for a matchup against No. 5 Garrett Neth of Harrod Allen East

“We like his draw,” Velasquez said. “Nate is a student of the game. He’s a thinker and studier. When he’s up there, he’s sizing up his opponents.

Trey Wonner

Crestview Rebels

Sr., 132, 36-11

Wonner celebrated his 100th career victory for the Rebels this season.

“Hes been doing really well this season,” Crestview coach Vic Nery said. “He’s really started to peak at the end of the season. He was projected to lose the first round of districts and not advance. He destroyed his first two oopponents and did a great job at districts.”

Nery said the Rebels were hopeful Wonner would reach state this season.

“He ended last season on a very good note, and were hoping he would grow this season and would advance,” he said.

Wonner will open against Genoa Area senior Julian Sanchez, ranked No. 2 by InterMat.

“It’s not a great draw. Sanchez is a two-time state runner-up and three-time state placer and Genoa Area is a solid team,” Nery said. “Plus you have two other three-time state placers in the bracket as well.

“People had doubts how well he would do at district. We’re hopeful he advances. I think he’ll have some surprises this weekend if he does like he did at districts.”

Michael Markulin

South Range Raiders

Fr., 120, 37-13

The Raiders are hoping to use this as a stepping stone for Markulin, a freshman state qualifier.

“We knew it was a possibiltity, but he had to wrestle and he did,” South Range coach Levi Hively said.

“All season he’s been good for us all season. We knew he was going to be right there. He got a good draw at district and he wrestled hards and got through.”

Just because he is a freshman doesn’t mean Markulin isn’t as talented as his teammates.

“They all put together same amout of time,” Hively said. “He’s right there with them.”

Markulin will open against state favorite Oscar Sanchez of Genoa Area — an Ohio University recruit who was a 2017 state champion and 2018 state runner-up.

“He got a rough draw, one of the worst draws he could have picked up,” Hively said. “In the consolation, it doesn’t get much better. The first match is going to be a tough one. Just go out there and wrestle, anything can happen. He’s been able to keep all the matches close he’s been in.”

Kyle Keenan

South Range Raiders

Sr. 46-6 No. 11

Keenan is a three-year state qualifier after reaching state at 113 pounds as a junior and 106 pounds as a sophomore.

“Kyle has got experience here,” South Range coach Levin Hively said. “He hasnt’ had much success there (going 0-2 each of the last two seasons), but we’re looking to change that this year.”

Keenan is ranked No. 12 by InterMat.

“Being down there in that atmostphere, that’s real difficult for someone beng there for the first year beause you’ve got your nerves,” Hively said. “Having been there before he knows what to expect so he can concentrate on wrestling.”

Keenan will open against Versailles senior Jacob Poling (No. 9) and then could meet No. 4 Cameron Dickman of Oak Harbor in the next round.

“Every match is tough down there,” Hively said. “I feel real confidence he can win the first match. Winning the first match is a huge step toward getting him on the podium.”

Anthony Czap

South Range Raiders

Jr., 220, 44-5

Czap was the area’s only Division III district champion,

“His freshman year he was a state alternate. Last year he was working through a football injury and missed two-thirds of the season. He got sick coming into district,” South Range coach Levi Hively said. “This year he came in with someothing to prove. He wanted to show last year was a fluke, and he did it by winning the district.”

Czap, ranked No. 10 in his weight class by InterMat, will open against No. 8 Dylan Sargent of Columbus Grove.

“Anthony is in the same boat draw-wise at Kyle Keenan,” Hively said. “It turns into a tough draw in the consolation. I think if he wins the first match, he will get on the podium.”

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