Roger Morgan said Gunner Loughman left a recent practice pretty beat up.
The Heath coach, however, had a method to his madness. Several recent area graduates, including Heath state placers Dom Barlow and Travis Drumm and Lakewood state placer DeLane King, have been in the practice room to give Loughman a stiff test.
Loughman, a senior at 195 pounds, placed second in the Division III sectional tournament a year ago, but he lost two nailbiters at the district tournament to fall short of state.
“I plan on having a pretty big year because I didn’t go as far as I wanted to last year,” said Loughman, who will drop to 182 in January. “I have to do it this year. I made districts, and I ended up going 1-2. In my opinion, I should have made it out, but I didn’t wrestle very well.”
Loughman is Heath’s top wrestler at 8-1. He might have a chance to avenge his one loss against Johnstown’s Clayton Bullard in Saturday’s Licking County Invitational.
The tournament is at 10 a.m. at Licking Heights. Loughman expects a difficult bracket at 195, but he could find himself in the mix.
“I want to definitely get some redemption if I end up crossing Bullard again,” Loughman said. “I beat him in a close match last year, and the opposite happened this year. I don’t really want to plan the whole tournament around one person. Obviously, I want to win it.”
The Bulldogs will not win the county title, but they expect to have a few placers. Illness and injury have left the practice room a bit emptier than usual. Heath is 0-9 in duals so far, but the Bulldogs won more contested matches than their opponent in most of them.
Lightweights Isaiah Young and Kevin Goodin and middleweights Austin Pettit and Logan Potts had one loss each in the Dan Gartner Duals at Whitehall two weeks ago. Pettit had his junior season ended a year ago when he tore his MCL in the Mid-State League-Ohio Division tournament.
“Potts and (John Perkins) are right around my weight, so that just keeps the intensity up during practice,” said Pettit, who likely will wrestle at 132 on Saturday. “It makes every practice a hard practice.”
Granville heavyweight exudes confidence
Granville senior Caleb Sims had to take his lumps.
He said he rarely won in the practice room as a sophomore because he practiced daily with seniors Kirk Willis, Cole Gordon and Bobby Kent. Sims, however, stuck with the sport and qualified for the Division II district tournament a year ago.
He placed fourth in the sectional tournament, so he was not seen as a contender at the district tournament. Sims, however, paid back two opponents for sectional losses to earn a district medal.
“Junior year, I got on the mat and was thinking, ‘Oh, I am not going to do that well,'” Sims said. “I just proved to myself that I could do it. I made districts, and I got sixth.”
At about 250 pounds, Sims said he feels more versatile. He can overpower light heavyweights, but he should be quick enough to avoid getting caught under larger ones.
Sims lost plenty in the wrestling room earlier in his career. Now, he is dishing out the punishment on the mat.
“Last year, I wrestled almost all on power,” Sims said. “I am trying to learn this year how to wrestle on speed and power. It is a deadly combo.”
Northridge a title threat
Licking Valley has won the Licking County Invitational three straight years, but Northridge might be ready to dethrone the Panthers. The Vikings were second a year ago, and they have had some impressive performances so far.
Senior heavyweight Anthoney Verhovec, a 2012 district qualifier, has won a pair of titles against top competition at Mount Vernon’s Wazie Classic and East Liverpool’s King of the Hill. Williams, who placed fourth in the 2012 state tournament, was the Most Outstanding Wrestler at Mount Vernon and placed second at 152 at East Liverpool.
Shane Mulligan at 138 also has a title and a runner-up finish to his credit, and sophomore Jake Adkins, Northridge’s third returning state qualifier, has a title and third place this season. The Vikings were fourth in a field filled with Division I schools at Mount Vernon, and they were second behind Brooke, a West Virginia power, at East Liverpool.