Plenty accomplished for area grapplers

COLUMBUS – Getting to the state wrestling tournament is a huge accomplishment. Placing at state is something special.

For four area wrestlers that got to climb the podium, it was an unforgettable experience.

Buckeye Central’s Shawn Kissell (285) and Upper Sandusky’s Alex Kenner (152) each picked up sixth place finishes in Division III while a pair of 132-pounders, Carey’s Brayden Leist in Division III and Columbian’s Derik Kopp in Division II took home eighth place finishes.

No matter where they finished, placing at state made all the years of hard work worth it.

“It had its ups and downs. It’s definitely something, I wish I would’ve came before, but I’m glad I got to experience it my senior year,” Kissell said.

“It was an amazing experience,” Leist added. “I just used what God gave me and just put it through to my fullest potential. Eighth place is great. Can’t be disappointed in anything.

“I knew there was going to be a lot of good people down here so I wasn’t too worried about the outcome. I just wrestled through as hard as I could.”

Kissell and Kenner each began Saturday in the consolation semifinals, but each dropped a pair to land in sixth place. Kissell dropped a 4-2 match to Ben Sexton of Sugarcreek Garaway, then fell to Joe Newsome of Tuscarawas Valley 6-1 in the fifth place match.

Kenner fell to Jordan Marshall of Troy Christian 10-4, then lost 13-6 to Bluffton’s Zach Wilson.

Buckeye Central coach Chris Smith said there’s nothing to be disappointed about with his wrestler finishing his career with a sixth-place state finish.

“I think we finished strong. Not disappointed with how we finished,” he said. “Could’ve won the last one, but can’t make mistakes down here and we made one. But I’m happy with it overall. Hopefully this will get more interest in wrestling and we can start putting this program back to where we want it to be.”

Kissell is just the second Buckeye Central wrestler to place at state. Kissell and his coach are hoping this spurs growth in the program.

“Hopefully it puts the eye on the sport a little bit,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can get a little more involvement. Hopefully the kids we do have see what work it takes and what is capable. We’re hoping this isn’t our one and only trip for Buckeye.”

“I hope that inspires guys that come out and hopefully it builds the program up again,” Kissell added.

Leist lost his match for seventh place, 11-1, to Dakota Mays of Nelsonville-York. Kopp also lost a match for seventh place, a controversial 3-2 decision to Andy Dobben of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.

The match was plagued with stoppages and questionable stalling calls on both wrestlers.

“Coming down here as a senior and placing is a good thing, but I would love to hear what the official has to say on the ruling on that because all that kid’s were off of supposedly penalty points,” Columbian coach Chad Long said. “I just don’t get, I don’t understand how you can have state officials down here that don’t have a clue on the rules and interpretations of what actually happened in the match. It’s a shame we have officials like that down here because I felt Kopp wrestled pretty solid and to lose because of an official, for him to determine a kids match is totally wrong.”

Kopp, a senior, leaves the mat as Columbian’s all-time wins leader and according to Long, set a great example to the next generation of Columbian wrestlers.

“He has the most wins in the career of Tiffin Columbian, over 150 wins,” Long said. “He set the plateau for all these kids getting ready to come through the program that’s been looking up to him. He’s been a great figure in the wrestling room. He works hard, his hard work paid dividends for him this year and it has his entire career.”

Likewise, Leist leaves Carey as the school’s leader in career wins with 137. With his eighth-place finish this year, coming on the heels of Cory Larick’s sixth place finish a year ago, Leist hopes the example is set for those coming up through the program.

“It shows that a lot of hard work and putting everything through as hard as you can will get you down here, will get you a place,” he said.