Logan Johnson saves his best for last.
The Licking Valley junior had a magical string of third periods Saturday, and the thrilling run will carry him all the way to the Division II state meet. Johnson had three straight heart-stopping wins at 138 pounds to be the area’s biggest surprise, advancing out of the district tournament at Heath.
“This year, I have had more confidence in myself, and I have been training harder,” Johnson said. “It always comes down to the end with me, and I have always been able to sneak in moves. It just comes down to pride and heart, really.
“Coming into today, I was going to wrestle my hardest. I never would have thought I would make it through, but here I am.”
Johnson and five others from the Heath district compete in the state tournament at Ohio State’s Value City Arena next weekend. It begins Thursday afternoon.
Johnson had victories of 8-7, 8-6 and 6-3 in succession to advance. The second victory came in overtime against Highland’s Jake Limings, who beat Johnson by technical fall just a week ago.
Johnson trailed both Limings and Dover’s Isaac Hammonds in the third period. Johnson’s five-point move against Hammonds during the final 15 seconds brought teammates pouring out of the stands.
“It was now or never. I had to push to my limit,” said Johnson, who placed fourth. “It is that time when you feel you have it won. The last few seconds, you have to do something. When my whole team came down and congratulated me after, that gave me a big boost.”
Lakewood’s Junior King at 182 was the area’s only champion. King’s teammate John Gershom was second at 145, and Valley’s Nathan McCown finished runner-up to King at 182. Valley’s Blake Owens was third at 195, and Granville’s Will Navin was fourth at 160.
King and McCown matched up for the fifth time this season, and King got the better of it for the third straight week. Duplicating his titles from the Mid-State League-Ohio Division and sectional tournaments, King had three takedowns in pulling out a 7-4 victory.
“I was finishing my shots,” King said. “It is very hard to hold him down. He is a strong kid.”
Because Lakewood has just a few kids on its team, the Lancers routinely barnstorm during the practice week. King and McCown often have seen each other on the practice mat, and that friendly rivalry has carried over as the duo has made 182-pound brackets their personal playground.
McCown beat Claymont’s Colt Crall 6-4 in his semifinal. New Philadelphia’s Dakota Hill found out what King’s previous opponents already knew. He is seemingly impossible to score against. King beat Hill 1-0 in their semifinal.
King took down McCown once in the first period and twice during the second. McCown always was within striking distance, but King always appeared in control.
“You get to this level when everybody is so good, and if you get down by a couple points, it is so much harder to get those extra couple points back,” McCown said. “The more mistakes you make the harder it is to win.”
Gershom excels at low-scoring matches, and after winning a 4-3 decision in the second round Friday, he returned Saturday and beat Mifflin’s Alec Mills 5-1 in the semifinals to lock up his second straight state berth.
Gershom unfortunately had to settle for second when history repeated itself. West Holmes’ Max Rohskopf dominated control of the finals match and pinned Gershom during the final seconds of the second period. It was the same result in the 138 final a year ago.
“I just want to wrestle him again,” Gershom said. “I know it can get better than that.”
Owens was beaten up in the semifinals by Tri-Valley’s Austin Jones, who had his unbeaten string end in overtime in the finals.
Owens, however, rebounded and won a nailbiter, 3-2, with Maysville’s Alex Presley, when Presley was ruled to have escaped the mat during overtime.
Navin also had to overcome a semifinal loss to advance. Navin exorcised a demon, avenging a MSL-Ohio loss to Whitehall’s Noah Young, 4-3.