Nick Lancia had a long road to go Saturday, but he did not let it get him down.
The Watkins Memorial senior was on a mission to end his career at the Division I state tournament, and he will do that. Lancia won four consecutive matches at 152 pounds to place third in the district tournament at Hilliard Darby.
“I just had to clear my mind and just wrestle the best I could,” Lancia said. “I was confident I was going to make it because I knew I was the better wrestler. I was excited, but I am still not to where I want to be. I want to place.”
At the district, Lancia won his first-round match by pin Friday, but he lost his second-round match by pin to Lancaster’s Scott DeLuse, the eventual district champion.
Lancia returned Saturday and dominated his consolation opponents. He had a quick pin, then won by major decisions of 12-1 and 13-2 to secure his state bid.
In the third-place match, Lancia beat Westerville North’s Jacob Hinz 7-1. In the same position in 2012, Lancia won one consolation match, falling two wins shy of the state bid. He finished the run this time.
“I just felt like I was better than the kids I was going to wrestle,” Lancia said. “I was in the same situation last year, and I kind of learned off of it.”
Classmate Noah Holter almost followed Lancia’s identical path. After losing his second-round match, Holter had two quick consolation victories before a heartbreaking loss to Hilliard Davidson’s Nick Lawler.
Holter’s career came to an end in a 7-5 overtime loss.
Watkins coach Mark Kurth said: “I am not one to complain about officials. They are human and make mistakes. I can see one mistake, but we are talking four or five very questionable calls. Noah should have never lost that match.”
Gershom ready for second chance
Lakewood’s John Gershom has a lot of wins in his four-year career.
Two might stand out. He beat a pair of St. Paris Graham opponents in winning at the Jimmy Wood Invitational at New Lexington in January, and that weekend possibly more than anything told him he was ready for the Division II state tournament.
“This time, I am not going to be as nervous,” Gershom said. “I have been there before, so it is going to be a little different. I would like to make it high on the podium.”
Gershom makes his return trip to Ohio State’s Value City Arena on Thursday, up a weight from 138 to 145. Gershom also won the Licking County and Mid-State League-Ohio Division tournaments.
Gershom won the sectional at Licking Valley before finishing as district runner-up for the second consecutive year to West Holmes’ Max Rohskopf. He was 1-2 during the 2012 state tournament.
The state tournament is known for its grueling low-scoring matches, and that suits Gershom well. Gershom is at his best when he can get an early lead before draining the energy from his opponent with his strength.
“That is pretty much every single match I wrestle so I am used to it,” said Gershom, whose classmate Junior King was a district champion at 182. “I have to stay calm, can’t get nervous.”
McCown happy to have Owens joining him
Valley kept its recent run of success, sending three qualifiers to the state meet. Nathan McCown, who finished runner-up to King at 182 in the district, also was a part of a contingent of four Panthers in 2012.
This year, McCown is joined by juniors Logan Johnson at 138 and Blake Owens at 195. Owens won one match at the district tournament his freshman season before wrestling up a weight at 220 in 2012 to make room for McCown. Owens won his first two district matches before falling short of the state bid.
This time, Owens overcame a semifinal loss, rebounding to beat Maysville’s Alex Presley. The match went to overtime at 2-2, and Owens was rewarded for applying constant pressure. Presley was charged with a stalling point for escaping the mat.
“He finally made it,” McCown said. “He has been so good even though he has always been a grade behind us, but he was always up there with us. To see him finally getting there with me, it is something special.”
Loughman, Bullard renew rivalry
When Heath’s Gunner Loughman and Johnstown’s Clayton Bullard matched up at 195 pounds in the second round of the Division III district at Philo, it was clear the loser would have a difficult road back.
Loughman, a senior, got the best of the matchup, winning 13-7. He rode that momentum to a runner-up finish and his first state berth.
“He really took it on himself to get stronger,” Heath coach Roger Morgan said. “He’s not flashy. He’s nuts and bolts. He comes in and hits his one or two moves. I’ve tried to stress it to our other guys.”
To Bullard’s credit, he rebounded Saturday, winning four consecutive matches in dominant fashion to place third, and the junior secured his first state berth. Bullard had three pins and a technical fall after his loss to Loughman.
“I messed up at the beginning (against Loughman); it should have gone to overtime,” Bullard said. “I was pretty upset and had to fight my way through it. I was not going to mess this opportunity up. Other than Gunner’s match, I’m wrestling my best.”