Four from D-III win their openers

COLUMBUS – It can come in many different styles and described many different ways. It can come in an exciting nailbiter of a match, or a quick pin. It can be termed fulfilling, or even unfortunate. But the bottom line is, a win’s a win.

And in the opening round of the state wrestling tournament, any kind of win takes you one step closer to the ultimate goal. One more win away from placing. Three more wins away from being a state champion.

That’s the spot four local athletes find themselves in after the first day of the Division III state wrestling tournament.

Carey’s Brayden Leist, Upper Sandusky’s Alex Kenner, Fostoria’s Tony Reynolds and Mohawk’s Grant Price all scored opening round victories, putting themselves into today’s championship quarterfinals.

Leist was the first to punch his quarterfinal ticket, scoring a victory over Chase Mayabb of Troy Christian in a roller coaster of a 132-pound match. Leist scored a two-point takedown for the only points of the opening round, but a series of reversals and near falls highlighted the second. After a back-and-forth two minutes of action, Leist held an 8-7 lead.

“It was just a matter of getting my balance and not getting nervous when I got put on my back and just following through with the rest of the match,” Leist said.

The third period though belonged entirely to Leist, as the Blue Devil senior marched into the quarterfinals with a 14-7 victory.

“I started feeling out the kid by the third period,” Leist said. “I figured some things out, just used what I had to use and just went through it as fast as I can.”

Reynolds came into his 170-pound first-round match with perhaps one of the toughest draws, matched up against Brenden Stanley of Waynedale, a returning state runner-up. Stanley came to Columbus with a 53-1 record, but also came with an elbow injury suffered in last week’s district semifinal.

About a minute into their match, after Reynolds took a 2-0 lead following a takedown, Stanley wasn’t able to continue and Reynolds was awarded the win by injury default.

“I was a little nervous for the match, but I knew that he was injured so he wouldn’t be 100 percent,” Reynolds said. “I just went out and wrestled my match. It’s an unfortunate way to win that way, but a win’s a win.”

Redmen coach Nick Davis said that no matter how the win came, getting an opening=round win would give a lift to the returning sixth-place finisher from a year ago.

“I think that was a huge confidence boost for him,” Davis said. “Even though it was an injury default, it still will be a huge confidence boost to get past that first match. Now, since they place the top 8, you get two wins and you’re guaranteed to place. It takes us a step closer to at least placing. I know that’s not where we want to be. We want to be, top three, top four or obviously state champ, but it puts us another step closer.”

Also at 170 pounds, making his third-straight trip to state, Mohawk’s Grant Price was looking to do something he hasn’t done the previous two years, score an opening round win.

Price trailed Columbiana Crestview’s Matt Hardenbrook 4-2, before rallying for a 6-4 win.

“He had that quick single, on the edge of bounds, kind of worried me a little bit,” Price said. “But I got a hold of it. I got that reversal to get ahead by two and I felt pretty good from there.”

Price said he was driven by the fact that his previous two trips didn’t turn out the way he wanted.

“Feels a lot better now,” he said. “The last two years coming down, losing the first match every time, it’s a long road to haul, but I feel a lot better this year, felt real good after winning that first match.

“It really sets the pace. It feels a lot better when you get out there and get that first win; get that first win under your belt.”

Out of the six Upper Sandusky Rams making the trip to state, 152-pounded Alex Kenner was the only one to score an opening round win, pinning Caleb Horn of Amanda-Clearcreek in 4:13.

Kenner admitted he knew very little about his opponent, but felt if he wrestled his match, he’d be successful.

“I didn’t know who the kid was, but I just figured I’d go out, push my pace and do what I know I got to do, and that’s what I did,” he said.

“You don’t know what they’re going to do or anything,” Kenner added when asked the difference of facing an unfamiliar opponent. “So you just got to go on what you can do and capitalize on mistakes they make.”

Two more Rams stayed alive after scoring victories in the opening consolation round.

Thurston Dyer (106) routed Theodore Zoumpolidis of Martins Ferry, 16-4, while Carson Mengerink (113) pinned Wayne Trace’s Dustin Taylor in 59 seconds.

“I wanted to get out there, get it done. I was so ready for my next match. I really wanted to get it so bad,” Mengerink said. “I went out I think over confident (in the first match) not using my head. I didn’t keep to my game plan before the match. It definitely threw me off and I definitely think that’s one of the reasons I lost my first match. But I knew I had to wrestle back hard. You got to win that next match, that’s what it’s about.”

Consolation winners can climb as high as third place if they keep winning throughout the weekend. One more win would guarantee a placing.

“I wanted it so bad, ever since my freshman year and always came up short,” Mengerink said. “It definitely makes me feel good knowing I’m so close.”

Cory Frey (160), Tylor Pritchard (182) and Dylan Robertson (195) all saw their state runs come to an end following consolation round losses.

Pritchard said the focus now shifts to being the best teammate he can be to support the three Rams that will be in action today.

“I hope the best for them,” he said. “I’m going to be there to support them and cheer them on. I hope they do well. I got to fulfill my role as a teammate now.”

For the junior, coming up short this time around means next season will have an added motivation to it.

“It gives me a lot of drive,” he said. “I came up short of my goal. If that’s not motivation I don’t know what is.”

Shawn Kissell of Buckeye Central nearly saw his state trip come to an early end. After dropping his opening match to Ben Sexton of Sugarcreek Garaway 8-0, Kissell had to survive the first period in his consolation match with West Salem Northwestern’s Matt Hunter that nearly saw Kissell pinned. However, Kissell made it through the round, trailing 5-2, then took control scoring two near falls in the second round to take the lead, en route to a 13-8 victory.

“I was a little scared there at the moment,” Kissell admitted. “I really hoped I wouldn’t get out. It made me fight as hard as I could from the bottom. I didn’t want my season to be over. It definitely pushed me to where I need to be at right now.”

Wrestling resumes at 10 a.m. today with the championship quarterfinals, followed by the next round of consolations.