February 7th 2015 Wrestling: OCC Tournament at Lexington
LEXINGTON – Nobody jumped right from a hospital gurney on to the wrestling mats Saturday, but close.
One of Lexington’s eight champs in the Ohio Cardinal Conference tournament was advised by his doctor not to compete. Another is so injury-prone he might be better off in a bubble.
And, yet, it would have been a bigger story had they not wrestled. When it comes to the OCC meet, the Minutemen always step up their game.
Saturday’s 61-point cushion over runner-up West Holmes made it eight conference crowns in a row for host Lex. Things will tightened up considerably next year, with 10 Minutemen graduating, but it’s probably safe to say this OCC dynasty will never be matched.
It’s been a remarkable run, made possible by performances like those given Saturday by seniors Drew Kasper and Michael Kahoun.
Just two weeks after having a large chunk of meniscus surgically removed from his left knee, Kasper won his third OCC title with a first-period pin in the semis and a 12-4 decision in the finals over Ashland’s Trent Newlan at 182 pounds.
“I felt so much better after I took some ibuprofen,” Kasper said. “My therapist told me to do whatever I thought I could do, my doctor recommended that I not wrestle and ‘Ratty’ (coach Brent Rastetter) said he’d leave it up to me. After my first match, I walked off the mat and told him, ‘Hey, I’m wrestling in the finals.'”
Kasper compared the pain to having a bone bruise and knocking it on wood whenever he came down on the knee. His left leg is his shooting leg so he refrained from using that part of his arsenal.
“When my doctor first looked at the knee and said ‘It’s not good news’ I thought my season was over,” Kasper said. “I thought my season was over.”
Instead, he’s back to being a vital part of an attack that used the OCC meet as a final tuneup for next Saturday’s state dual team tournament in Ohio State’s St. John Arena. The fifth-seeded Minutemen will face No. 4 Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary at 11 a.m., with the winner looking at a likely showdown with defending champ and national power St. Paris Graham in the 3 p.m. semis.
“This was a good tournament; I’m proud of ’em,” Rastetter said. “We didn’t wrestle well at the Maumee Bay Classic (after winning an eighth J.C. Gorman Invitational in nine years), but since then we’ve done really, really well. What always matters most is that we’re peaking when it matters most.”
The Minutemen got a nice boost from senior 195-pounder Michael Kahoun. Injuries hurt his chances of cracking the lineup the last three years, but this winter he’s put together a 23-8 record, competing at either 195 or 220 — taking whichever spot senior Bailey Faust doesn’t fill.
Kahoun won all three of his OCC matches by first-period pin, needing only 1:20 to win his 195 title bout against Mansfield Senior’s Devin Marsh. It was the first varsity title of Kahoun’s career.
“Ratty told us before the meet ‘We don’t need the mat time now. Get on and get off as quick as you can,'” Kahoun said.
Given Kahoun’s injury history, that’s always good advice. Right hip, both ankles, left elbow, both shoulders, ribs, knees, broken eye socket, concussions — you name the body part, he’s hurt it.
“My right arm (which he pitches with in the spring) has always been healthy,” he said, afraid to knock on wood for fear he’d break his hand.
Kahoun has been dealing with some torn cartilage in his chest, but now that he’s finally in the lineup he doesn’t want to sit down now.
“It all comes down to hard work and ‘Ratty’ and the other coaches doing a good job of peaking us,” Kahoun said. “I’m just thankful for the coaching. Without them, there’s no way I’d be doing this.”
Faust (220) and Brandon Leynaud (132) became four-time champs. Also winning titles for the Minutemen were Jon Watkins (145), Xavier White (152) and Nate Temple (285).
MVP honors went to Mansfield Senior’s Jesse Palser (170), the reigning J.C. Gorman Invitational MVP and a 2014 state runner-up. He scored seven takedowns in his 14-5 title win over Lexington’s T.J. Gerhardt, but his relentless attack was not why, five minutes after the match, he was bent over near the bleachers, catching his breath, sweat dripping from his face.
After grabbing his second OCC title Palser went in the hallway and sprinted down and back, 15 times.
“That’s looking at the big picture,” he said. “Two of my four matches at state last season went to overtime (including the championship) and I don’t want that to happen again. I’m a big target.”
