The joyous eruption Saturday said it all.
Granville fell shy of qualifying for the Division II state team tournament earlier this week, but the Blue Aces got one they really wanted.
Seniors Dain Steffeny (160) and Will Navin (170) won individual titles to help Granville edge Utica 306-305 for the Licking County League title at Licking Heights. The Blue Aces never won the Licking County tournament title in its two-decade period of existence.
“Granville’s hasn’t won the title in the county in over 30 years, and it is just a great achievement,” Navin said. “I am glad our group of guys got to do it and make history for Granville.”
Because of the setup of the tournament, Navin’s final victory came during the final round’s second match. He earned a second-period pin against Lakewood’s Jack Rusher.
The Blue Aces dropped their next four first-place matches, but Steffeny was on hand to right the ship. Steffeny controlled Hornet freshman Josiah Harrell for a 9-2 victory.
“(Steffeny) has been our rock for a couple of years now,” said Granville coach Marvin Bright, whose team fell to Amanda-Clearcreek in a Division II state dual team tournament match Wednesday. “That is part of being a leader. That is one of the reasons he is a captain.”
The Blue Aces got runner-up finishes from Luciano Mendicino (126), Christian Price (138), Zach Purdy (145) and Tyler Perkins (152).
The Redskins’ Jake Smith fired the most recent shot in his personal battle with Purdy. It almost turned the team standings. Smith earned a 10-2 major decision against Purdy.
“Me and Purdy have always kind of been rivals,” Smith said. “I just go in and wrestle to win. I lost to him freshman year. I don’t know. I just have a little more drive to win when I wrestle him.”
Utica itself was smarting from earlier heartbreak. The Redskins were eliminated Wednesday by Bishop Hartley 37-36 in a Division III state dual team tournament match.
In this event, Mitchell Peck (182) shut out Licking Valley’s Drew Carson 6-0 to earn Utica’s second title. Kevin Bigler (Hwt.) added a runner-up finish.
The Panthers finished third with 282 points and never were far out of the team race. Ethan Fout (152) had the quickest victory of the final round, pinning Perkins in 35 seconds.
“I knew his shots were decent,” Fout said. “He got in pretty deep with one. I scrambled out of that, and it fell together after that.”
Valley had the tournament’s most champions, adding Jake Martinez (113) and Jaqui Van Meter (Hwt.), who beat Bigler 5-0. Johnstown unbeaten Clayton Bullard (195) beat the Panthers’ Blake Owens 13-5, and Valley’s Kolton Chesser (113) was a runner-up.
Northridge’s Jake Adkins (106) won the round-robin title against Watkins Memorial’s Alex Lieb, and Heath’s Isaiah Young (120) beat the Vikings’ Steele Strout 3-2. The Warriors’ Andrew Lieb beat Northridge’s Jacob Maynard 17-0, and Heights’ A.J. Velasquez beat teammate Mike Hopewell (220) 12-10 in overtime.
Newark Catholic’s Caleb Ohl beat Mendicino 7-4, and Evan Hansel beat Price 8-5. Still, Granville had just enough points to finish off the league title.
“Our program has improved a lot. We recruited a lot more kids,” Steffeny said. “We just go at it every day in practice and pick each other up.”