COLUMBUS — The four Madison County high school wrestlers who had dreams of winning a state championship prior to the start of the Ohio High School Athletic Association championship tournament saw those dreams come to an abrupt end Thursday, March 8 and Friday, March 9.
None of the three wrestlers from West Jefferson, nor the lone participant from Jonathan Alder will be winning state crowns this year after the first day and a half of competition.
West Jeff junior Joey Buckland opened the festivities Thursday afternoon with a dominating 15-3 major decision victory over Jamie Viront of Massillon Tuslaw at 126 pounds. Buckland was quick and decisive and controlled the match from the very beginning.
His win gave him the rest of the day off Thursday and put him into a quarterfinal match Friday morning against Cole Mattin of Delta. Mattin was a whole different animal as he attacked early and often, scoring major points against a seemingly surprised Buckland.
“I felt pretty good going into the match, pretty confident,” Buckland said. “But right when we got out there, he shot pretty quick and surprised me a little bit.
“I got behind and all of a sudden, I’m thinking oh man, I really got to go. But he kept throwing that half in and I couldn’t get out of it.”
Mattin won the match with ease, as he cruised to a 16-0 tech fall victory.
West Jeff coach Nick Christopher said he warned Buckland about a possible fast start from Mattin. But once it happened his wrestler found himself in a hole he couldn’t get himself out of.
“I told him right off the bat be careful with the quick start from this kid, be ready for a quick shot,” the coach said. “And that’s what happened. That kid was pretty good, he was pretty technical. Whatever Joey was doing he was countering. We knew he was good. Everything Joey was throwing at him he had an answer to it.”
Buckland’s second match of the day Friday came in the consolation round against Ashland Crestview’s Dakota Blanton. Again Buckland (41-13) found himself on the wrong side of a tough match as he fell 19-4 in a tech fall. The loss ended his first stay at the state tourney.
Getting a chance to wrestle in front of thousands of fans on the state’s biggest stage is something the junior will be able to learn from going into next year.
“When you walk in you get goose bumps right away, you look up and it’s overwhelming with all of the people,” Buckland said. “With all of the people it’s just a great feeling. They say don’t get nervous, but with all these people I wasn’t nervous, I get excited.”
Christopher insists there is no way to prepare a wrestler for the state tournament environment until they’ve actually experienced it themselves.
“You try and talk to them a little bit, you bring them down here on the floor and look around,” the coach said. “But then they come through that bullpen and out of those curtains and see all these people, it’s different. Kids definitely feel it that’s for sure.”
West Jefferson junior Hunter Braithwaite’s (39-15) first state tournament appearance was a short one. He battled Casstown Miami East’s Brenden Dalton tough in his opening match Thursday, but it ended with a hard-fought 5-3 defeat. Braithwaite was the more active wrestler but he just couldn’t score the points needed to pull out the win.
He was then forced to wrestle his second match Thursday night and it didn’t end well. He was pinned in 2:11 by Crawford Hamrick of Massillon Tuslaw. The second defeat meant Braitwaite’s night and season were over.
West Jefferson High School senior Mark Woodard (40-15) ended the D-III district tournament as the fifth-place finisher and the state tournament alternate. But the wrestler got a chance to compete after a state slot opened up.
He made the most of the opportunity. After losing his opening match in a 9-0 major decision to Creston Norwayne’s Gavin Stika Thursday evening. He bounced back that night with a satisfying 9-4 decision over Carlton Roberts of Rossford in the first consolation round.
Woodard’s high school wrestling career ended with a 12-0 major decision loss to Colton Soles of Archbold Friday morning.
Jonathan Alder senior 120-pounder Jacob Johnson’s state tournament started as well as he could hope.
The Pioneers standout had prior state tournament experience and seemed to be comfortable on the mat in his first match of the weekend Thursday. Johnson earned a 9-2 decision over Fairfield Union’s Keegan Kohlert, earning him a slot in Friday morning’s quarterfinal.
Friday however didn’t start nearly as well as he dropped a 7-3 decision to Dominic Carone of Streetsboro. Johnson was penalized for series off illegal hands to the face penalties which led to points for his opponent.
Johnson (41-2), who had only lost once all season heading into the state tourney, bounced back from the Friday morning loss to score a 7-1 decision over Bryce Davis of Kenton Ridge to earn himself a spot on the award’s podium.
State wrestling was scheduled to continue Friday night and into the day on Saturday.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.
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