Not everyone agrees, but standout Northmor wrestler Tyler Beck doesn’t see any downside to the OHSAA’s newest venture — a dual team state tournament.
The inaugural step-ladder tourney begins Wednesday at numerous sites throughout Ohio with two rounds of regional quarterfinal action. Two rounds of regional semis follow next Wednesday, with the regional finals seven days later, leading up to the Elite Eight in Division I, II and III converging on Ohio State’s St. John Arena for a shot at state championships on Saturday, Feb. 6.
Northmor is a No. 1 seed in its D-III sub-regional and is one of the host sites. The Knights have a first-round bye and will face either No.6 Johnstown-Monroe or No. 9 Frederickown in the second match. As long as coach Scott Carr and Co. keep winning, they will host all the way through the regional finals.
“It’s more mat time,” said Beck, ranked fifth in the state at 195 pounds. “I don’t know how well it’s put together, but hopefully it will be good competition.
“It’s a lot better than practice for endurance … and everything.”
Judging by all the schools with teams that aren’t participating, not everyone shares Beck’s perspective.
Teams in north central Ohio that aren’t participating include Mansfield Senior, Madison and Clear Fork.
With Senior High, it’s a numbers issue. The Tygers only had six wrestlers in the lineup for the 51st J.C. Gorman Invitational, a tournament they host. Teams must fill a minimum of eight weight classes to compete in the state duals.
With Madison, it’s an injury and illness issue and coach Doug Mosier didn’t want to take any further risk of crippling his lineup.
With Clear Fork, it’s a familiarity issue.
“I don’t want to see Lexington and Madison five times in three weeks,” said coach Wade Miller, whose Colts would have been in the same sub-region with those two D-II programs. “I’m trying to get individuals to the state tournament and we have to go through those guys to do it. It’s bad enough that we have to see them at the Gorman and the (Ohio Cardinal) conference (during the regular season).”
An argument could be made that familiarity helps. Lex’s Jake Faust might not have beaten Blake Kastl of national power St. Paris Graham for a state championship last season if he hadn’t formulated a gameplan off close losses to Kastl in two previous meetings.
But Miller can counter with a flip side.
“We had it happen to us,” Miller said. “Brandon (O’Neill, a 2012 state runner-up) saw Clyde (losing to Clyde’s Chris Moore in the state finals after beating him two weeks earlier) … so it can just as easily go the other way, too.”
Lex, a No.1 seed, was supposed to be a host this week, but with only three teams filling a possible eight spots in their sub-region the Minutemen get two byes into next week’s regional semis, which they are also set to host.
Having all of this week off doesn’t sit well with Lex coach Brent Rastetter.
“Teams should have to compete in the meet, just like they do in other (OHSAA) tournaments, like basketball,” he said.
“I can’t for the life of me understand why a coach would opt out. It’s extra competition and it doesn’t count against your points. (Team are allowed to spend 20 points during the season, based on the size of each meet.)
“What message is that sending kids if you don’t try and go out and compete? I’d make it a requirement like they do in basketball and anything else. If you’re going to have a (OHSAA) tournament, make everyone get involved.”
Ashland, enjoying a resurgence this season under new coach Ted Tonn, is a fourth seed at the D-I sub-region in Marysville and needed only a win over No.5 Olentangy to advance to the regional semis. But Tonn, who built Crestview into a Firelands Conference power, said he is filling his lineup with mostly backups because of the travel involved.
“It’s a four-hour roundtrip for us and we won’t get home until midnight or 1 a.m. and then, if we win, we have to turn around and do it all over again next week with the (Ohio Cardinal) conference meet just three days later,” Tonn said.
“They need to tweak this thing, especially when it comes to the geography for schools that aren’t in metropolitan areas. One of the OHSAA people told me we are traveling farther than any other school in the state.”
Up until this year, the coaches association ran a one-day State Duals tournament on a Sunday in late January, with four teams selected in three divisions based on past performance by returnees for each school.
This new tournament, sponsored and conducted by the state’s high school governing body, is complementing, not replacing, the traditional state tournament. It will go on as usual Feb. 28-March 2 at OSU’s Schottenstein Center after celebrating its 75th anniversary last season.
Galion, seeded No. 3 in its D-III sub-region, will face No. 6 Cory-Rawson at Woodmore High School with a chance to advance to the regional semis.
“This sounds cool and I want to see what it’s all about,” said Galion lightweight Zac Tupps, a 2012 state qualifier. “We can’t go in overconfident. We have to stay confident, but we have to wrestle solid and not overlook anybody.”
Lex was state runner-up to Graham last year, but the prospect of going head-to-head in 14 weight classes adds more spice to this budding rivalry.
“I think this (dual) tournament will be fun,” said Lex’s reigning 195-pound state champ Josh Lehner.
“We haven’t dualed Graham since I was in junior high, but it would be great to get to the state finals against them in St. John Arena.
“I know there’s a lot of history in that place. They used to hold the state meet there and I was there once to watch Ohio State duel Michigan.”
Graham beat Lex 62-6 in the finals of the 2009 State Duals. Since then, though, the Minutemen have posted four straight top 10 finishes at the state meet, capped by last year’s runner-up trophy and the school’s first two state champs in Faust and Lehner.
“I haven’t even thought about the conference meet yet,” Rastetter said. “Looking at the matchups for the state duals is an exciting thing for me.
“I think we can compete with anybody from 160 pounds up. We just have to get our lighter weights to be less hot and cold.”
Jacob Kasper (182), Lehner (195) and Bailey Faust (220), in particular, present a murderers’ row for Lex.
“To finish second (at state) last year was great, but this (dual format) includes everybody (not just state qualifiers),” Lehner said.
“Everybody contributes. It’s going to take more of a team effort.”
Editor’s note: Complete brackets for the OHSAA state duals team tournament can be found at http://www.ohsaa.org