Caleb Ohl was down the right path this weekend at the Division III state tournament.
Unfortunately, the Newark Catholic senior ran into an opponent just a tiny bit better Friday. Ohl (126) wrestled the way he wanted, but Covington’s Jarred Ganger — a returning state champion — edged Ohl 5-3 in a semifinal at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
Ganger won the 113-pound title in 2013, and Ohl finished fifth. Ohl, however, handed Ganger his only loss this season in January at Lima Central Catholic.
“I was pushing the pace the whole time. I have no regrets about that,” Ohl said. “It was just one takedown or two takedowns. That is the difference in close matches.”
Ohl still has a chance to fight back for third. He wrestles twice this morning and will reach third with two victories.
Ohl’s first two victories this weekend were 4-2 and 5-0. This match was low-scoring, too. Ganger got two first-period takedowns, and the second proved to be the difference. Escapes were the only scoring the rest of the way.
“This one ended with the same kind of scenario except I didn’t get the takedown at the end to send it to (overtime),” Ohl said. “I think in OT, I would have pulled it out.”
Ohl was a man on a mission all season. The only time he did not wrestle for first this season until this weekend was a fourth-place finish in the Catholic Invitational Tournament, which includes mostly Division I powerhouses.
Ohl won the Licking County League, sectional and district titles in dominating fashion. He possibly was only a takedown away from adding a state title to that run.
“He is going to be upset because he is not in the finals, but he shouldn’t have any regrets because he wrestled a great match out there,” said Nate Ohl, Caleb’s brother and is serving as an NC assistant coach this winter.
“He didn’t choke or anything like that. That kid was just better that six minutes.”
Ohl and teammate Evan Hansel (138) — who finished 1-2, falling a win short of earning All-Ohio honors — captured the attention of the NC community with their run of dominance during the winter.
Social media has been filled the past few weeks with well-wishes, and several of their classmates were in attendance for the action. For those that could not attend, they watched through a FaceTime feed in history class.
“That support is great. I love the NC community,” Ohl said. “I couldn’t ask for better friends or better support. I am happy to call myself a Green Wave.”
In Division II, Granville’s Dain Steffeny (152) overcame a quarterfinal loss to pick up a pair of victories and clinch his first All-Ohio honor. Steffeny was dominant in his consolation matches, beating Hamilton Ross’ Andrew Dunn 7-0 and Alliance’s Kristian Jackson 5-1.
Johnstown’s Clayton Bullard suffered his first loss of the season in a quarterfinal but he also rebounded for a pair of victories, beating a familiar foe each time. Bullard first rolled past Carrollton’s Tyler Dodd 10-2 in a rematch of a district final.
Bullard then kept his hopes alive for a third-place finish with his third victory of the season against Licking Valley’s Blake Owens. It was a defensive match, and Bullard finally pulled away with a third-period takedown for a 5-2 win.
Owens, who had to battle for an overtime victory to stay alive Thursday, returned refreshed. He dominated Sandusky’s Isaiah Margheim, a returning state runner-up, and pinned him in the second period.
“It always sucks to lose your first match, and I was pretty gassed by my second match,” Owens said. “I have been pretty sick the past couple days. That win definitely makes it worth it. I feel a ton better today.”
Valley’s Jake Martinez (106) was 0-2 after winning a first-round match, and Granville’s Christian Price (138) and Will Navin (160) dropped consolation matches.