MARION – The first four matches this season were tightly-contested.
However, the fifth one was definitely the best.
Allen East sophomore Eli Criblez and Columbus Grove senior Jeff Meyer faced off four times this season before this weekend’s Division III Ohio High School Athletic Association’s State Wrestling Championships at Marion Harding High School.
In the previous four meetings of the two Northwest Conference wrestlers Meyer came out with the victory three times.
Now, make it four times.
On Sunday, Criblez and Meyer squared off for the final time when the two met in the state title match of the 285-pound weight class.
On Sunday, Meyer defeated Criblez 3-1, in a tightly-contested match, to become his school’s second-ever state champion.
“It was a tough match,” Meyer said. “That was the fifth time I’ve wrestled him. Every one of them were tough.”
Meyer (49-2) said he’s been working toward this day for a very long time.
“It’s freaking awesome,” an elated Meyer said. “My dream finally came true. Mission completed. We can hang up the shoes now.
“This is something I won’t have to hang my head on for like 40-some years, and say, ‘I wished I would have worked harder’.”
Columbus Grove head coach Eric Siefker said the path these two athletes took this season was not a coincidence.
“We knew what was coming. We knew what was ahead of us,” Siefker said. “And I kind of knew what the Allen East coaches were thinking. We all knew we were going to meet here in the end.”
For Criblez (45-5), making it this far is one more step toward his ultimate goal. Criblez’s appearance in the state title match marks the highest placement from an Allen East wrestler in school history.
“It was a real honor to make it here with my team,” Criblez said. “Just being the first one in the finals (in school history) is tremendous. This is going to fuel my fire for next year, and the year after.”
Meyer said that winning a state title is something he will treasure forever.
“Someday, I’ll be able to take my kids through the school and say, ‘That’s your pops right there (picture on the wall)’,” he said.
In the final team standings, Columbus Grove had the best area performance as the Bulldogs finished eighth overall. Allen East finished 18th.
Indian Lake senior Hayden Pummel also had dreamed of being a state champion and made that a reality Sunday.
Last season, Pummel was the projected favorite in the 160-pound weight class. However, the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season, he wasn’t going to be denied.
Sunday, at the Division III state wrestling tournament, Pummel (40-0) closed out an undefeated season, en route to notching the school’s second-ever state championship in wrestling.
In Sunday’s finals, Pummel dominated Milan Edison’s Shadrick Slone, recording a 10-0 major decision, in the 160-pound championship match.
“Coach (Ryan) Dickson tells me that I have to put four (points) up in the first period,” Pummel said. “I was a little slow in that match. I got two. But I opened up in the second period and put six points on him. Most people can’t handle that type of pressure.”
Pummel said the stoppage of last season really motivated him to work even harder in order to come back this season and vie for a state title.
“After last year, I was upset,” Pummel said. “I was projected No. 1 (160 pounds) coming in, and then it (state tournament) was cancelled. With all that effort and time that I spent last year, it just added on, to be even better this year. It makes tonight extremely special. I’m so excited that I’m a state champion.”