2/28/2013 12:28:00 AM Four local wrestlers at state this weekend
By MATT SEXTON Sports writer
Four Clinton County wrestlers will have the opportunity this weekend to follow in the footsteps of Clinton-Massie football and Wilmington swimmer Josh Quallen at the 76th OHSAA state wrestling championships. In a year of state championships for Clinton County, Blanchester's Travis Boyd, Clinton-Massie's Wyatt Running and Wilmington's Kevin Phelps and Zach Johnson will have a chance to shine on the state's biggest stage. Wrestling begins today at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University. Boyd will wrestle his first-round bout during the first session today beginning at 3 p.m. The other three will wrestle when Division II gets started with round one after 4:15 p.m. Boyd comes into the state tournament as a sectional and district champion. He'll face Elyria Catholic's Adam Kuchta (junior, 36-5) in the opening bout. The bracket makers were unkind to Boyd, as they placed the only other returning state placer at 220 pounds in the same half of the draw. In fact, it is Rootstown's Jake Moore (senior, 36-3) who defeated Boyd in the consolation semifinals a year ago, 3-2. "[Boyd] had a bitter loss in the consolation semifinals last year," said BHS head coach Bryan Pennix. "I think we were top three last year. I think that drove him. He obviously wants to win the thing. He's got a shot." According to Pennix, for the two of them to be separated, they would have both had to finish in the top three of state last year and be district champions this year. They did not meet those criteria. "To be a state champ you have to beat four state qualifiers and at least two state placers along the way," Pennix said. "There isn't really a 'good' draw at the state tournament. Being a district champ puts Travis in a great spot to advance and get his shot at all the marbles. I like his chances." For Boyd, from the end of last season until now, he's had just one thought in mind: win a state title. "From the second I walked off the mat last year, I said 'Coach, that's not good enough'," said Boyd. "I've got to win state. The goal has been to get the gold medal at the state tournament." Running is coming off two consecutive sixth-place finishes and looking to improve on that in 2013. He was sixth at 170 pounds a year ago and sixth at 160 pounds in Division III two years ago. "It's been a good season," said Wyatt Running. "We have been working hard. I've missed Coach McSurley, but it has been great having my brother as my coach. I want to place higher than I have the last two years. "My bracket is tough but I think I am ready." Running opens the tournament this afternoon with Pemberville Eastwood's Randy Caris (senior, 52-3). "Wyatt has had a great year so far leading up to state," said CM head coach Spencer Running of his brother, Wyatt. "He got beat in the district finals but Wyatt got the better draw at state because of it by pure luck. "This week we have been working very hard to get Wyatt in the state finals match. He has been doing a lot of extra work this week and we're hoping that it will pay off." Neither Wilmington wrestler will have an easy road. Johnson will open the meet against Toledo Central Catholic's Alex Mossing (junior, 34-4). Mossing has placed in both his freshman and sophomore years, with a third-place finish a year ago at 132 pounds. Johnson, who qualified for the junior high state meet in the eighth grade, said the feeling of knowing he is going to state was incredible. "When there was 20 seconds left and I had the kid on his back," said Johnson. "I was just watching the clock. The feeling right afterwards was amazing." At 285 pounds, Phelps will wrestle Perry's Billy Miller (junior, 41-2) in the opening round. Miller was fourth in the 285 pounds weight class a year ago. "A lot of people are just happy being at state," said Phelps. "Personally, I want to place."
Both wrestlers have been leading the way for the Hurricane wrestling team, according to WHS head coach Jeff Wiederhold. "They have both been leaders on the team all year," said Wiederhold. "Kevin has placed in every tournament we have wrestled this year. They both work very hard in practice and are focused in their matches." For Wilmington, the state tournament marks the final high school tournament for Wiederhold, who is retiring after the state tournament. The force behind a consistently successful Wilmington program, Wiederhold will coach two young men, each in his first state tournament. For Johnson and Phelps, they would love nothing more than sending out Wiederhold with a strong finish in the state tournament. "I remember my freshman year when [Wiederhold] had cancer, he was still there pushing me," said Johnson. "Coach Wied is an amazing guy. He knows what to say and he knows when to rip your butt." Johnson said that the feeling of clinching a berth in state didn't sink in until he met up with Wiederhold after the bout. "It didn't really hit me until Coach Wied came up to me and gave me a hug and started tearing up," said Johnson. "He said, 'We've done so much together. We've been through a lot. This is a present to me from you.' "It just hit me. I love Coach Wied. He's awesome. To hear him so happy about that, it was an awesome feeling. I wish I could relive that every day."