The Union County High School wrestling team enters this weekend’s State Championships ranked No. 1 in the state, and St. Xavier coach Jim Kraeszig didn’t mind touting the Braves as the team to beat.
And if Kraeszig chose to employ a bit of gamesmanship in talking about Union County, so be it.
“They’re definitely the top dog … and I don’t mind saying it,” Kraeszig said. “That crown is heavy. We want to take it from them.”
The State Championships are set for Friday and Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena in Lexington. Wrestling will begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday and continue throughout the day. Saturday’s matches will start at 9 a.m., with the finals set to begin at approximately 5 p.m.
Union County is the defending state champion and has three wrestlers ranked No. 1 in the state in their respective weight classes – Zeke Escalera at 106 pounds, Saul Ervin at 132 and Bryce Sheffer at 138.
Union County defeated St. X 46-19 in the State Duals final two weeks ago. Kraeszig said the Braves and Tigers, along with No. 4 Woodford County and No. 5 Johnson Central, should be the top contenders for the team title this weekend.
“This tournament is so different because it’s so unpredictable,” Kraeszig said. “It’s so much about what team gets hot. … I think it’s going to be very close.”
St. Xavier’s top contenders for an individual title are Nate Wheeler (ranked No. 3 at 120 pounds), Konner Kraeszig (No. 3 at 138) and Clayton Henson (No. 2 at 145). Kraeszig also expects big showings from Cameron Ward (No. 5 at 160) and Isaac Marrett (No. 10 at 285).
“Our guys are hungry,” said Kraeszig, whose Tigers won their last state title in 2013. “We just have to keep their minds right and be ready to pounce.”
The Louisville area has two No. 1-ranked wrestlers, but only one will compete this weekend.
Male sophomore Zane Brown is ranked No. 1 at 152 pounds and was the state runner-up at 120 last year.
North Oldham senior Landin Jones, ranked No. 1 at 285 pounds, will not compete after suffering a dislocated elbow in the championship match of last weekend’s Region Five Tournament.
North Oldham coach Tony Zeppa declared Jones out Thursday afternoon. Jones was the state runner-up at 285 as a sophomore and a junior.
Zeppa said Jones will be out 4-5 weeks and then will compete in some national tournaments to gain exposure with college coaches.
“Fortunately he got to the finals twice, but that first place has been elusive to him,” Zeppa said. “He had a great run. It was one of those things where he didn’t want to go if he wasn’t 100 percent. He didn’t want to go in there and just wrestle at less than his best.”
Here are Kentucky’s top-ranked teams and individuals according to KentuckyWrestling.com:
Top 25 teams: 1. Union County, 2. St. Xavier, 3. Walton-Verona, 4. Woodford County, 5. Johnson Central, 6. Simon Kenton, 7. Oldham County, 8. John Hardin, 9. Madison Central, 10. Wayne County, 11. LaRue County, 12. Dixie Heights, 13. Meade County, 14. Apollo, 15. Campbell County, 16. Scott, 17. Male, 18. Calloway County, 19. North Oldham, 20. Cooper, 21. Fern Creek, 22. Ryle, 23. Taylor County, 24. Jeffersontown, 25. Henry Clay.
No. 1-ranked individuals:106 pounds – Zeke Escalera (Union County); 112 – Cagen Wallace (Wayne County); 120 – Brady Wells (Campbell County); 126 – Ryan Moore (Walton-Verona); 132 – Saul Ervin (Union County); 138 – Bryce Sheffer (Union County); 145 – Joey Roberts (Woodford County); 152 – Zane Brown (Male); 160 – Mason Smith (Walton-Verona); 170 – Casey Cornett (Simon Kenton); 182 – Max Andreoni (Woodford County); 195 – Matt Steven (LaRue County); 220 – Colby Culver (Calloway County); 285 – x-Landin Jones (North Oldham).
x-out with injury.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.