COLUMBUS – Graham wrapped up its 16th-straight Division II state wrestling championship season with five individual champions Saturday night. The Falcons finished with 253 team points while second-place Canfield had 83.
All told, Champaign County took home seven individual titles, with Urbana’s Jack Harris (195 pounds) and Mechanicsburg’s Kaleb Romero (160) joining the Graham champions.
In all, 23 Champaign County wrestlers started the week as state qualifiers. Twenty-one of them were on the podium Saturday night at the Schottenstein Center.
The biggest smile in the arena belonged to Harris, who finally broke through after two runner-up finishes and another trip to the podium his freshman year to become Urbana’s first-ever state champ.
“I’m just enjoying myself. Every other year it’s been more of a job,” Harris said. “It was remarkable looking on social media. I had so many supporters coming into this.”
It was a different kind of season for Harris, who will move on to Kent State to wrestle for the Golden Flashes next year.
“I’ve been taught a lot of things about life the last three years,” Harris said. “It’s probably the most support we’ve had as a wrestling program. It’s been a blessing. It really has.”
At 170 pounds, Graham’s Alex “Bull” Marinelli bulldozed his way to his fourth state title, joining a club which sports more Falcons than any other mascot.
“I was dreaming of it (Friday) night,” Marinelli said. “I was excited to go out there with my teammates and just get it done. Every year has been really good, but this year we’re really close. We go to war in the room, but we’re still good friends off the mat.”
Mitch Moore (126) claimed his second title for Graham in as many tries.
“I just have to keep working hard,” Moore said. “Don’t worry about winning, just go out and wrestle.”
Brent Moore (138) put another notch in his championship belt, earning his second title.
“It’s just as sweet as the first one. Last year I was wrestling up a weight class,” Moore said. “This year I cut (weight) and I was supposed to be one of the more dominant guys at the weight class. Last year I was an underdog. I felt stronger and I felt more expectation.”
Sophomore Rocky Jordan (145) earned his first title, adding to his family’s legacy. He was emotional after his victory.
“I think it’s mostly because I lost the one my freshman year,” Jordan said. “I always wanted to win four with my brothers and my dad. I just try to listen to them as much as I can and learn from them.”
Garrett Jordan also won a title at 160 pounds, his first after improving upon his placement at the state tournament each of the previous two years.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling. I’ve wanted it for a long time and I finally got it today, so I can sleep well tonight,” Jordan said. “I love every single one of the guys. I’m honored to have been a captain on this team.”
Jeffrey Thomas (113) and Justin Stickley (120) finished second.
“I’m pretty grateful for the program at Graham,” Stickley said. “I didn’t finish like I wanted to, but I’ve been blessed by God for all He’s given me and I still have to give Him the glory.”
Jordan Crace (106), Ryan Thomas (132) and Kavan Sarver (195) all finished third for the Falcons.
Joey Sanchez (152), Gage Braun (182) and Johnny Shafer (220) each finished fifth.
Graham didn’t break the team points record or crown the most champions ever, but the Falcons have never had so many wrestlers place so highly.
“We had 13 guys come down and place in the top five,” GHS Coach Jeff Jordan said.
Perhaps none of those podium-toppers were as special for the coach as his son, Rocky.
“It makes me a little more anxious when he steps on the mat. I think that’s just a normal father-son relationship,” Coach Jordan said. “I’m very happy with how the team performed this week. Now we can go home and relax a little bit before we start training again.”
In Division III, Mechanicsburg placed third with 86.5 points. Delta won the division with 159 points.
Mechanicsburg’s Romero took home his third championship, keeping alive his goal of securing four. He was dominant in his technical fall victory, nearly pinning his man twice.
“I got the win. That’s all that matters,” Romero said with a smile. “I just continue to improve and work on my weaknesses in the offseason and keep trying to reach my goal of becoming a four-timer. There’s always room for improvement.”
MHS Coach Cameron Doggett may have the Romero secret – something that isn’t so secret at all.
“It’s great to have him. He’s a true leader and he shows the other guys on the team what they need to be doing to reach the level he’s at,” Doggett said. “All season long after we get done with practice, no matter how long or tiring it was, he was always sticking around 10 or 15 or 20 minutes doing extra stuff. That’s hard to find in kids these days. That sets an example for the rest of the team.”
Wade Smiddy (145) finished second for Mechanicsburg.
“I guess I came out here and performed pretty well,” Smiddy said. “I’m pretty proud of myself. My goal was to always make it to the finals and this year I finally reached my goal and it felt great.”
Tanner Smith (138) was third for the Indians. Tyler Wetzel (113) was fifth, Nick Miller (132) was seventh and Corey Bogan (152) was eighth.
Triad’s Jacob Thompson (170) took seventh place.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.