From a Lexington perspective, Goliath won Saturday night. But from a Northmor vantage point, fortunately, he lost.
Wrestling on adjacent mats — and, at one point, even on the same mat — Lexington’s Josh Lehner and Northmor’s Tyler Beck claimed the 195-pound state championships in Division II and III, respectively, at the 76th state wrestling tournament.
Lehner become his school’s first two-time champ and the first Minuteman to finish a season unbeaten with his 6-1 win over Sandusky’s Isaiah Margheim. Beck went overtime to stun projected champ Dalton Ishmael of Northmor 6-4, finishing the season with only one loss — to Lehner.
“We slayed Goliath today,” crowed Northmor coach Scott Carr.
Ishmael is the all-time career leader in pins in Ohio and, maybe more significantly, had won his other two meetings with Beck in past state meets.
“I told (Beck) to work on what he’d been working on all year,” Carr said. “He had been working the last three or four months with Jeremiah Howe (ex-Knight) on leg attacks and finishing.”
Beck-Ishmael III was an all-out brawl. Beck got flung into Lehner’s ring at one point and then his momentum sent him falling off the side of the raised stage in Value City Arena after his takedown tied the match 4-4 in the final seconds of the third period.
Ishmael, meanwhile, used up most of his blood time plugging up his nose. The trainers on site ended up wrapping up his face, making him look Hannibal Lechter.
The bout was stopped again when Beck got poked in the eye in the first overtime. But once action resumed Beck quickly put Ishmael — and himself — out of their misery with a takedown, 37 seconds into the first extra period.
Somehow, Beck was able to see well enough to leap into the arms of Carr and assistant Jamie Christo.
“It’s the state finals; it’s what you expect,” Carr said of the MMA-like intensity. “You expect a war, you expect a battle. Sometimes it comes to that.”
Or to good fortune.
“It was karma,” Carr said. “I found 850 dollars in a money envelope in the weigh-in area. I turned it in, but I knew it was going to be good karma.”
Or it could have been Beck’s first name. Carr’s first state champ, in 2011, was also a Tyler (Heminger).
“I think Tyler’s going to be a pretty popular name in Morrow County,” Carr joked.
Beck was feeling no pain.
“All the wrestlers talk about how in D-III and D-I (the two end mats) you can fall off the stage at any moment,” Beck, 50-1, said. “Yeah, it sucked, but I guess I’m proof it can happen.
“I hit my back, but it probably looked worse than it felt. Maybe it was adrenaline, but it wasn’t that painful.”
Beck said his confidence got a boost when he saw Loudonville’s Ryan Weber go the distance with Ishmael in a 6-1 semifinal loss. Ironically, the only other time Beck found himself in OT this season was in a quarterfinal win over Weber at the J.C. Gorman Invitational.
“I knew when I wrestled Ishmael I wasn’t prepared, and I had to prepare for Ishmael,” Beck said. “If I kept it close, I knew I had a chance. I looked at that he wasn’t used to going three periods, so if I got that far, my chances would increase.”
Lehner’s victory was his first match here in the last two years that he did not win by technical fall or pin. Like that mattered.
“He probably wanted to put on a show, but he’s 52-0 and Lexington’s first two-time champ,” Lex coach Brent Rastetter said.
Everybody was probably watching the Beck-Ishmael slugfest anyway.
“I called that match,” Rastetter said. “I told Christo and Carr that Beck would win. I saw him at practice Monday (when Northmor came over to Lex) and I thought he was wrestling better than I’ve ever seen him wrestle.”
All the stoppages in that match enabled Lehner to catch the wild finish.
“That was such a good match,” Lehner said. “(Beck) deserved it. I said at the end of the Gorman (where Lehner beat Beck by technical fall) that he was the strongest kid I’ve faced and he showed it.”
But there’s strong and then there’s Lehner strong. In sectional, district and state matches the last two years he went 24-0, with 19 pins or technical falls.
The most impressive win of his career didn’t even happen here. It happened at this year’s Medina Invitational Tournament when he pinned now two-time Division I state champ JoJo Tayse of Massillon Perry in 71 seconds.
“It’s a lot of pressure off,” the future North Carolina Tar Heel said. “When I walked through the tunnel for the last time, that’s when it really hit me that it was my last match, and I wanted to go out with a win.”
When it was announced in the arena about an hour before the finals that wrestlers could warm up on the stage, Lehner was the first one to climb the stairs.
Anxious are we?
“Just the experience of being out there, especially beforehand when the lights are off (for the Parade of Champions)… I just wanted to be out there every moment I could,” Lehner said.
Funny, coming from a kid who usually got off the mats here in a hurry.
“He put together a fantastic year,” Rastetter said. “I can’t wait to see what he does at the next level.”
North central Ohio claimed a third champion when Ashland’s Wyatt Music beat Olentangy Liberty’s Jake Ryan 8-0 for the Division I title. But Loudonville heavyweight Austin Cary saw his perfect season come to an end in a 5-2 loss to projected D-III champ Patrik Garren of Columbus Bishop Ready.
Music moved up two divisions to win his crown after three years at D-III Crestview. Even four-time state champ Jeff Jordan, coach of perennial state champion St. Paris Graham admitted afterwards that it’s a rare feat.
Asked if he had ever heard of anyone doing that, especially without a title at the smallest-school level, Jordan said, “No, I have not.
“I think it’s real difficult. Division I does have a little more depth, so that’s a great accomplishment what Wyatt achieved.”
Cary, who competed last year at 220, finished his senior season 45-1.
“I pushed it to the end; I did my best,” he said, sporting a black eye that he got dueling with Weber in the warmup area. “It’s disappointing, but second place is not a bad gig.”