Licking Valley knew the formula it needed Wednesday.
The Panthers needed to gain enough points early to put their heavyweights in position to bring home the victory. That strategy worked against Granville, but Valley came up short against host Circleville.
Valley lost 37-32 to top-seeded Circleville in a Division II regional semifinal in the inaugural year of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s team tournament. The Panthers earlier beat Granville 37-26.
“I had been having trouble with my thumb, so I was a little worried about that,” said Valley’s Bo Redman, who had two pins at 220. “I was motivated, tried my best and got it.
“I believe we are improving by a lot and will be pretty solid in a couple weeks. We had a couple guys out and were kind of counting on them. When that happened, we were kind of on one leg.”
Valley won five of the final six matches, including Redman’s second pin, to pull closer to Circleville. But the Tigers essentially won the dual with four early pins. Steven Nethers picked up a 15-4 victory at 120, but that was Valley’s only win until Tommy Wogan’s first-period pin at 160.
The Panthers finished strong. Nathan McCown won 14-4 at 182, and Abe Smith, Redman and Jaqui Van Meter followed with pins in the final three matches.
“We needed the close matches,” Valley coach Jeremy Tate said. “Circleville beat me earlier in the year by 15 points. We had it a lot closer here, but I still feel we should have won. We had a couple matches where we didn’t wrestle the way I wanted them to.”
Granville and Valley were voted seeds No. 2 and 3, and the two teams were separated by a razor-thin margin. Valley was able to avoid an early hole thanks to two forfeits and a pair of thrilling victories.
At 132, Justin Winland rallied from a 7-1 deficit to stun Christian Price 12-7. Logan Johnson followed by nipping Tyler Perkins at 9-8 at 138 with a takedown and a near fall during the final seconds.
“We swung the momentum in the third period against Granville, and we couldn’t do it (against Circleville),” Tate said. “Circleville is a good team — don’t get me wrong — but if we wrestle, we are just as good.”
Several of the Blue Aces were wrestling up a weight because Nick Capaci, who has not been able to condition because of illness, could not make it down to 120, but that was of little consolation to coach Marvin Bright. Granville let two third-period leads get away.
“I told these guys that Licking Valley gets better through the year. They always have,” Bright said. “(Tate) always get them primed for the end of the season. I told them they would be fighting until the very end, and they did.”
The Blue Aces still had a 23-18 lead thanks to overtime victories from Zach Purdy at 145 and Will Navin at 160 sandwiching Dain Steffeny’s technical fall at 152.
Valley eventually surged ahead, scoring decisions from Caleb Nethers at 170 and Drew Carson at 182 and clinching the win with pins from McCown and Redman.
“I had wrestled (Granville’s Caleb Browne) in middle school, and he was good then, too,” Redman said. “I think I wrestle well with pressure on me. Thank God, I did it.”
Granville’s Caleb Sims won 2-1 at heavyweight to cap the scoring. Mason Holt at 106 and Capaci at 126 had early pins for the Blue Aces.