Editor’s Note: This is the second of two stories previewing the high school wrestling season. Tuesday’s story looked at area schools in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.
IBERIA – Turns out coach Tom Ryan and All-American Nathan Tomasello of the reigning national champion Ohio State Buckeyes were not the only wrestling celebrities in the gym during a one-day clinic at Northmor High School in October.
Northmor’s Scott Carr this week was named by the state wrestling coaches association as the Division III Coach of the Year for the 2014-15 season after leading the Knights to six tournament championships, including a third-straight Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference crown and sectional and district titles. In seven years at the helm, he has also produced two state champs and a state runner-up.
Although he appreciates the honor, Carr is more interested in seeing his wrestlers make headlines this season.
“It’s no pressure on me,” the former Marion Harding and University of Findlay wrestler said. “It’s great to get the recognition, but if the kids win, that’s what matters to me.”
It says something about the team depth Carr has been able to develop that Northmor won its sectional and district titles without benefit of an individual champion. The district title was the first in school history.
Of last year’s three state qualifiers, the only one back is 106-pounder Jake Neer, who went 36-14 and won an MOAC title. He’s joined by state alternates Griffin Jenkins (126), Conan Becker (132) and Jake Farley (138-145). Last season, Farley was 38-9, Becker was 34-8 and Jenkins was 25-20.
Also returning is Aaron Kitts (120), a district qualifier who went 27-16. Expected to make an immediate impact is another lightweight, freshman Kyle Price, as the Knights look for a four-peat in the MOAC and a berth in the State Duals after falling just short last winter.
Carr hopes the messages delivered by Ryan and Tomasello — a national champ at 125 pounds for the Buckeyes — resonate all season with his Knights.
“We preach over and over that everybody wrestles from November to March,” Carr said. “It’s the guys who put in the work the other six months that make a difference.
“I tell my kids to take the example of people like (Ryan and Tomasello) being in here, and the message they give about what propelled them and made them what they are. Take it to heart, stay the course and good things will happen.”
Here’s a look at other area programs:
The Tigers lost state runner-up heavyweight Deaken McCoy to graduation, but have a great mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores in the wrestling room, led by senior 160-pounder Drake Barnett.
Barnett won MOAC and sectional championships last season en route to a 40-6 record. Fellow senior Nick McDonald (220) was 30-16 and a district alternate. He finished third in the MOAC, matching the finish of junior Ryan Talbott (145, 25-18).
Senior Austin Reyes (138) and junior Garrett Kuns (152) give the Tigers two more multi-year lettermen.
“I have high expectations for this team,” coach Brent Tyrrell said, noting that one goal is to unseat River Valley as Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division champ. “We don’t have much depth, but we have a strong senior class and a lot of talent.”
Coach Kevin Kroll has a good feeling about someone “breaking out” this season.
Lone senior Taylor Komives had that breakout campaign last winter, going 38-9. This year, the plan is to break through to Columbus for the state meet. He needed 12 wins entering the campaign to reach milestone 100.
Other returning lettermen are juniors Dan Brown (132), Austin Fraley (160-170) and Troy Vermillion (170-182) and sophomores Robert Enso (120), Collin Kroll (152-160), Jessie Wilson (182-195) and Jacob Yunker (285).
“We are still somewhat young and not very tenured in most of our weight classes,” Kroll said. “Those challenges are still our main concern. We will continue to be aggressive in our style of wrestling and hopefully get over the hump after this season as numbers are much improved in the middle school.
“I believe in our kids and their individual potential. We are headed in the right direction. We continue to coach from the bottom up, which is starting to show in our program.”
With a full lineup, coach Steve Haverdill believes his Cougars can be in the hunt for a title in what he sees as a wide-open Firelands Conference.
The key so far has been nearly tripling the roster, from eight boys to 20 this season. With just those eight wrestlers, Haverdill piloted the Cats to a third-place conference finish last wintere and produced three district qualifiers.
Back is sophomore district participant Colton Campbell (182), along with these fellow all-conference selections: juniors Logan Greer (145), Chandler Prise (195) and Dakota Slocum (220), and sophomore Lane Fry (heavyweight).
“The bigger numbers allow more competition in the wrestling room and make us better every day,” Haverdill said. “Our upper weights is where our experience is. Our goal is to work harder than everyone else every day.”
Seth Bailey, a district qualifier and Firelands Conference runner-up last season as a freshman, will be the anchor of a team that has 12 freshmen or sophomores among the 13 boys on the roster.
Bailey, who will see time at 195 and 220, was 23-15 a year ago, with 11 of those losses coming to two state qualifiers.
There are no seniors on the squad and the only junior is Josh Dove (160), a 20-match winner and conference placer last season. The only other letterman on the roster is sophomore heavyweight Alfonso Hernandez, who was pressed into action last season to replace an injured senior.
“It’s a young team, but we do have close to a full lineup,” veteran coach Jeremiah Balkin said. “I know they will work hard and the key is to guide them and help them get better every week. Everyone in the room wants to be there and they love the competition.”
Former Galion star Rich Ulmer takes over the Redmen after one year as an assistant.
He inherits six lettermen from a squad that went 7-5 last season in dual meets. Senior lightweight Rylan Hemmerly was a sectional runner-up and will be complemented by these veterans: seniors Dillon Emahiser and Logan Tackett, junior Jacob Meeks and sophomores Daman Parsell and Cain Leuthold.
Matt Lewis has seven boys out for this fledgling program, led by senior Ian Dickerson and junior Nick Baker.
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Eli Mayer and Noah Krupa and freshmen Robert Williams, Sam Krupa and Timothy Fife.
Ken Johnson, with 21 seasons as a head coach, is one of the area “deans” in that department. His first six in charge were at Willard, where he’s a high school teacher, and the last 15 have been at South Central.
Being at a small school, his squads are always lacking in numbers, but never in star power. Fitting that bill this season is two-time state placer Cameron Conaway, coming off a 43-4 campaign.
Conaway, a senior 220-pounder, has a resume that also includes two Firelands Conference titles and two sectional titles, to go with his fourth- and fifth-place state medals.
Also back are senior district qualifier Dalton Blanton (138-145) and junior district qualifier Tarran Verhovec (132-145), along with senior lettermen Dallas Tolliver (160-170) and Mike Swander (160-170). Freshman Dakota Blanton (106-113) was an eighth grade conference champ and junior high state meet participant.
“For nine straight years we have had a state qualifier/placer,” Johnson said. “With the Lord’s blessing, we expect to achieve these feats, if not greater feats than in the past. We cannot be content with who we were or resting on past achievements. We are always striving to do bigger and better things.
“There are athletes to be challenged and records to be broken.”
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SEVEN TO WATCH
*Taylor Komives, Ontario (138): Won 38 matches last season; needed 12 entering this season to reach 100 for his career.
*Drake Barnett, Galion (160): Was a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference and sectional champ last season en route to a 40-6 finish.
*Jake Neer, Northmor (106): Won 36 matches and a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference title last season en route to the state tournament.
*Jake Farley, Northmor (138-145): A two-time state alternate coming off a 38-9 season.
*Cameron Conaway, South Central (220): A two-time state placer, Conaway also has two sectional titles and two Firelands Conference titles on his resume.
*Seth Bailey, Plymouth (195): Won 23 matches as a freshman last season, finishing second in the Firelands Conference and qualifying for districts. Eleven of his 15 losses were to two state qualifiers who have graduated.
*Colton Campbell, Crestview (182): Was a district qualifier as a freshman and should benefit from more bodies (roster jumped from eight last year to 20) in the practice room.