LEXINGTON, Ky. – When Zane Brown took up jiu-jitsu as a kid – “I wasn’t really doing anything else,” he said – he had no idea where it might lead.
Now a sophomore at Male High School, Brown can credit his past in jiu-jitsu for helping him become a state champion in wrestling.
“My jiu-jitsu instructor recommended that I wrestle to get better,” Brown said. “I ended up being better at wrestling, so I just started doing that.”
A state runner-up as an eighth-grader and a freshman, Brown accomplished the final goal Saturday when he beat Cooper senior Cody Huston 6-5 in the final of the 152-pound weight class at the State Championships held at Alltech Arena.
Brown was one of six Louisville wrestlers to reach a final but the only one to capture a title. He finished his season with a 55-1 record, his only loss coming to a nationally ranked wrestler from Ohio.
Brown said he felt pressure as the state’s No. 1-ranked wrestler in his weight class.
“You feel like you should always win by a certain margin,” he said. “Even when it’s close you feel like you didn’t do good enough sometimes.”
Did he feel that way Saturday night?
“No, I’m fine,” he said. “I’m just glad to win.”
Union County produced three individual champions and won its second straight team title and ninth overall. Zeke Escalera (106 pounds), Saul Ervin (132) and Bryce Sheffer (138) won championships and helped the Braves compile 227.5 points.
St. Xavier, which had four wrestlers lose championship matches, finished second with 191 points. Johnson Central (171) was third, followed by Woodford County (152) and Walton-Verona (123.5).
“(Union County) had a special team, and we knew it before we came here,” St. X coach Jim Kraeszig said. “We were right there with them and battled right to the end. Give them credit. I have nothing but respect for them. … They earned it, but we’re coming for them next year.”
Male, which started its program in 2012, produced its second champion in as many years after Garrett Chandler won the title at 220 pounds last year.
Brown won a tough championship match Saturday, taking a 2-1 lead in the final second of the second round before holding on in the third.
“That kid was tough,” Brown said. “He’s stronger than me, to be honest, because he’s older than me. I got tired at the end, and that’s why I didn’t take a lot of shots. I was trying to stay defensive.”
Male coach Chris McCoy said Brown has a bright future in the sport.
“He doesn’t get himself in trouble very often,” McCoy said. “He has good hips and knows how to work on top. When he starts to get in danger, he’s very smart about how to get out of danger.”
St. X’s state runners-up were seniors Austin Cook (126 pounds) and Clayton Hanson (145) and juniors Konner Kraeszig (138) and Cameron Ward (160).
Pleasure Ridge Park junior Blake Evans was Louisville’s other finalist and was pinned by Union County’s Ervin with 15 seconds left in the match.
Jim Kraeszig said his team’s 0-4 record in the finals will serve as motivation for those who return next season.
“We want our guys to beat guys they’re not supposed to beat,” he said. “That’s how we judge whether we’re improving or not.”
Simon Kenton’s Casey Cornett was named Orville Williams Outstanding Wrestler after winning the 170 title, pinning Johnson Central’s Joe Jackson at the 1:21 mark of the final.
Four wrestlers completed undefeated seasons with titles – Union County’s Escalera (50-0) and Sheffer (55-0), Wayne County’s Cagen Wallace (57-0 at 113 pounds) and Woodford County’s Max Andreoni (55-0).
Johnson Central’s Geordan Blanton continued an impressive senior year by beating St. Xavier’s Ward 7-4 in the 160 final. Blanton was a member of Johnson Central’s Class 4-A state football championship team in the fall and now will join the school’s baseball team. He has signed to play baseball at Marshall University.
