Winter tournaments officially cancelled by OHSAA

PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS Columbian’s Brody Conley wrestles in the Division II 152-pound district wrestling tournament at Norwalk High School.

The news itself wasn’t surprising to Travis Salyer, or his three state qualifying wrestlers.

A little more than two weeks ago, the Columbian coach was ready to take three athletes, 152-pounder Brody Conley, 126-pounder Bret Minnick and 132-pounder Maddox Simcoe to the state wrestling tournament in Columbus.

Three hours before the group was set to depart — for an event with limited spectators — word came down from the Ohio High School Athletic Association that the state wrestling tournament, as well as the tournaments for all other winters sports, were postponed due to concerns about the spreading coronavirus.

They remained postponed until Thursday, when the OHSAA officially cancelled the tournaments.

“We all kind of knew it was imminent,” Salyer said Thursday. “We were in limbo there for a couple weeks.

“I talked to the guys today. They kinda knew. They were prepared for it,” he said. “A little heartbroken, but two sophomores and a freshman, they know they’ve got two and three years left, also.”

In a press release from the OHSAA, executive director Jerry Snodgrass said he shared the athletes’ disappointment.

“We are just devastated that the tournaments cannot be completed,” Snodgrass said. “But our priority is the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, communities and officials.”

High school spring sports remain postponed for now.

Conley, Minnick and Simcoe were three of 16 area state wrestling qualifiers. Upper Sandusky was the only boys basketball team still alive in the postseason. All area girls basketball teams had been eliminated from postseason play.

For Columbian, the wrestling tournament looked to be a big opportunity. Conley and Minnick figured to compete for titles, while Simcoe was the only freshman in Ohio to qualify for the state meet at 132 pounds.

“(Conley and Minnick) had aspirations to be three-time state champs,” Salyer said. “(Maddox) was looking to get as high on the podium as possible.”

Salyer said that while everyone was disappointed, all was not lost.

“I’m just disappointed for the kids. They’re the ones who put all the work in,” he said. “I would say it’s all for nothing, but it really isn’t. I told the guys today, I said, ‘Life is gonna throw you things you don’t expect. It’s how you bounce back from them.'”

The coach said it was a great year for the Tornadoes. TC reached the Division II regional finals in the state team tournament despite giving up three weight classes.

And there was individual success as well. Kesean Hatlay and Joey Simcoe were regional qualifiers.

“Last year we had five district placers, four state qualifiers, this year we had five district placers again, three state qualifiers,” Salyer said. “So, I think the consistency’s there. The younger guys are starting to buy in to the system and are getting big wins for us.”

Salyer pointed to the success of wrestlers like Carson Steinmetz, CJ Poole and Kane Mears. Mears, for example, had a 10-16 record in 2018-19. This season, he went 31-19.

The Tornadoes lose only three seniors: Joey Simcoe (a former state qualifier), Michael Eisenhower and James Gibson.

So there is a promising future, even if 2019-20, didn’t end how anyone hoped.

“We’ll have a little asterisk next to this year, I guess,” Salyer said.