COLUMBUS — Two seasons ago, Allen East heavyweight Eli Criblez was so close to winning a state title.
At the 2021 Ohio High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament, Criblez lost to Northwest Conference foe, Columbus Grove’s Jeff Meyer in a hard-fought championship match, 3-1, in the 285-pound weight class.
That title match has played over and over in Criblez’s mind ever since.
On Saturday, in a Division III state semifinal, Criblez defeated Newark Catholic’s Griffin Halenar 7-1 to advance to tonight’s Division III state championship match in the 285-pound weight class.
Criblez (48-1) will face United’s Dallas McCracken (48-7) for a state title at Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world,” an elated Criblez said after his semifinal win. “I can’t wait to get out there and get it done. I’ve just been dreaming about it every night. I’ve been thinking about it non-stop.”
Last season, Criblez placed fourth at the state tournament.
Coming into Saturday’s competition, Criblez knew the path to the semifinals was not going to be easy.
In front of Criblez in the quarterfinals was Liberty Center’s Owen Box.
Criblez defeated Box in a very hard-fought 3-2 ultimate tie-breaker.
“I knew my quarterfinal was going to be a good one, a tough match,” Criblez said. “I knew I’d just go after it and go on and get that state title. I just want to go out there and get it.”
Longtime Allen East head coach Mike Abbey said Criblez went on a mission after last season’s state tournament.
“He worked hard in the offseason,” Abbey said. “As soon as state (tournament) was over, the next weekend, we went out to Virginia Beach. He competed in the Junior Nationals and placed out there. That really set the tone for the rest of this season. He ended up doing a lot of summer tournaments. I just give him all the credit of going out, working hard, and doing the extra stuff.”
Hisey earns a podium spot
St. Marys sophomore Tate Hisey came into this year’s state wrestling tournament with a perfect record, and a dream of winning a state title.
Last season, Hisey placed fifth in the 106-pound weight class at the Division II state tournament.
Last year’s state-tournament performance gave Hisey the motivation to aim even higher.
On Saturday, the second day of the state tournament, Hisey defeated Chillicothe’s Cannan Smith 6-2 in his quarterfinal match in the 113-pound weight class.
However, in Saturday’s semifinal, Hisey (42-1) lost to Buckeye’s Colyn Limbert, 6-0.
Hisey will wrestle another consolation match this morning in an attempt to place himself in the third-place match, later in the morning. If Hisey loses his first match today, he will compete in the fifth-place match.
Hisey grew up with two older twin brothers, Trevor and Tyler, who were both state placers while at St. Marys (class of 2022). Now, they both wrestle at Lourdes University.
“They really kind of shaped me into who I am as a wrestler and a person,” Tate Hisey said about his brothers. “They’ve been a big influence on my life, not just wrestling.
“It may be big shoes to fill, but there’s not too much pressure. I just believe in what I can do, and I believe in my training.”
Teammate Bo Hertenstein (23-12) bowed out of the tournament Saturday in the 144-pound weight class. The sophomore Hertenstein went 1-2 in the tournament.
Wapak will have 2 on podium
Last year, Wapakoneta’s Jace Knous was a state alternate.
This season, the junior 190-pounder is going to be a state-placer in Division II.
On Saturday, Knous (45-10) won by way of a forfeit over Philo’s Drew Lincicome in the second round of consolations. Knous now has the opportunity to place as high as third, depending on how he wrestles back today.
“I’m so glad I got on the podium this year,” Knous said. “It’s awesome. Last year, I got to soak it up. This year, I’m (at least) top eight. I’m still going to try to keep moving up, obviously, in my next matches.”
Knous lost his first-round match Friday to Bloom-Carroll’s Collin Willet by way of a pin, early in the second period.
“It was tough. I had to get past it, though,” Knous said. “For the next one, I had to be ready. I’m going to give it everything I got and see how far I can get.”
Teammate Caden Mellott began Saturday, losing to West Holmes’ Mason Taylor in a quarterfinal in a 10-0 major decision.
Mellott (43-8) bounced back and won his consolation match against Mythias Stuckey from Wilmington in a major decision, 15-3. Mellott is guaranteed a spot on the awards podium. He could possibly place as high as third, depending on how he wrestles today.
Ducat makes podium
Last season, as a freshman, Defiance’s Mason Ducat qualified for the Division II state wrestling tournament, where he went 0-2 and was eliminated the first day.
This weekend, Ducat (49-5) has put himself in position to come away with at least a top-eight finish in the 132-pound weight class in Division II. He will wrestle in today’s seventh-place match.
“It (last year’s state performance) motivated me a lot. It gave me a lot of confidence, because I feel like I’ve grown as a wrestler, since last year,” Ducat said.
Miracle earns podium spot
Celina sophomore Kenzie Miracle (34-10) went 1-2 Saturday, after winning her first-round match Friday. Now, she will wrestle in the seventh-place match in the 105-pound weight class today in the girls state wrestling tournament. Miracle will take on Tinora’s Ava Steffel in the seventh-place match. Miracle was the first Lima area girl wrestler to win a match at the first OHSAA sanctioned state wrestling tournament this weekend.
Miracle said it is never easy to move on from a loss, and get ready for the next opponent.
“It’s hard, because I kind of want to be done for a little bit and have a nice break. But now I have to get ready to wrestle again,” she said after her quarterfinal loss on Saturday.
Other area wrestlers eliminated
Allen East’s Kade Wireman (D-III, 157) and Trenton Gatchell (D-III, 165), Coldwater’s Will Fox (D-III, 215), Indian Lake’s Owen Pummel (D-III, 190), and Spencerville’s Logan Johnson (D-III, 215) were all eliminated from the tournament Saturday.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.