I’ve tried to write the opening of this column probably a dozen times, but the fact is I can’t think of one story that took precedence over another. A lot happened this summer with wrestling, some good and some bad, but the bottom line is it’s here and it’s time to hit the mat.
There are going to be a lot of new faces this winter locally as well as around the Southwest Ohio scene. Around the area the first thing that sticks out is the youth of each team. Both Indian Lake and Benjamin Logan have a double digit number of freshmen and a good amount of underclassmen on their rosters. Bellefontaine has good numbers this year, but many are in need of mat experience.
Ohio Wrestling Radio.com
As always, I’m not at a loss for words or topics to discuss so I’ll go over a few, beginning with the first tournaments for our local teams.
Three of our area teams open the season with tournament action this weekend. Ben Logan travels to the Franklin Invitational against a solid field of Southwest Ohio teams.
Bellefontaine travels to the Circleville Invitational and Triad is at Bishop Fenwick. The Circleville and Fenwick meets should provide some tough competition for the Chiefs and Cardinals.
The Logan County meet is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Ben Logan High School. That will be a great chance to see our area teams and will also be the debut of new Indian Lake head coach Scott Tressler.
After capturing the numberone ranking in the nation and an eighth consecutive state title last season, Graham is just hitting its prime. Believe it or not, this Falcon team will be even better than last year in my opinion. Their lineup is so talented they have a returning state champion (Tucker Armstrong) who will have a tough time getting into the starting lineup.
Although the Falcons lost three phenomenal seniors, they usher in four tremendous freshmen. While one of these four is Isaac Jordan, a son of Jim Jordan, the name to remember the most in this group is Felipe Martinez. Get ready to hear a lot about Martinez. He already garnishes a No. 11 national ranking at 130 pounds without wrestling a high school match.
From practice reports, Martinez went toe-to-toe and took down three-time state champ David Taylor and has put state champ Zach Neibert to his back.
Buckeyes ready to rumble
Following up a season that ended with a runner-up finish at the NCAA tournament and crowning two individual champions won’t be easy for Ohio State, but they have talent to do it.
Senior 141-pounder J. Jaggers and junior 184- pounder Mike Pucillo lead a loaded Buckeye squad this season. In addition to the defending national champs, OSU also returns two-time all- American Lance Palmer and four other national qualifiers, including Ohio native Dave Rella, a junior who transferred from Penn State.
Ohio State is currently ranked third in the country and is 2-0 in dual meets this season after winning the Buckeye Duals. OSU will get its first real test this weekend at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas.
The opening weekend of the prep wrestling season is full of exceptional matchups, and as expected, most will be under the dome in Walsh Jesuit High School at the Ironman.
Headlining, in what could likely be the matchup of the year, are two national titans in Central Mountain, Pa., junior Andrew Alton and Lakewood St. Edward senior Collin Palmer. Topping Alton’s credential list is a freestyle national championship and Greco national runner-up finish this past summer.
At 171 pounds, Monroeville sophomore sensation Chris Phillips will receive perhaps his toughest test of the year. The top three wrestlers in the nation will be in action with Phillips (1), Ethen Lofthouse of Mountain Crest, Utah (2) and Ed Ruth of Blair Academy, N.J. (3). It is also of interest that Ruth is the last wrestler to ever beat Phillips (8-6 at the Disney Duals) when Phillips was an eighth-grader and Ruth was a sophomore.
Finally, maybe one of the bigger stories this year that will get overlooked is Graham’s David Taylor going for his fourth Ironman title. Now a senior, Taylor has moved up four weight classes to 135. What makes winning a fourth Ironman title special is that it has never been done in the tournament’s 13-year history.
Standing in the way of history is Josh Kindig of Blue Mountain, Pa., who is the second seed. Taylor beat Kindig 1- 0 in the finals of the Super 32 tournament this past summer.