COLUMBUS — Mick Burnett decided to join the family business Saturday night, and anyone who knows the Burnett family knows that business is winning state championships.
With a father, Erik, who won four state titles at Oberlin and an uncle, Scott, who won three at Elyria Catholic, Mick added his name to the list of Burnetts who’ve landed on top of the podium.
It was a double celebration for the Pioneers as Peyton Fenton, whose brother Brenden won a pair of state championships, became the first Elyria freshman to win a state title when he opened the championship session with a win at 106 pounds.
“I’m kind of just overwhelmed with emotions right now,” Mick said moments after his Division I 132-pound final. “Obviously winning a state title is huge, but to do it with what our family has been going through the last few years, with my grandpa (Ron) passing away, it’s awesome to be here and win a state title this year. It’s really cool to be able to share that with my dad and my uncle, who was right there as soon as I came off the mat.”
Burnett and Cincinnati Moeller’s Jordan Ward battled through a scoreless first period before Ward took a 1-0 lead with an early escape in the second. Burnett scored a takedown with 11 seconds left in the period and rode out Ward to hold a 2-1 lead heading into the third.
Burnett chose the neutral position to start the third, fought off several attacks and had several of his attacks stifled as the score remained the same until the final seconds.
Realizing he was defeated, Ward walked away as the final few seconds ticked off the clock and Burnett started celebrating.
“When I saw that, the blood just rushed through my body,” Burnett said. “It was an amazing feeling. Seeing our whole fan base over there and being able to hype them up a little bit was cool.”
Burnett ran into his father’s arms, then ran to celebrate with his mother, uncle and the rest of the Elyria faithful in the stands.
“It’s all his, man. I couldn’t be more proud and I couldn’t be more excited for him,” Erik said during the celebration. “As a father, what more can you want at the high school level than to be a high school state champ. He’s gone to the nationals and he’s done some stuff there, but this is a remarkable tournament. For him to win it and for me to be able to sit in the corner is awesome.”
It was a similar scene for Fenton, whose father, Mike, was in the coaching chair for his championship victory.
Fenton had lost three previous matches this season to St. Edward sophomore Sean Seefeldt — at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman, the Westlake sectional and the Mentor district — yet was in on a shot and behind Seefeldt quickly for a 2-0 lead.
Seefeldt escaped in the first and again in the second to tie the match, then kicked Fenton from the down position to start the third to give the Elyria wrestler a 3-2 lead. Fenton fought off several attacks and nearly secured another takedown in the closing seconds, but it wasn’t needed as the time ran out and Fenton was crowned champion.
“It feels good just knowing my brother did that same thing his sophomore year and junior year, and I finally get to do it my freshman year coming in,” Fenton said. “It doesn’t really matter during the (regular) season. At state … that’s where it matters. I think he was under pressure. He beat me three times already and he was supposed to take that easily.”
Joining the Elyria pair on top of the podium was St. Edward junior Bryce Hepner, an Avon resident, who captured his second straight state championship in his third state final appearance.
“This time was a lot more satisfying,” Hepner said. “One time if you win it, people can say it’s a fluke. This time I really cemented my place as one of the best guys in the country and obviously as the best guy in the state. I worked so hard all year and I stayed on top of everything, and I’m just proud of myself.”
Hepner went up big early, then coasted to a 7-2 victory over Jake Niffenegger of Cincinnati LaSalle in the Division I 138-pound final.
“I hit an early five-point move, from there I was just wrestling a smart match,” Hepner said. “I kept the pressure on him and ended up winning.”
The three area champs will hope to add another title next season.
“Having that (Burnett) name there’s been a little bit of pressure, so to be able to add my name to our family state champions is amazing,” Mick said. “I’m hoping to continue that next year with Nate and myself, and with (Scott’s son) Grey in the future.”
Was winning the elusive state title everything he’d hoped it would be?
“It’s way better,” Mick said. “Being able to come off the mat and see my family and all my friends, it’s a pretty cool feeling. I’ll have to do it again next year.”
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