COLUMBUS – The 84th annual Ohio High School Athletic Association wrestling state tournament was spread out in three different locations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Division I sessions were held at Hilliard Darby High School with Division II events at Marengo Highland and Division III at Marion Harding.
Across each division, Greater Cincinnati has at least one wrestler who advanced in the championship bracket and is two wins away from a state title.
Division I was highlighted by La Salle, which sends four wrestlers into Sunday’s Final Four. The Lancers are coming off a district team championship at Kettering Fairmont last weekend.
Senior Dustin Norris advanced to the state semifinals with a major decision (12-1) first-round victory over Elyria’s Connor Holm and a 5-1 win over Wadsworth’s Mikey Lewarchick in the quarterfinals.
Norris, a Purdue commit, is now two wins away from a second state wrestling championship. As a sophomore in 2019, he won the 113-pound title and was state runner-up at 106 pounds as a freshman the year before. He was denied the chance to repeat last season when the tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.
Norris was just the start of La Salle’s stellar Saturday as four of the Lancers’ five district winners went 2-0 in the championship bracket.
Senior Casey Wiles remained unbeaten (25-0) with a dominating technical fall victory over Nordonia’s Israel Petite in the first round of the 132-pound class, then held off Perrysburg’s Allenson Denkins in a 2-1 decision in the quarterfinals.
At 138 pounds, top-seeded Jake Niffenegger (39-1) had a 15-4 major decision win over Chillicothe’s Caleb Lake in the opener, then advanced due to the state semifinals due to an opponent’s injury.
Senior Darnai Heard scored a pin victory in the first round of the 145-pound class, then notched a 5-3 victory over Wadsworth’s Landon Hacker to improve to 34-6 overall.
La Salle freshman and district champion Tanner Spalding pinned his opening opponent before falling in the second round to Massillon Perry’s Austin McBurney.
Lebanon sophomore Jack McCall was another wrestler who had to wait to hit the state tournament mat after qualifying as a freshman last season. McCall had a 4-2 victory in the first round against Mayfield’s Eddie Wallace, then upset district champion Dylan Le of Dublin Scioto with a pin victory in the second round to advance in the 120-pound bracket.
“I don’t even know how to word how I was feeling,” McCall said. “My dreams have finally come true after all the countless hours of hard work I put into this sport from going to wrestling camps during the summer to nighttime jugs.”
McCall will take on Lakewood St. Edward senior and district champion Sean Seefeldt in the semifinals Sunday morning. Seefeldt, a University of Pennsylvania commit, was state runner-up at 106 pounds in 2019.
The only undefeated wrestlers in the 182-pound class were on a collision course Saturday and will face off in the state semifinals on Sunday. Mason senior Owen Amburgy improved to 30-0 with a dominating major decision (9-0) win in the first round and a pin victory in the quarterfinals against Lakewood St. Edward senior Hudson Hightower.
He'll face Macedonia Nordonia senior Salvatore Perrine (47-0), who knocked out La Salle junior Chase Stein in the first round and won 9-3 in the second.
Brandon Smith will represent Fairfield in the Final Four at 220. The senior (32-3) squeaked out a 5-4 win over Lakewood St. Edward freshman Jonny Slaper in the first round. In the quarterfinals, Smith took care of Dublin Coffman alternate Michael Blocher.
In Division II, Wyoming’s Malachi O’Leary, a district champion last week in Wilmington, breezed through the first two rounds at Marengo Highland. The junior had a major decision win (13-2) over Medina’s Logan Cravatas in the first round, then beat Louisville’s Dan Adams, 6-3, in the second.
O’Leary (28-1) will face Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s senior and district champion Kenneth Crosby (33-4) in the semifinals.
Batavia’s Brandon Sauter is two victories away from capping off a perfect season with a state championship. The junior is now 40-0 after a dominating 12-2 major decision over Warren’s Cole Coleman and a 5-2 win over Wauseon’s Damon Molina in the 120-pound class championship bracket.
Sauter finished seventh at 106 pounds as a freshman in 2019. He’ll face Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Dierre Clayton in Sunday’s state semifinals.
Greater Cincinnati’s lone Division III district champion rolled through the opening rounds and looks to bring home the gold at 138 pounds.
McNicholas junior Pierce Taylor followed up a first-round shutout of Delta’s Gabe Meyer with a major decision (13-4) second-round win over Crestview sophomore A.J. Coppersmith.
The 138-pound Final Four comes down to four district champions. Taylor will start against Milan Edison senior Casey Barnett (55-1) on Sunday.