Toughness and savvy are in the DNA of most successful wrestlers.
Seniors Caleb Ohl and Rob Mickey relied on both to earn Division III district titles Saturday at Heath.
Ohl became Newark Catholic’s first two-time district champ. Northridge’s Mickey won his first title and Viking junior Jake Adkins joined him atop the podium with a repeat championship. Green Wave senior Evan Hansel was a runner-up and Utica junior Jake Smith finished fourth as they also advanced to next weekend’s state tournament at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
Nursing a shoulder injury since January, Ohl tweaked a knee during his tough 5-2 win against Newcomerstown’s Alan Hayhurst. But he wasn’t going to be denied a final trip to Columbus and shot at a state title.
“The adrenaline takes all the pain away,” said Ohl, who also has two consecutive sectional titles. “He was a lefty and I’m a lefty, so it was a little different. I was able to get to my angles to where he couldn’t use his length or leverage on top.”
“Caleb is so good at getting in the right position and making the right moves. He’s one of the smartest wrestlers I’ve seen,” coach Mark Gillham said. “That was a tough kid he faced, and that long reach can give you trouble.”
Two weeks ago, Mickey strained his MCL at the New Lexington Jimmy Wood Memorial and wasn’t sure if he would be able to wrestle. But he used a “five-point move” in trailing Bishop Hartley’s Jacob Croswell 1-0 in the third period and held on for a 5-3 win in the 160-pound final.
“I’ve been working on that move since the Randy Simpson Camp, in like sixth or seventh grade,” said Mickey, who had two pins and a major decision in getting to the final. “I finally got a pin with it in the quarterfinals. It’s basically double leg, split leg, throw them on their back.
“This means everything. I’ve barely been practicing, and thought I would show up at the sectional and make the most of it. I was third last year, and that’s a big difference in being seeded 1 over 3.”
Adkins was forced to overtime by Crooksville’s Jordan Burkholder, who rallied from down 3-1 in the third. But Adkins executed a quick move for the 5-3 win and a third consecutive state berth.
“He was strong, hard to control with the hands,” Adkins said. “I brought his hip to the mat with a ‘dump’ move. He wanted to slow down the pace, while I love to move around.
“You get to the state, you see different styles. Being the No. 1 seed gives me a little advantage coming in, along with the experience. You don’t have those jitters.”
Hansel pounced on Bishop Hartley’s Grant Rathburn at the start of their 138-pound final, taking a 4-1 lead that almost became 6-1 before the first period ran out. But Rathburn rallied for an 8-4 win after coming back from 12-4 down to beat Hansel earlier in the season.
“We wrestle very good on our feet, and that’s where Evan needed to be,” Gillham said. “He got trapped on the bottom, and Rathburn is a tough kid on top. He’s one of the better kids in the state on riding.”
Smith was pinned in the third-place match at 145, but still was the Redskins’ only state qualifier. It was a testament to his toughness he made it, coach Tim Jordan said.
“He wrestled a great match in the consolation semifinals against (Southeastern’s Travis) Abner, and he had beaten him earlier,” Jordan said. “He lost early, but he battled his way through. At this point, it all comes down to mental toughness. There’s not much difference in these kids.”
Utica had a pair of fifth-place finishers in Will Sturm (160) and Mitchell Peck (182), and Austin Parmer was sixth at 126.