COLUMBUS - It might have been the toughest hold somebody put on Columbian's Seth Williams all year. It was a mighty bear hug, to be sure. But, Williams wasn't trying for an escape, and certainly wasn't looking for reversal points.
He had no reason to. His coaches were simply congratulating him on a job well done.
Williams had just become a state champion.
PHOTO BY PAT GAIETTO
Columbian’s Seth Williams raises his arms to the sky after beating Carlisle’s Jimmy Sandlin, 5-1 in the Division II 170 pound title match Saturday night.
Williams beat Jimmy Sandlin of Carlisle 5-1 to win the Division II 170-pound state championship Saturday in Columbus.
"I'm not too overexcited. I've been dreaming about it for four years, so I kind have been here before," he said.
Despite the rush of emotions that had to come with getting his hand raised in victory, Williams kept his poise with his approach to the win. He calmly shook hands with his opponent and his coaches, pointed and gave a slight flex to his supporters in the crowd, then nearly got taken down for the first time in the tournament when his coaching staff rushed over to congratulate the new champion.
Talking after the match, Williams admitted it still hadn't sunk in yet that he was the best in Ohio. But did say it was a sweet feeling considering the long road he traveled.
"It feels great, especially coming up short last year. Getting pinned first round as a freshman, then winning the state title as a senior," he said in between congratulatory pats on the back from fellow wrestlers passing by.
It was Williams' fourth trip to state and fourth time he's placed, but the first time he's claimed the ultimate prize. Last year was the near miss as Williams finished runner-up. There were tears shed after Saturday's championship match, but they were from Columbian coach Chad Long who got choked up talking about Williams.
"He's put his heart and soul and faith in us at Tiffin," Long said while trying to hold back his emotions. "As a wrestling coach, as a family, he deserves everything he gets."
When Williams and Sandlin locked up in the championship match, the first round was a near stalemate with neither gaining an edge. Then Williams got a leg up. Literally.
Williams got a single-leg takedown in the closing seconds of the first round to grab a 2-0 lead. Williams started the second round in the down position and quickly got an escape to boost his lead to 3-0, then, much like in the first period, he turned a single-leg into another takedown with 15 seconds left in the period for a commanding 5-0 lead.
Williams said he held back a bit of his offense during his first few matches at state, not wanting to reveal his whole arsenal to his competition.
"The first three matches I didn't show anyone my style," Williams said. "Then all of a sudden I changed it up on him. Looks like it worked."
Two minutes stood between Williams and a state title. Four years of hard work, and countless hours of blood, sweat and tears came down to two minutes.
"The last two minutes felt like an hour to be honest," Williams said. "I didn't want to completely shut off my attacks, but I had to be smart, be on my defensive a little bit. But, when you're up like that you can't let it go."
And he didn't.
Sandlin got an escape point off Williams in the first 15 seconds of the final round, but Williams held off all Sandlin's takedown attempts and closed out the victory.
With it came Columbian's first state title.
"It feels awesome because Seth's such a great kid," Long said. "He's a great role model for our whole program. He's a great student-athlete. And for him to represent us, having our first state championship. It means a lot."
There is sure to be plenty more messages of congratulations, more bear hugs and pats on the back. But Williams said the celebration was going to begin with the people that's been there with him every step of the way.
"I'm going to go talk to my family," he said. "My coaches, friends, celebrate with them."