CHILLICOTHE – Last season, three area wrestlers made the trip to Columbus to participate in what some call the greatest spectacle in high school sports — the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s State Wrestling Meet.
Zane Trace’s Avery Brown (132 pounds), Southeastern’s Alex Gordy (120 pounds) and Paint Valley’s Caleb Johnson (182 pounds) all wrestled at the highest possible level last March at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center. Now one year later, all three are looking to make a repeat appearance and take some buddies with them in the process.
Inside the Scioto Valley Conference, the trek to the top runs through Kinnikinnick as the Zane Trace Pioneers enter 2015-16 as the defending conference champions — the first title winners in SVC history after the conference recognized wrestling as a varsity sport in 2014-15.
The Pioneers edged out Paint Valley, 132-124, to win the SVC crown and will be led by Brown and returners Nick Gucwa and Nick Greene (138 pounds), Dawson Hoselton (145 pounds), Bobby Nye (152 pounds), Brendan Johnson (170 pounds), Zach Joseph (182 pounds), Aidan Place (220 pounds) and Tanner Kunz (285 pounds).
However, ZT will be without Brandon Coder — who graduated in 2015 — and senior Matt Carroll, who was lost due to an injury suffered this past football season.
Carroll, Kunz and Hoselton all won individual sectional titles last year as well.
At the top of the challengers’ list is Paint Valley who return both Johnson and Teagan McFadden (170 pounds). Those two names account for 200 wins and three state championships appearances.
Johnson — who finished fourth overall in Columbus last season to become the first Paint Valley wrestler to place at that level — McFadden, Blake Evans (113 pounds) and Will Gillingam (182 pounds) all won individual conference titles in their weight classes a season ago. Joining the charge to dethrone the Pioneers will be sophomores Noah Davis and Tygr Tesi as well as seniors Austin Chapman (145 pounds), Dylan Knight (138 pounds) and Riley May (285 pounds).
The Westfall Mustangs finished third in the SVC last year behind the likes of freshman Dillon Plum (106 pounds) and junior Justin Trapp (145 pounds).
Both Plum and Trapp will return alongside teammates Liam Smith, Jonas Profit, Hunter Bolt, Sean Netherton, Tylar Bartlett, Justin Butcher, Gavian Cullahan, Eric Allen and Caleb Reynolds. Those names form a youthful group consisting of seven sophomores, two juniors and two seniors.
Unioto’s Hunter Whiteside, a favorite to advance far into the postseason, will not be wrestling this year. That leaves junior Ben Davenport (152 pounds) and senior Andrew Davenport 160 pounds) with the responsibilities of providing leadership.
They’ll be at the helm of a team that consists of Cedrik Seebohm, Trevor Lewis, Chad Uhrig, Thomas Barnes and Nick Robinette along with a host of newcomers.
For the Adena Warriors, there’s no question about who their leaders are: sophomore Isaac Bennett (120 pounds) and senior Nic Peecher (132 pounds), who was beat by ZT’s Brown during last year’s sectional semifinals.
Aside from Peecher, Adena also boasts a young returning cast in sophomores Silas Gray, Bret Posey and Brendan Graves as well as junior Bret Lane.
Obviously, Gordy is at the top of the Southeastern Panthers’ list after advancing to Day Two of the OHSAA state championships last season — along with PV’s Johnson — and winning his 100th career match in the process. Southeastern also will use seniors Jeff Guillon, Clayton Curtis and juniors Blake Vest and Cinque Gibson to try and make a postseason run.
For Huntington, heavyweight Lyle Watters should carry the torch after a superb sophomore season that included a berth into the district meet. Also returning for the Hunstsmen will be Jared Coey, Tyrese Thomas and Jeremy Fletcher.
Outside of the SVC, the Chillicothe Cavaliers once again look to compete within the South Central Ohio League. However, that’s a task that’s easier said than done after losing Christian Collins, Austin Mathis, Trevan Bond-Pennington and Caleb Price to graduation.
Instead, Nick Colley (285 pounds), Gage Daniels (182 pounds), Patrick Corbin (145 pounds), Eli DePew (138 pounds) and Daries Harris (120 pounds) will have to develop into their own. The group’s work is most certainly cut out for them as the five returners combined for an overall record of 32-101 in 2014-15.