COLUMBUS — Elyria’s had good days at the Division I state tournament before, but the Pioneers never had a day like they had during Thursday’s opening session.
Elyria walked into Value City Arena with nine state qualifiers and every one of them won his opening match.
“We have some guys that haven’t been down here before and you just don’t know what they’re going to do,” coach Erik Burnett said. “You just try to talk to them and see where they’re at mentally. But you never know until they walk out onto the mat.”
First up was freshman Peyton Fenton, who admitted the multiple trips to Columbus to watch older brother Brenden wrestle were not enough to fully prepare him for the experience.
“It was weird. It’s really hard to take everything in,” he said. “I just came out here and tried to do my best. You’re not used to it until you get the feel of it. It just got to me — how bright the lights are, how many people are watching me … it made me uncomfortable.”
Not uncomfortable enough to lose. Fenton remained in control throughout his 106-pound match and came away with a 9-2 decision over Copley’s Zane Van Voorhis.
“I came in here nervous,” Fenton said. “I feel comfortable getting this first one out of the way. I feel I’ll get better the next couple of rounds.”
Bryce Allison won a close match at 113, as did Nate Burnett at 120. Dylan Shawver won by major decision at 126 and Mick Burnett won by technical fall at 132. Matt Zuckerman (138), Enrique Munguia (152) and Jake Evans (170) pinned their opponents, before Andrew Levis capped the 9-0 run with an overtime win at 220 pounds.
“It’s crazy to think that it’s finally coming to an end, and even crazier to think that I’ve come here four times and that’s my first-ever pin,” said Zuckerman, who pinned Ashville Teays Valley’s Jacob Williams in 1:59. “It’s incredible. Everybody coming out here and winning first round shows that we prepared perfectly. It’s Elyria vs. the world. We can shock people.”
The Pioneers, who sit third behind leader St. Edward and Cincinnati LaSalle, led a local contingent that sent 16 into the championship quarterfinals. The others were Lutheran West’s Parker Watson, an Avon resident, in Division III, Firelands’ Payton Burgdorf in Division II and Division I wrestlers Bryce Hepner — an Avon resident from St. Edward — Daniel Bucknavich of Midview and Cael Saxton, Jordan Greer and Jack Roesch of Avon.
“I still get the nerves because it’s the state tournament, at least until I get that first one out of the way,” said Burgdorf, who is a two-time state placer. “Now that I’ve got my feet in the water again this year, I can get right back into the grind.”
Burgdorf opened with a 6-4 victory over Germantown Valley View’s Joey Dima, who’s ranked 13th in the state and scored the first and last takedowns of the match.
“I feel like if I do that again in the next few rounds, not having my offense going and being slow on the mat, I feel like I’m not going to have that much success,” Burgdorf said. “But to get that slow one out of the way, I feel that’s going to benefit me. I now know I need to warm up better or I have to do something out of this arena to get my head into this tournament.”
Greer, in his first trip to Columbus, had the opposite reaction to the intimidating setting.
“The environment is awesome, seeing the 10 mats there and the lights and looking up into the audience … I think I thrive off that atmosphere,” he said. “There’s a quote that’s like when the lights shine brighter, some people get dimmer or shine brighter, and I think I shine brighter.”
Greer took an early lead and held on for a 7-3 win over Harrison’s Max Boyle at 195 pounds.
“It’s everything to get that first round out of the way and slowly build up momentum for tomorrow,” Greer said.
Bucknavich also didn’t have an issue with the big stage as he pinned Cincinnati LaSalle’s Robert Brown in the second period of their heavyweight opener.
“I was a little nervous for the first match, but right when we first started wrestling it all went away and I just did my thing,” Bucknavich said. “I feel like I’m wrestling good and I’m going to bring home a state title this year.”
While winning a team title will still be a tall order, the Pioneers are in great shape to finish with a program-record nine state placers.
“That would be great,” Erik Burnett said. “The kids know why they’re here. They know what their goals are and they have work to do, but they’re one step closer.”
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- State Wrestling: Elyria's confident Enrique Munguia not satisfied with 2nd
- State Wrestling Notes: Elyria's Dylan Shawver, Andrew Levis finish strong, take third
- State Wrestling: Elyria's Mick Burnett follows family's footsteps with 1st title; Peyton Fenton 1st Elyria freshman to win championship
- State Wrestling 2019: Post-match interviews Shaun Bennett (VIDEOS/RECAP)
- RECAP: 2019 State wrestling tournament (VIDEOS)
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- State Wrestling Notes: North Ridgeville's Jacob Dunstan, Avon's Tommy Sear rally to stay alive
- State Wrestling: Wellington's Mike Casella makes surprising run to Columbus after long break from sport
- Division II district wrestling: Vermilion's Jakob Koleszar and Firelands' Payton Burgdorf only local wrestlers to go undefeated on Day 1
- Division III district wrestling: Lutheran West's Parker Watson, of Avon, picks up 150th win on way to semifinals
- Division I district wrestling: Nineteen from area go 2-0 on first day, eight from Elyria
- Division I district wrestling: Elyria sending nine to state; Mick and Nate Burnett pick up two of Pioneers' four titles
- PHOTO GALLERY: 2019 state wrestling tournament