Simon Kenton head coach Steve Kaiser gives instructions to Elijah Miller (kneeling) during the KHSAA State wrestling semifinals March 11, at Alltech Arena in Lexington.
LEXINGTON – The Ryle wrestling team spends a lot of time in Ohio tournaments during the season, facing some top competition in the Buckeye state, which has a deeper talent pool in the sport than Kentucky.
That experience pays off for the Raiders in many ways. Their top wrestlers normally have more matches completed than most other competitors in the state by the time the state meet rolls around. And the Raiders can learn from some of that tough competition.
Earlier this year, Ryle junior Logan Erdman encountered a Russian-born wrestler in one of those Ohio tourneys. His competitor taught him what is called a “leg turk” move, using both legs to turn the opponent and get him on his back.
Erdman used that move and the rest of his repertoire to dominate Louisville Moore senior Bobby Poynter in the KHSAA state championship match at 126 pounds. Erdman won his first state championship by a count of 15-0, with the match ending by technical fall early in the second period.
“It feels great to finally get on top of the podium after last year when I was runner-up,” Erdman said. “It just feels a lot better. I got the turk I wanted to get in, and once I got that in, I knew he was done from there.”
Top-ranked in the state by KentuckyWrestling.com going in, Erdman finished 51-4 and dominated Poynter (43-4), who was ranked second.
“I felt good in my earlier matches,” Erdman said. “What I had to do was warm up properly and I know he didn’t warm up at all before the final match, and that was a big factor for me.”
Ryle junior Johnny Meiman added his second state championship later, edging St. Xavier senior Nathan Haddad 4-2 in the 160-pound final. Meiman scored two takedowns in the third period, the last coming with just five seconds remaining to break a 2-2 tie.
“Honestly, I can’t tell you,” Meiman said of his winning move. “Most of my matches are won in the last 10 seconds anyway, just like last year. I don’t think about it, it’s kind of muscle memory.”
Meiman, the state champion at 170 last year, finished with a 63-4 record after finding a way to get those two takedowns late.
“(The first takedown), he kind of opened up a bit and I slid by and took it. It was wide open,” Meiman said. “I like going to overtime with some of these kids, but he wasn’t one of them. He’s a big, tall kid. I didn’t want to get ridden out by him. I struggled with some taller kids. They don’t wear down as easily as short and stocky kids do.”
Two Campbell County wrestlers started the night by falling in their state championship matches. Sophomore Tanner Yenter (51-10), ranked fourth going in, lost to top-ranked Saul Ervin of Union County (63-1) 5-2. Sophomore Brady Wells (44-6), also ranked fourth, fell 14-5 to top-ranked Jorge Vega of Fern Creek (54-1). Yenter knocked off foes ranked third and fifth earlier in the day, and Wells beat the third-ranked wrestler in his class, 5-0, in the semis.
Three local wrestlers were expected to win state titles later Wednesday night after being top-ranked going in and breezing through the field in the first four rounds.
Simon Kenton senior Elijah Miller entered the final with a 52-2 record. He beat No. 2 Lucas Miozza from Trinity 6-4 in the quarters, then beat the sixth-ranked foe in the semifinals.
Campbell County senior Austin Myers continued his Kentucky dominance with two easy wins Wednesday. He was 59-0 entering the final. Earlier Wednesday, he beat the second-ranked wrestler 16-0 in the quarterfinals, then faced the fourth-ranked wrestler in the semis and ended the match in nine seconds with a pin. Myers, who will wrestle for West Virginia University, was given a special award during the meet for being the first Kentucky wrestler to be named an All-American in Greco-Roman wrestling.
Dixie Heights senior Branden Johnson took a 16-0 record into the finals at 285. He pinned the fourth-ranked wrestler in 19 seconds and No. 5 in 2:25 to get to the finals.
Northern Kentucky showed its overall depth in rarely-seen ways.
Almost half of the local wrestlers who started the meet – 26 out of 55 (one wrestler scratched and was replaced in the bracket by a non-local) – won a state medal for finishing in the top eight in their 32-man weight class. Besides the seven finalists, another 12 finished either third or fourth.
Boone County: Ahmad Hameidan (4th at 220), Campbell County: Tanner Yenter (2nd at 106), Brady Wells (2nd at 113), Dakota Lillie (4th at 120), Bryan Spahr (7th at 138), Eli Matthews (4th at 182), Austin Myers (State champion at 220), Conner: Tristin Badida (4th at 152), Cooper: Jordan Monroe (4th at 126), Kyle Steiner (6th at 132), Jordan Kidwell (7th at 152), Dixie Heights: Joey Scaggs (3rd at 120), Branden Johnson (State champion at 285), Newport: Gage Jones (5th at 182), Ryle: Logan Erdman (State champion at 126), Jack Dorne (8th at 145), Jon Belk (3rd at 152), Johnny Meiman (State champion at 160), Ryan Woolf (3rd at 170), Scott: Dale Hensley (7th at 132), Tony Ashford (4th at 145), Simon Kenton: Casey Cornett (3rd at 182), Elijah Miller (2nd at 195), Walton-Verona: Blake Roth (8th at 106), Ryan Moore (3rd at 113), Mason Smith (3rd at 132).
Notes : Campbell County finished fourth in team standings. Fern Creek was team champion. Branden Johnson (5 pins, 6:16) won Most Pins in Least Total Time. Austin Myers was named Most Outstanding Wrestler.