Northridge answered its wakeup call with a resounding victory on Wednesday.
Hosting a Division III regional quarterfinal in the first year of Ohio’s team dual competition, the second-seeded Vikings overpowered 10th-seeded Heath 62-9.
After dominating the first part of the season, including the Licking County Invitational, Northridge got sent back to earth with a 34-31 dual loss to Licking Valley. It helped the Vikings refocus on a possible run to the state tournament, which continues in the regional semifinals next Wednesday against sixth-seeded Mount Gilead at a site to be determined.
“They might have been a little overconfident the last couple of weeks, and it was a little reality check last weekend (against Valley),” coach Eric Potts said. “They’ve gotten back to where their heads are right for what’s ahead of us. I could see it some in the wrestling room this week.”
“We’ve been rolling through the first part of the season, and to lose to Valley in a dual, it hurts,” said All-Ohioan Thomas Williams, who pinned Heath freshman Tristan McKee in 1:25 at 152 pounds. “For that to happen was a learning experience.
“We can go all the way. We have the team to do it. Everyone has turned it up.”
Sophomore Jake Adkins, who pinned Heath sophomore Isaiah Young in 3:16 at 106, made it to state in 2012 and thinks Northridge can do it as a team in the duals.
“Our goal is to get to St. John Arena,” Adkins said. “We can go a long way, but everyone has to be on board with commitment, be top notch. We showed up tonight and wrestled hard.”
Shane Mulligan won a major decision against Heath’s Austin Pettit 11-2 at 132, and Northridge’s Drew Mullen won a 6-1 decision at 138 against Logan Potts. Northridge’s Wade Stischok won a major decision against John Perkins 13-2 at 145, and teammate Jon Barber beat Anthony Martinez-Bradley 11-5 at 220.
In perhaps the best match of the night, Heath senior Gunner Loughman defeated Zach Rudy 5-1 at 195. Heath senior Kenny Calvert pinned Levi Hatfield in 1:22 at 182.
“Kenny has been our go-to guy this year. He’s kind of been a forgotten wrestler since he hasn’t wrestled varsity,” coach Roger Morgan said. “But he takes what he learns in the room and carries it over to the mat.”
Morgan almost didn’t have the minimum eight wrestlers required to compete in the duals. Heath had to forfeit six matches.
“We’re just young and have so many holes,” he said. “Our 115 and our 170 have been plagued by illness, and our 126 and 160 have been fighting eligibility. So that’s four more wrestlers we could have had. But all of our kids improved over last week.”
The Bulldogs received a first-round bye when seventh-seeded Cardington had to withdraw. Third-seeded Newark Catholic was scheduled to face Mount Gilead in Wednesday’s opening match, but also had to withdraw when two of its wrestlers couldn’t go and left the Green Wave with only six.
“It’s nice when you have a team that can compete, but when you don’t, you have to shift to individual results,” NC coach Jason Boucher said in a phone interview with The Advocate. “There were 15 teams in Division III which had to drop out because of injuries and eligibility.
“It’s cyclical in Division III. Some years, everyone has full teams while in others, they don’t.”
“A lot of teams are teetering back and forth” (on whether they have enough wrestlers), Morgan said. “I would like to see more teams at the regional sites, maybe with two mats going instead of one. It brings in more fans and creates more excitement.”