Southeastern’s Alex Gordy wrestles during the Division III state wrestling tournament Thursday, March 12, 2015, at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
COLUMBUS – The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s annual state wrestling meet is an event like none other in high school sports.
Three local wrestlers had the chance to experience the electrifying atmosphere Thursday at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena.
Southeastern junior Alex Gordy, who was competing at 120 pounds, qualified for state by placing third at this past weekend’s district tournament after defeating Monroe Central’s Rod Richter, 6-4. Gordy is just the second Southeastern wrestler to advance to state.
In his first preliminary match Thursday, Gordy was paired up with Bethel-Tate senior Aric Peters (42-4).
Peters was a 2013-14 state qualifier and placed fourth in 2014.
After falling 4-0, Gordy fell to Peters by pin at the 3:27 mark in the third period.
“That was his first time (at the state tournament),” Southeastern coach J.C. Abner said. “It’s a big stage here. He hasn’t been on a stage like this one before and he’s just a junior. The (Peters) kid was a bit stronger than him.”
After falling to Peters, Gordy was paired up in the consolation round with Jackson Milton’s Terry Stockton.
The end result for Gordy was a much better one this time around.
After falling behind 4-2, Gordy battled back with a takedown to even the score at four. Then, at the 4:37 mark in the third, Gordy was able to pin Stockton, securing his spot during Friday’s Day 2 competition.
“It was a great match. I just wanted one win here,” Gordy said. “(Stockton) was a good kid and he beat me earlier this season, so I knew it was going to be tough. It’s a great feeling to know I get to come back (Friday). But there’s not really any pressure (that day). I’m just going to come back out here and wrestle to the best of my ability.”
The win also was Gordy’s 100th career victory — a special accomplishment because it came in state competition.
“I’m very proud of (Alex),” Abner said. “He’s done a lot this year. We’ve only had three wrestlers before (Alex) get to 100 wins. That number says a lot for a junior. But (Friday), we’re going for at least a podium finish. But that starts with taking each match at one at a time.”
Gordy now will face the winner of Dayton Christian’s Michael May and Archbold’s Damian Short in a second-round consolation match.
Representing Zane Trace High School was junior Avery Brown at 132.
Brown punched his ticket with a second-place district finish after losing to Grandview’s Brendan Fitzgerald by pin in this past weekend’s championship match.
Facing Milton Union’s Chase Mayabb in a first-round bout, Brown fell by pin at the 3:21 mark in the third.
“From the first day of the season, we talked about getting to the state tournament and we accomplished that,” Zane Trace coach Reggie Wax said. “I told Avery right before the start of his match that his teammates were here to watch him and it made him feel good that head people here to support him.”
In Brown’s first consolation match, he faced Ashland Mapleton’s John Smith.
Smith came into the match with a record of 43-6 compared with Brown’s mark of 36-19.
The better record won as Smith was able to secure an 8-1 victory, ending Brown’s season.
“It was a good experience for next season,” Brown said. “It shows me that if you don’t stick to the basics, you’ll get beat. At the beginning of the season if you would’ve told me that I would’ve even won a match at the district level, I wouldn’t have believed you. I just wanted to get to that level and then when I did, I realized that with all of the work I had put in during the season, I could make it to the next level.”
After starting 1-7 to begin the year, it’s an accomplishment in itself for Brown to have made it this far. Next season, he’ll come in as an Scioto Valley Conference champion and, now, a returning state qualifier.
“I’m extremely proud of Avery,” Wax said. “He kept plugging away this year, practicing hard and here he is at the state tournament as a junior. He’s has a good season. He’s the second kid to ever make it to the state tournament. I’d be majorly disappointed if he wasn’t wrestling in Columbus after Day 1 next year. He’s got more improvements to make but he’ll be back.”
Paint Valley’s Caleb Johnson — who is a returning state qualifier — wrestled just one match in the first session Thursday, defeating Bethel-Tate’s Jeffrey Botts by a 13-11 decision.
Johnson took a promising 10-2 lead after the first before allowing Botts — who came in at 43-6 — to creep his way back into the match. Either way, Johnson will take the victory.
“I had a kid from Washington Court House tell me that (Botts) was going to come out and hit me with a slide by so I was kind of expecting that,” Johnson said. “I knew how to count right because I practiced that way all week long. He was a pretty strong and it was good tough match. I’m proud of the way I wrestled.”
The 182-pound junior now advances to the second round to try to prolong his magnificent season — one in which he’s went 40-5, claimed a sectional championship, and placed second in his district.
To advance to the semifinals, Johnson will have to beat Delta’s Mark Francis (40-9).
“We had a kid that wrestled against (Francis) last year and pinned him,” Paint Valley coach Dave Salomone said. “We feel good about that. We’re going to go get something to eat tonight, relax and try to come back (Friday) and get another win.”
Johnson’s matchup with Francis will take place on mat No. 1 on the Value City Arena floor Friday morning.
“I just have to come out (Friday) and do better than I even did (Thursday),” Johnson said. “We want a podium finish.”
Derrick Webb is a Gazette sportswriter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @dw1509.