Chris Block didn’t mind relinquishing some Johnstown history to senior Clayton Bullard.
In fact, he played a big role in helping him earn it.
Bullard avenged his only loss of the season, beating Perry’s Kyle Kremiller 5-4 in the 195-pound third-place match Saturday at the Division II state wrestling meet at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
It was the Johnnies’ best finish since Block, now an assistant coach, took fifth in 2009.
Kremiller overpowered Bullard 9-3 in a quarterfinal and he fell behind 3-0 in the second period this time. But Bullard scored a reversal to make it 3-2, tied it going to the third and had a late takedown for the decisive points.
“I was undefeated too coming in, and lost in the quarterfinals,” Block said. “He didn’t wrestle his match the last time and gave up two four-point moves. This match was his style and pace. He controlled it.”
“It was pretty difficult to get over the loss, but Chris helped me,” said Bullard, who finished 53-1. “I pushed through it and was glad to get redemption.”
He was more aggressive than in the previous meeting.
“It was my last match, so I was just going to go as hard as I could,” Bullard said. “Quite honestly, I didn’t even know what the score was. He was massive. He was a brick. I hated to lose, but I guess getting third was the next best thing.”
“I think the whole Johnstown community was up here behind him,” coach Bob Fresch said.
Before the win could soak in, Bullard moved to the next mat to his watch his practice partner — Licking Valley’s Blake Owens — secure seventh place in the same weight class with a 5-3 decision against Sandusky Perkins’ John Workman. Bullard had stayed alive with a 5-2 win against Owens, who won three consolation matches to get on the podium.
Granville senior Dain Steffeny became the first Blue Ace to reach the podium with his fourth-place finish at 152 in Division II. He edged Clyde’s Blake Miller 4-2 before losing 7-0 to Indian Lake’s Reyse Wallbrown. He went 1-2 in his only other appearance as a sophomore.
“His style was unique. He was fast and I couldn’t get my shots in,” Steffeny said. “But I was honestly surprised to go this far. I thought I would be at 160, but 152 opened up and I thought I had a good chance to place. I was always looking at the board in the wrestling room, and now I’m the first to get on the podium.”
“(His) shoulder nagged him last year, and it served as a great motivator,” coach Marvin Bright said. “He’s one of those guys that if he’s on, he’s hard to beat, and he was definitely on. Not only was he a state placer, but three of his four losses were to guys who are wrestling in the finals tonight.”
Northridge junior Jake Adkins bettered his eighth-place finish in 2013 with a fourth-place showing at 106 in Division II. He beat Tuslaw’s Shane Johnston 6-2 before losing in a 15-3 technical fall to Delta freshman Drew Mattin.
“The three kids ranked ahead of him finished ahead of him, and the kids ranked behind him placed right behind him. So I guess it went according to form,” coach Eric Potts said. “I’m really happy for his family. They took him all over the country this summer. We’ll get him in the weight room in the offseason, get him stronger with some more muscle and get him up to 113.”
“I was supposed to get fourth, and you won’t see me at 106 next year,” Adkins said. “I’ll just keep trying to get higher on that podium and win a championship. Just keep improving every day.”
Newark Catholic senior Caleb Ohl couldn’t quite recover from a disappointing semifinal loss to defending state champion Jarred Granger of Covington, and placed fifth at 126. He was pinned in 5:31 by Rocky River Lutheran West’s Tim Mecklenburg, but bounced back with a 6-3 decision against Berkshire’s T.J. Malkus.
“Never stop. Don’t quit. Never take a triple dip. I kept telling myself that before my last match,” said Ohl, who hurt his knee in the district but refused to use it as an excuse. “(The loss) is in the back of your mind, then I had to face a guy who had won through the (consolations rounds). It’s not the way I wanted it to end up.”
Watkins Memorial’s Andrew Lieb lost 4-3 to Massillon Perry’s Jason Spencer and finished eighth at 132 in Division I.