“I’ve played sports my whole life, and my dad’s always pushed me,” Blanton said. “Coach (Jim) Matney has been with me every step of the way, and it’s just been sports, sports, sports.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
STATE WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Alltech Arena, Lexington
Team scores: 1. Union County 227.5; 2. St. Xavier 191; 3. Johnson Central 171; 4. Woodford County 152; 5. Walton-Verona 123.5; 6. Simon Kenton 115; 7. John Hardin 86.5; 8. Oldham County 84; 9. Wayne County 76; 10. Dixie Heights 74.5; 11. Calloway County 74; 12. (tie) LaRue County, Madison Central 61.5; 14. Meade County 60; 15. Cooper 58; 16. Male 55.5; 17. Ryle 5; 18. Scott 50; 19. Fern Creek 49; 20. Campbell County 48; 21. Christian County 46; 22. Valley 45.5; 23. Taylor County 44.5; 24. Apollo 44; 25. Henry Clay 40.5; 28. (tie) Moore, North Oldham 35; 30. Trinity 34;
106 pounds: 1st – Zeke Escalera (Union County) def. Preston Mattingly (Apollo) 8-3; 3rd – Brendan Pye (Scott) def. Thomas Deck (Madison Central) 6-5.
113: 1st – Cagen Wallace (Wayne County) def. Brandon Miller (Taylor County) 5-2; 3rd – Adam Bender (Woodford County) def. Gabe Adams (Union County) 3-2.
120: 1st – Brady Wells (Campbell County) def. Brody Haverstick (John Hardin) 9-4; 3rd – Nate Wheeler (St. Xavier) def. Chase Yost (Woodford County) 2-1.
126: 1st – Ryan Moore (Walton-Verona) def. Austin Cook (St. Xavier) 7-0; 3rd – Tylan Tucker (Woodford County) def. Tanner Yenter (Campbell County) 3-1.
132: 1st – Saul Ervin (Union County) pinned Blake Evans (Pleasure Ridge Park), 5:45; 3rd – Dante Castellano (Simon Kenton) def. Kaden Darbro (St. Xavier) 13-2.
138: 1st – Bryce Sheffer (Union County) def. Konner Kraeszig (St. Xavier) 9-4; 3rd – Trent Johnson (John Hardin) pinned Austin Nixon (Dixie Heights) 0:51.
145: 1st – Joey Roberts (Woodford County) def. Clayton Hanson (St. Xavier) 12-3; 3rd – Chance Oxford (Union County) def. Blake Gamble (Johnson Central) 7-0.
152: 1st – Zane Brown (Male) def. Cody Huston (Cooper) 6-5; 3rd – Micah Ervin (Union County) def. Dallas Miles (St. Xavier) 8-4.
160: 1st – Geordan Blanton (Johnson Central) def. Cameron Ward (St. Xavier) 7-4; 3rd – Mason Smith (Walton-Verona) def. Jared Branch (Fern Creek) 1-0.
170: 1st – Casey Cornett (Simon Kenton) pinned Joe Jackson (Johnson Central) 1:21; 3rd – Diion Leavell (Christian County) def. Jacob Bratcher (Manual) 9-7.
182: 1st – Max Andreoni (Woodford County) def. Elijah Jackson (Simon Kenton) 28-13; 3rd – Avery Buckman (Union County) pinned Chase Blanton (Harrison County) 4:08.
195: 1st – David Woods (Calloway County) pinned Matt Steven (LaRue County) 2:44; 3rd – Kadin Kulmer (Trinity) def. Brady Taylor (Johnson Central) 9-8.
220: 1st – Bryan Pratt (Meade County) def. Colby Culver (Calloway County) 8-7; 3rd – Alex Horn (Johnson Central) pinned Zachariah Jones (Central Hardin) 1:19.
285: 1st – Hunter Ruber (Walton-Verona) def. Kairus Washington (Dixie Heights) 5-3; 3rd – Justus Williams (Madison Southern) pinned Byron Pierce (Johnson Central) 4:04.
Orville Williams Outstanding Wrestler – Casey Cornett (Simon Kenton).
Coach of the Year – Robert Ervin (Union County).