After placing five wrestlers among the top eight last year — but none finishing higher than third — Oldham County High School coach Aaron Riordan is hoping his team can take the next step at this weekend’s State Championships.
He’s even breaking out the football analogies.
“Last year we had five guys get there, but unfortunately we couldn’t get one of them to the finals,” Riordan said. “It’s like being in the fourth quarter on the 20-yard line. If you can get five to the semifinals and get the majority of them through (to the finals), you’re going to score a lot of team points.”
The Colonels finished eighth last year and could improve on that showing this weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena in Lexington. Wrestling will begin at 10 a.m. today and resume at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with the finals slated for 7 p.m. Saturday.
Oldham County, which won last week’s Region Five Tournament, qualified wrestlers in 12 of the 14 weight divisions. Riordan said sophomore John Shirkey (126 pounds), junior Connor Wilkerson (132) and senior Mike Caudill (285) have strong chances to reach finals.
Freshman Brady Emerson (113) and senior Nick McIntosh (152) also are ranked among the top four in their classes by KentuckyWrestling.com.
“We have high goals,” Riordan said. “We’re trying to get our kids out of the mind-set of thinking about if they lost to a guy previously or if a guy is ranked above them. This is why we practice and go through a long season: to get better and improve. You have to hope for and expect a different outcome.”
Two Louisville wrestlers are ranked No. 1 in their classes: St. Xavier junior Justin Lampe (145) and Trinity senior Bobby Bryant (285). Lampe lost in last year’s 132 final to Union County’s Jayce Carr. Bryant won the 195 title last year and now wrestles in the heaviest class (285) despite weighing around 220 pounds.
“He could wrestle at (the 220 class), but our team is a lot stronger as a whole with him at heavyweight,” Trinity coach Richard Brown said. “He’s so much more agile than those big guys.”
Other high-ranked wrestlers from Louisville are Moore’s Jason Hall (No. 2 at 113) and Justin McDaniel (No. 3 at 195), Southern’s Brian Crawley (No. 4 at 126) and Thomas Noe (No. 4 at 195), Trinity’s Ian Kahl (No. 3 at 138), St. X’s Dominic Lampe (No. 2 at 152) and Gabriel French (No. 2 at 160) and Fairdale’s Anthony Jennings (No. 4 at 220).
Both Riordan and Brown said defending champion Campbell County and Union County are the front-runners for the team title. Campbell County has brothers Stephen and Austin Myers, both of whom won individual crowns last year.
Union County has three returning state champions in Carr, Brock Ervin and Trae Blackwell. Ervin, a junior, is ranked No. 1 at 126 and is gunning for his fourth individual state title.
“Union County seems to get geared up pretty good for the postseason, but Campbell County is just tough top to bottom,” Brown said. “They’ll probably have three or four in the finals and a bunch of other placers.”
At a glance
Where: Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena, Lexington.
First- and second-round matches, starting at 10 a.m.
Wrestling begins at 9:30 a.m.; finals at 7 p.m.
$15 per day; $25 for two-day pass; kids 10 and under free.
Top-ranked wrestlers (according to KentuckyWrestling.com):
106 pounds – Cody Stephens (McCreary Central); 113 – Nathan Boston (Woodford County); 120 – Trae Blackwell (Union County); 126 – Brock Ervin (Union County); 132 – Sean Fausz (Campbell County); 138 – Jayce Carr (Union County); 145 – Justin Lampe (St. Xavier); 152 – Kevin Cooper (Simon Kenton); 160 – Stephen Myers (Campbell County); 170 – Caleb Canter (LaRue County); 182 – B.J. Carman (LaRue County); 195 – Wade Holtsclaw (John Hardin); 220 – Austin Myers (Campbell County); 285 – Bobby Bryant (Trinity).