Qualifying to the state wrestling tournament in Columbus is an extremely difficult endeavor.
Returning to the competition might be even more challenging. Woodmore junior Evan Ulinski will make his third trip to Columbus in Division III while Oak Harbor seniors Luke Cramer and Jared Chambers qualified the last two years in Division II.
“You have a bigger bull’s-eye,” Cramer said. “I’m more excited for my second time after last year. The state matches are more intense. I like to be on the attack. I’m ready to do big things and hopefully shine.”
Genoa’s Jay Nino (57-4) and Oak Harbor’s TJ Lawrence (31-11) qualified to today’s state tournament at Ohio State as sophomores. Nino (220) wrestles Columbus Winchester Harvest Prep’s Tony Peoples first in Division III while Lawrence faces Columbus Hamilton Township’s Alonzo Jewell.
“The goal at the beginning of the year was to place at state,” Nino said. “I expected to make it this year. I expected to make it last year. The expectations got raised as the season went on and I’d like to get top five.
“I’m trying not to focus on being here. I have to wrestle my best and I can place.”
Nino wrestled at 195 as a freshman. He enjoys the challenge wrestling mostly seniors and juniors at 220.
“I’m pretty much the youngest,” Nino said.
Seniors Drew Keenan (61-4) and Jake Fejes (52-8) and junior Cody Buckner (32-9) match the largest group Genoa has sent to state. Keenan (145) will face Shadyside’s Ian Baker first, Fejes (152) will wrestle Shadyside’s Alex Quinn and Buckner (285) will go against Columbus Bishop Ready’s Patrick Garren.
“We feel good doing something only two teams have done,” Nino said. “Maybe we can beat that before I graduate.”
Nino was overshadowed this season as four teammates earned their 100th victory but Nino is at 95 himself.
“I’m very proud of the seniors and junior getting 100,” he said. “I don’t mind flying under the radar. If I go out and wrestle to my capability (opponents) might be surprised.
“Fejes being a senior, (state) was his goal and he’d been so close. (Keenan) wanted to go to state. I’m proud of them both.”
Port Clinton senior Zach Wheeler (28-6) wrote down that he wanted to go to state on a piece of paper and made sure to look at it every day when he awoke. Wheeler (182) faces Richfield Revere’s Stephen Suglio first in Division II.
“I had to get to state,” he said. “I had a goal to get here. Now that I got here I have new goals. I want to make it on the podium. That’s the new goal.”
Wheeler won his go-to match for Columbus 1-0 with an escape. “He banged with me. I just stayed focused.”
Cramer topped defending state champ Chris Moore of Clyde in both their matches this season, including one for the district championship.
Oak Harbor senior Alec Bowlick (34-10) faces Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit’s Nolan Whitely at 132 while Chambers (30-9) will wrestle Columbus Mifflin’s Hannibal Tate at 152. Cramer (38-5) faces Eaton’s Tyler Claybaker at 170.
“We’re always working hard,” Cramer said. “We have good partners and good coaches.”
Chambers defeated the same Norwalk opponent who beat him at sectionals at districts.
Ulinski (46-3) first wrestles Massillon Tuslaw’s Shane Johnston at 106.