COLUMBUS — When all the smoke cleared and all the bruised and battered combatants had left the mats, three area wrestlers remained with the opportunity to capture Division I state wrestling championships.
To nobody’s surprise, St. Edward junior Collin Palmer will be up for his third state title in as many years during tonight’s championship matches.
The 135-pound Columbia Township resident pounded out a 13-4 major decision over Uniontown Lake’s Zack Cline in Friday night’s semifinal matchup, and will face Mansfield Madison senior Josh Speelman in the state championship match.
Palmer handed the Madison wrestler his only defeat of the season, 5-2 in the Marion Harding district championship.
“I’ve been feeling real good,” Palmer said. “I’m just taking it one match at a time, and my goal is to dominate everyone. I’m going to go out there (today) and work to pin (Speelman).”
Palmer said this year’s tournament has been especially meaningful because his older brother Lance — an All-American at Ohio State — has been matside for every match.
“It’s been sweet because my brother has been here to coach me like during my freshman year,” Collin said. “He wasn’t able to attend the tournament last year because he was out of town competing in the Big Ten championships.”
Joining Palmer in tonight’s championship matches will be Amherst senior Aaron Winemiller and Westlake sophomore Nick Lawrence.
Winemiller earned a 5-3 decision over Brecksville senior Pat Leahy in the 171-pound semifinals. He will try to become the first state champion for the Comets since Jake Percival won the 140-pound title in 2000.
“When I looked up into the stands and saw the look on my dad’s face … it was the best look ever,” Winemiller said. “That’s the point where it sunk in that I was headed to the state finals.”
Besides the obvious trip he earned to the state championship match, the victory over Leahy was satisfying for Winemiller for another reason.
“That kid beat me for the (Southwestern) conference championship,” Winemiller said. “So there was a little bit of redemption tonight. It felt real nice to beat him.”
Winemiller will face St. Edward senior Brian Roddy in the championship match, the same opponent he met in the Southview sectional and Marion Harding finals.
Roddy came away with a 23-7 technical fall in the sectional and Winemiller defaulted in the district to rest his right knee, which has a partially torn MCL.
“I think it was a smart move because my knee has felt pretty good here at the state tournament,” Winemiller said. “Roddy is strong as an ox. But I have a few moves that I can hit on anybody, so I’ll try a few on him.”
Lawrence rallied after getting hit with an early takedown to come away with a 4-3 decision in his 119-pound semifinal against Twinsburg sophomore Waquiem Comar.
“He took me down in the first 30 seconds, but I didn’t want to let that faze me,” Lawrence said. “I laid there for a minute trying to regroup, then I got up and just went after it.”
The finals appearance is a nice follow-up to Lawrence’s fifth-place finish as a freshman. He will try to become the Demons’ first state champion since Doug Dake in 1980.
“I’m so excited,” Lawrence said. “Ever since I was a young kid I’ve been coming down here on Saturday nights to watch the finals matches. Just watching the parade of champions gives you chills. Now to be in it … I don’t know what that’s going to be like.”
Lawrence will face Solon senior Garrett Henry in tonight’s championship match. Henry is ranked No. 3 in the state, while Lawrence is ranked No. 5. Demons coach Mike Antonyzyn knows that Lawrence will need to perform like he did during Friday’s two matches to come away with the title.
“Nick wrestled a smart match,” Antonyzyn said. “He kept the attack up and never let up. The second match was a near carbon copy of what he did in the first match. He must have taken six or seven shots right on the line.”
Lawrence’s quarterfinal victory came against Brush senior Kyle Ciccarello, who was projected to win the state championship.
“It’s unbelievable,” Lawrence said after the big win. “It’s almost like I need somebody to wake me up because it feels like I’m dreaming.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or email@example.com.
Match of the Day
Amherst senior Aaron Winemiller, who qualified to state during his junior season, reached the Division I state championship match with a
5-3 decision over Brecksville senior Pat Leahy.
“I hit him with a nice single-leg (takedown) in the third quarter to go up 5-1,” Winemiller said. “Then he reversed me and I pretty much layed on the mat waiting for the time to run out.
“It was such a rush. I laid there and realized all my dreams were about to be realized.”
Upset of the Day
Westlake sophomore Nick Lawrence put on an attack against Brush senior Kyle Ciccarello, who was projected to capture the Division I 119-pound state title. Lawrence used aggressive moves to earn a 3-2 decision. “I obviously knew he was a great wrestler,” Lawrence said. “I just went into the match knowing that I could beat him.”
St. Edward junior Collin Palmer, who resides in Columbia Township, will go for his third state title in as many years, while Winemiller and Lawrence will be joining him in the state championship matches tonight. Besides the three state finalists, the area has 13 other wrestlers who vying for state placements during this morning’s session.