Palser lived up to his No. 1 state ranking Saturday with a first-period pin, a 19-4 technical fall in the semis and then his major decision over Gerhardt.
“Rankings don’t matter to me,” he said. “Last year I wasn’t even supposed to place. I’m trying to use strength, technique and cardio all at the same time. I can only control what I do. If I can get to my offense, I feel like I’m unbeatable.”
Clear Fork’s Drew Kinzel continued down the road of redemption by winning his third OCC title with his 4-1 decision over Lex’s Chuck Mikelait.
After qualifying for state in 2013, Kinzel went 0-2 at last year’s district meet. That’s all the incentive he needs this winter.
“I just put too much pressure on myself last season; I was worried too much about winning, ” he said. “The thing that has helped me is just focusing on doing my best and giving God the glory, no matter what.”
The other area champs were Madison’s Alize Merrell (120) and Ashland’s Johnny Jackson (160). It was Merrell’s second title in three years.
He had a 47-second pin and outscored his other two opponents 28-3, including a 10-1 decision in the finals over Lex’s Max Baker.
Merrell said his strategy every match is to go on the offensive, forcing his opponent to dwell on defense.
“I’m so busy trying to score,” he said. “that I think it’s hard for someone to try to score on me.”
OHIO CARDINAL CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
• Site: Lexington High School
• Team Score: 1. Lexington 238; 2. West Holmes 177; 3. Ashland 44; 4. Madison 123; 5. Clear Fork 93.5; 6. Mansfield Senior 69.5; 7. Wooster 63; 8. Orrville 50
• 106: Thane Kaufman, West Holmes pin Clay Eagle, Ashland 4:15
• 113: Cody Woods, West Holmes pin Brad Silliman, Madison 3:41
• 120: Alize Merrell, Madison dec. Max Baker, Lexington 10-1
• 126: Cole Woods, West Holmes dec. LeConte Merrell, Madison 5-2
• 132: Brandon Leynaud, Lexington pin Josiah Allison, West Holmes 2:21
• 138: Drew Kinzel, Clear Fork dec. Chuck Mikelait, Lexington 4-1
• 145: Jon Watkins, Lexington dec. Garett Viars, Clear Fork 5-1
• 152: Xavier White, Lexingon tech. fall Aaron Saal, Wooster 15-0
• 160: Johnny Jackson, Ashland pin Kanyon Tackett, Madison 1:53
• 170: Jesse Palser, Mansfield Senior dec. TJ Gerhardt, Lexington 14-5
• 182: Drew Kasper, Lexington dec. Trent Newlan, Ashland 12-4
• 195: Michael Kahoun, Lexington pin Devin Marsh, Mansfield Senior 1:20
• 220: Bailey Faust, Lexington dec. Tristen Weirich, Ashland 9-0
• 285: Nate Temple, Lexington dec. Justin Klupp, Madison 1-0
• 106: Austin Shaffer, Orrville def. Damoni Williams 9-6
• 113: Garrett Crowner, Clear Fork pin Mason Hoskins, Lexington 1:19
• 120: Brad Stoll, Wooster by forfeit over Matt Mendiola, Orrville
• 126: Matt Taylor, Ashland def. Jacob Dalton, Lexington 2-0 SV
• 132: Landon Plank, Ashland pin Kaleb Gibson, Madison 0:58
• 138: Ashton Eyler, West Holmes, dec. Zane Speelman, Madison 3-0
• 145: Drew Campbell, West Holmes pin Jake Saal, Wooster 3:12
• 152: Devin Goschinski, Ashland dec. Ricky Dutter, West Holmes 6-0
• 160: Michael Kashuba, West Holmes dec. Aidan Ammons, Lexington 4-0
• 170: Logan Barnett, Ashland pin Logan Matson, Clear Fork 3:30
• 182: Rick Thomas, Clear Fork pin Sam Auble, Orrville 0:27
• 195: Ritchie Miller, West Holmes pin Matt Fike, Ashland 2:07
• 220: Brandon Myers, Mansfield Senior dec. Darin Cox, Madison 10-3
• 285: Damon Harris, West Holmes pin Tony Trepal, Wooster 4:45
• Most Valuable Wrestler: Jesse Palser, Mansfield Senior
• Coach of the Year: Brent Rastetter, Lexington