COLUMBUS — If a wrestler survives until the third and final day of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Wrestling State Tournament at Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center, they earn a spot on the awards podium with at least a top-eight finish in their respective weight class.
Bluffton’s Deandre Nassar (Division III, 195 pounds) competed at the state tournament last year as a sophomore, but did not make it to the third day.
This year produced a much different result.
Coming into this weekend’s state tournament, Nassar had suffered just one loss.
After a tough state semifinal loss Friday to Bloomdale Elmwood’s Dylan Hinton, 5-4, Nassar (41-3) wrestled back Saturday for a fourth-place finish.
However, Nassar’s path was not an easy one.
Sullivan Black River’s Jacob Campbell gave Nassar everything he could handle in Saturday’s consolation semifinal, before Nassar slipped out with a thrilling 3-2 ultimate-tiebreaker overtime victory.
“It was do-or-die time,” Nassar said about his match with Campbell. “I just left it all out on the mat.”
Then in Saturday’s third-place match, Dalton Hoover from Martins Ferry, recorded a 6-1 win over Nassar, handing the Bluffton junior a fourth-place finish. Hoover was a two-time state-placer, coming into this year’s tournament.
“I wanted to be a top five (finisher at state) this year,” Nassar said. “I figured I could get to the finals, looking back, but I lost that. So, fourth is not bad. I could have done better. I wanted to do better, but it happened.”
Added longtime Bluffton coach Jeff Kleman, “He made some adjustments from last year to this year. He’s been wrestling so much better, and with a lot of confidence. He’s looking good. He just needs to clean up a couple things for next year and he’ll be back on that podium again, no doubt.”
Russell notches 5th place
Lima Senior junior Naeem Russell (Div. I, 152) started Saturday with a 19-4 loss against Lakewood St. Edward’s Padraic Gallagher in a consolation semifinal.
Russell then went on to wrestle in the fifth-place match, where he defeated Centerville’s Drew Weichers, 10-6.
Russell (43-5) is the first state-placer from Lima Senior since 1988.
“It was amazing,” Russell said. “I worked hard, just to get here. At first, I didn’t think I could hang with some of these top kids from around the state. But, now I know I can hang with them. … (Getting) fifth place – I’m pretty happy with that.”
Last year, Russell suffered a season-ending knee injury midway through the campaign.
“We’ve been talking about it (getting to the state tournament) since his freshman year,” Lima Senior coach P.J. Fought said. “His junior year, we wanted to be on the podium. That was the goal. With him finishing fifth, I’m very pleased. He went out with a win.”
LCC’S Caprella places 5th
LCC junior Joey Caprella (Div. III, 145) lost his consolation semifinal Saturday morning to Gibsonburg’s Hugo Villarreal, 6-3.
However, Caprella came back and competed in the fifth-place match, where he pinned Columbiana Crestview’s Andrew Hardenbrook early into the third period.
This was Caprella’s first state appearance. Last season, he finished fifth at the district tournament and was a state alternate.
“It burned a lot when I lost (semifinal match), and it will probably be burning for another 365 days,” Caprella said. “It’s something I don’t want to feel again.”
Caprella came into this year’s state tournament with a 40-0 record. He finishes the season with a 43-2 mark.
“Obviously, our end goal is to win a state title,” LCC coach Nick Sanchez said. “Just qualifying, wasn’t our goal. We want to win a title and that’s what we work for. He came out, still a little roughed up this morning, but he found a way to make a statement.”
O-G’S Rosales on podium
O-G junior Danny Rosales (D-III, 170) finished seventh Saturday. Rosales edged out Mechanicsburg’s Dustin Knapp, 3-2.
“I wanted to get on the podium,” Rosales said. “We worked pretty hard all year. That was the goal from the start of last year. … I went 0-2 (at last year’s state tournament) and that was no fun. So, this was a good experience. Hopefully I’m on top next year.”
Kaeck places sixth
Wapakoneta sophomore Evan Kaeck (Div. II, 220) had to default his fifth-place match Saturday, because of an injury. With the default, Kaeck (45-8) finished sixth.
Sumner finishes career
Ada senior Chase Sumner (Div. III, 145) was a two-time state placer, coming into this season.
Now, Sumner is a three-time state-placer.
Sumner (35-5) wrapped up a very impressive high school wrestling career with a seventh-place finish Saturday. Sumner pinned Dayton Christian’s Henry Danishek late in the second period to garner another all-Ohio spot on the podium.
“I had nothing to lose,” Sumner said about Saturday’s match. “I didn’t care if anything got hurt. It’s the end of the year. I just wanted to go out there and give it my all.”
Grothjan on podium
Shawnee senior Bobby Grothjan (D-II, 285) closed out his high school career with an eighth-place finish Saturday.
“I definitely think I could have done a little better,” Grothjan (33-9) said. “But, I feel like I went out there and gave it everything I had and left everything on the mat.”
Added Shawnee coach Mike Lewis, “He suffered some setbacks, because he broke his hand, about halfway through the season. I’m proud of him. He persevered and became one of the top heavyweights in the state.”
Indian Lake notches
two state placers
Connor Dixon (D-III, 182) finished fifth, while teammate Cole Mefford (D-III, 220) placed seventh Saturday.