ONTARIO – He thought his only contribution to Monday’s all-star wrestling preview would be behind the scenes. Instead, unheralded Ontario sophomore Jesse Wilson ended up front and center.
Summoned as a late-minute replacement, Wilson proved he didn’t need much notice by jumping out to a 7-0 lead over New London district qualifier Adonn Kruki en route to a 7-4 win during the 17-bout card at Ontario High School.
“Right after practice, I was helping to set up for the matches when I was asked if I wanted to wrestle,” Wilson said. “I said, ‘Yeah, sure!'”
Wilson was a good story for Ontario even before Monday night’s sudden turn of events. Cut from the basketball team last year, he decided to take up wrestling for the first time in his life in 2014. He won his first match en route to a runner-up finish in a junior varsity tournament at Northmor. He would go on to crack the varsity lineup last season, starting at 195 pounds and working his way down to 182 while finishing with a record slightly better than .500.
“After I got cut in basketball I didn’t want to sit around on my butt until track season; I wanted to be active,” Wilson said. “I think I’ve found my true dream.”
Especially if he keeps wrestling like he did against the battle-tested Kruki, whose background was kept from Wilson.
“I didn’t tell him (Kruki) was a district qualifier; I didn’t want it getting in his head,” Ontario coach Kevin Kroll said. “Jesse won our most improved wrestler award last season and he came right back into the room this season ready to wrestle. Our last two state qualifiers were (Jake) Miller and (John) Goodwin and Goodwin has already had talks with Jesse to help push him over the hump.”
Wilson may have won the night, but Ashland won the most fights. The Arrows went five-for-five, using those performances to loudly announce their intentions in what should be a hotly-contested Ohio Cardinal Conference. Lexington has won the OCC eight straight years, but Ashland coach Sean Seder advanced 10 Arrows to the Division I district meet last winter in his first season at the helm and most of them are back this season.
There were three state meet participants in Monday’s field, and two of them had their evening spoiled by the Arrows’ Tristen Weirich and Sid Ohl. Werich shut out South Central’s two-time state placer Cameron Conaway 4-0, while Ohl bested Huron’s Tommy King 4-2.
Making it a clean sweep for Ashland were Rickey Maffet, winner by pin (1:49) over Crestview’s Logan Greer; Landon Plank, who blanked New London’s Jack McIntosh 9-0; and Matt Taylor, a 4-1 winner over 2014 district qualifier Carson Speelman of Madison.
“We won’t make any bold proclamations, but if we keep at it, we should be pretty good,” Seder said. “It’s a very competitive wrestling room. We won’t rest on our laurels. For the start to the season, I can’t complain.”
Weirich, who is bumping up from 195 to 220 pounds this season, never gave Conaway a chance to get his offense going.
“I usually get super nervous and puke before matches, but once I took him down I was comfortable,” Weirich said. “I practice with a lot of college guys and past college guys. It’s going to be hard to transition from 195 to 220, but I think I’m doing the best I can.”
Weirich and Ohl were both state alternates last year. Falling one win short of going to Columbus is all the incentive they need this season.
“Every day after practice I lift,” Weirich said, “but I still feel like I have a large gap to close.”
Ohl, whose father Perry was a state champ for Ontario, has great potential if he can stay healthy. He battled a dislocated shoulder last season, seeing it pop out four times in the preseason and eight more times during the season. Remarkably, he fought through the pain, missing only the second day of the J.C.Gorman Invitational. He went 3-2 at the rugged Cleveland State district meet, where he faced the fifth-place state medalist in the semis and the third-place state medalist in the consolations.
Ohl will be back at 145 pounds this season.
“I’m still doing physical therapy, and if (the shoulder) gets tweaked, I feel sharp pain, but it hasn’t popped out since the beginning of the summer,” Ohl said. “I think we’ll have a great season and next year could be even better with six or seven seniors who could be great.”
Maffett had one of only three pins in the preview as six of the matches were decided by three points or less and another, because of no overtimes, resulted in a 6-6 stalemate between Ontario’s Taylor Komives and New London’s Trevor Reed.
Three of the more dramatic finishes saw Crestview’s Colton Campbell score the decisive takedown with 10 seconds left for his 4-3 win over Clear Fork’s Chris Thompson, while Lexington’s Aidan Ammons hit a five-point move at the very end for his 5-0 victory over Mansfield Senior’s Tyson Dancy and Mansfield Senior heavyweight Jacquille Fletcher broke a scoreless tie with 11 seconds left and parlayed that takedown into a pin with 6.9 on the clock.
The toughest luck of the night belonged to Mansfield Senior’s Deondre Williams. He suffered a broken nose from an inadvertent head butt and lost by injury default to Crestview’s Chandler Prise.
The meet was staged by the North Central Ohio Wrestling Referees Association, with donations at the gate going to popular local basketball and baseball official John Gurney of Shelby to help in his fight against cancer.
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ALL-STAR WRESTLING PREVIEW
Sponsor: North Central Ohio Wrestling Referees Association
Site: Ontario High School
MATCH RESULTS (3 1-minute periods, no OT)
Jacquille Fletcher, Mansfield Senior pin Lane Fry, Crestview 2:53
Tristen Weirich, Ashland dec. Cameron Conaway, South Central 4-0
Brandon Myers, Mansfield Senior dec. Dakota Slocum, Crestview 6-1
Heath Snyder, Loudonville pin Rick Thomas, Clear Fork 1:57
Jesse Wilson, Ontario dec. Adonn Kruki, New London 7-4
Colton Campbell, Crestview dec. Chris Thompson, Clear Fork 4-3
Chandler Prise, Crestview by injury default over Deondre Williams, Mansfield Senior
Aidan Ammons, Lexington dec. Tyson Dancy, Mansfield Senior 5-0
Sid Ohl, Ashland dec. Tommy King, Huron 4-2
Rickey Maffett, Ashland pin Logan Greer, Crestview 1:49
Taylor Komives, Ontario ties Trevor Reed, New London 6-6
Kyle Matern, Madison dec. Thomas Forbes, Loudonville 2-1
Dalton Blanton, South Central dec. Kaleb Gibson, Madison 7-2
Landon Plank, Ashland dec. Jack McIntosh, New London 9-0
Mikey Baumberger, Madison dec. Zach Bene, New London 4-2
Austin Smiley, Hillsdale dec. Ryan Hemmerly, Bucyrus 7-1
Matt Taylor, Ashland dec. Carson Speelman, Madison 4-1