Johnstown’s Clayton Bullard wasn’t taking anything for granted Thursday at the Division III state tournament.
The junior had built a 4-1 lead against Versailles’ Kyle Dieringer, but Bullard stayed aggressive during the match before eventually winning 8-2 in a 195-pound first-round match at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
“I was really nervous the whole time,” Bullard said. “Everyone told me that it was really important to win the first match, so I knew I had to go out and take care of business.
“I wanted to go out and attack early and try to get it done as quick as possible. Even though I got up on him, I treated it like we were even because someone can always roll you and pin you — so you can’t let down even though you get ahead early.”
Bullard had plenty of motivation after being ineligible in 2012.
“I can’t even explain how frustrating it was last year because I felt like I could have made it,” Bullard said. “I got my grades where they needed to be, and I feel like I needed to make up for last year.”
Bullard wrestles Loudonville’s Ryan Weber, a district champion, in today’s second round.
Action begins at 10 a.m. The second consolation round wraps up the first session today. The semifinals are at 6:30 p.m.
Although Northridge’s Thomas Williams (145) — fourth at 138 in state in 2012 — won a district title and was a No. 1 seed, he said it felt like his first time at the meet.
“It’s a different feeling from last year because you never really know what to expect,” Williams said. “I just wanted come in and get the flow of it and the mat speed. All the kids are good, and they are here for a reason.
“For me, it’s a whole new year because kids get better, so you can’t take anything for granted. You can be a state champ one year and then not even make it the next.”
Williams took a 2-0 first-period lead against Bloomdale Elmwood’s Michael Baer. He led 5-0 heading into the third and finished with a strong 10-1 victory.
“I’m nervous all the way through the tournament, not just the first match,” Williams said. “It definitely helps to get ahead early because it can be tough on your opponent because he then feels like he has to start pressing a little bit. You want to set the tone early.”
Northridge sophomore Jake Adkins and Newark Catholic junior Caleb Ohl also parlayed district titles into comfortable first-round wins.
Adkins was in control against Troy Christian’s Zachary Davie, winning 12-6. It already is a far cry for Adkins from 2012, when he lost twice in state debut.
“It is nice getting the first one out of the way easy,” Adkins said. “Now, I just have to focus on the next one and be a little bit more prepared. I get a lot of rest time before my next one.”
Ohl also got his first career state win after finishing 0-2 in his first trip. Ohl never gave Wayne Trace’s Dustin Taylor a chance to breath.
Ohl quickly finished off a 16-1 technical fall. Ohl could be on a collision course with Dayton Christian’s Christian Clary in the semifinals. Clary is a two-time state placer.
“Winning your first one gets all of the nerves out and lets you know what to expect,” Ohl said. “Coming out of districts as a No. 1 seed, it doesn’t always mean you are going to have a easier match, but you have a better position normally.”
Ohl will have company today as senior teammate D.J. DeVito used overtime to stay alive. DeVito just missed a winning takedown in the final second of his first-round match, but he rebounded for a consolation victory.
Another victory and Ohl and DeVito will find themselves on the podium.
“I have been here and done that,” Ohl said. “I got the nerves out the first time, and I am ready to take it to the next level.”
Winning consolation matches were Northridge’s Rob Mickey (170) and Heath’s Gunner Loughman (182).
In Division I, Watkins Memorial’s Nick Lancia (152) was eliminated, going 0-2.
Kurt Snyder contributed
to this story.