Area grapplers defying the odds

By Mark Altstaetter -

Allen East’s Lucas Freeman is making his first appearance at the state wrestling tournament beginning Thursday.

Overcoming obstacles is paramount if an athlete wants to take it to the next level.

I’ve covered many local athletes that overcame obstacles and made it to the state wrestling tournament.

At this past weekend’s Division III district wrestling tournament at Troy, there were several area wrestlers who stamped their tickets for the state tournament, after beating the odds.

The top four placers in each weight class at the district tournaments advance to this coming weekend’s state tournament.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association Wrestling State Tournament will start Thursday and run through Saturday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University.

Last season, Lima Central Catholic’s Joey Caprella did not even make it to the district tournament.

This season, Caprella has taken it to the next level.

On Saturday, Caprella defeated two-time state-placer, Ada’s Chase Sumner, for the second time this season to win the Division III district title at Troy and to advance to the state tournament. Caprella, a junior, is undefeated this season at 40-0.

“I wasn’t even close to this last season, and it feels amazing,” Caprella said after winning the district title this past Saturday.

Ottawa-Glandorf’s Grant Goecke had a 15-win season two years ago. Now, he’s a second seed for this coming weekend’s state tournament in the 160-pound weight class in Division III. However, Goecke was injured in his district championship match Saturday at Troy against Indian Lake’s Dylan Knotts, and was forced to default the match.

Ottawa-Glandorf coach Randy Ebbeskotte is hopeful that Goecke will be able to compete this weekend.

“Two years ago, he was a 15-win kid. He’s really come a long way. He deserves to end better than that,” Ebbeskotte said about the senior Goecke.

O-G is sending three wrestlers to the state tournament. Daniel Beemer heads the list for the Titans. Beemer won the district title at Troy Saturday at 182. Beemer is 37-0 on the season. Teammate Danny Rosales finished second in the 170-pound weight class at Troy.

“We have a big goal for him,” Ebbeskotte said about Beemer. “He’s been working really hard towards that goal for a long time. I think this is the year. That’s my humble opinion.”

As a team, O-G finished third at the Troy district.

Then there’s Allen East senior Lucas Freeman.

At Troy, after losing his semifinal match, Freeman wrestled in the third and fourth-place match at 138, where he finished fourth.

This will be Freeman’s first trip to the state tournament. Last season, Freeman did not even make it to the district tournament.

Speaking of Allen East, Coach Mike Abbey’s young squad has done everything but wrestle like a young team. The young Mustangs battled more experienced teams in the Northwest Conference Championships this season and notched the team title.

Allen East is sending four athletes to the state tournament – the most ever in school history. Freeman is the lone senior on this year’s roster. Joining Freeman are freshman Drake Carmean (second at districts, 120), sophomore Chase Caprella (third, 113), and sophomore Garrett Neth (second, 182).

In Division I, Lima Senior junior Naeem Russell (39-3) will compete in the 152-pound weight class at the state tournament. This past weekend, Russell placed second at the district tournament at Hilliard. Last season, Russell suffered a knee injury which sidelined him for the last half of the season and ultimately kept him out of the postseason tournament.

However, Russell’s hard work during the offseason has paid off this year.

This season, Russell was named the Three Rivers Athletic Conference Wrestler of the Year. This will be Russell’s first trip to the state tournament.

Looking back at past state tournaments, there’s always been someone who has stepped up and done the unexpected.

Hopefully this coming weekend, there will be many more memorable moments for our local wrestlers.
Allen East’s Lucas Freeman is making his first appearance at the state wrestling tournament beginning Thursday. East’s Lucas Freeman is making his first appearance at the state wrestling tournament beginning Thursday.

By Mark Altstaetter