By JOHN HOWLEY / sportingpumpkin.com
HILLIARD — The state wrestling tournament will have a different feel to it this year but one thing that doesn’t seem to change is that Teays Valley will have a presence.
Four Vikings advanced their way to the state tournament this weekend led by sophomore Camden McDanel who claimed the title at 182 pounds.
Joining him will be sophomore Gunner Havens who was third at 106 pounds, Liam Wilson who was fourth at 220 pounds and sophomore Joey Thurston who was fourth at heavyweight.
Zander Graham placed fifth.
“He was a two-time state qualifier already,” TV coach Todd Nace said of Graham. “The matchups weren’t good for him so we’re real disappointed for him not to be able to make it but super excited for the other four kids.
“Gunner is a two-time state qualifier now. Camden is a district champion in Division I and was a state qualifier last year. It was a big win for Joey coming back all the way and getting that fourth place. He wrestled his butt off the whole weekend and looked good. We’re excited for Liam to qualify. He was an alternate last year so we’re super excited for him.”
McDanel, a sophomore, took the Division I crown by beating Dublin Coffman junior Mitchell Broskie 8-3.
The championship was set up by three pins to start the tournament.
McDanel pinned Northland’s Chrysanthus Ampaah in 1:03 to start the day Saturday and then pinned Sallah Ablourahman of Whetstone in 3:17 to advance. Coming back in the semifinals Sunday, he pinned Dylan Dempsey of Olentangy Orange in 2:28 to advance to the championship.
Havens advanced to the semifinals with two pins on Saturday but was pinned in 3:29 when he went up against Westland’s Tyler Jude Sunday morning.
He came back in the consolation bracket to pin Dublin Coffman’s Joseph Baumann in 1:40 and then won the match to place third by pinning Lancaster’s Toby Hutsler, also in 1:40.
TV senior Liam Wilson advanced to the state tournament as he opened his tournament with two pints on Saturday to earn a spot in the semifinals. Going up against Groveport-Madison’s Jake Nelson on Sunday, he was pinned in 5:19 to drop into the consolation bracket.
In his consolation match, Wilson was trailing Dublin Coffman’s Michael Blocker when Blocker was called for an illegal hold that resulted in a shoulder injury for Wilson. Unable to continue to wrestle, Wilson won the match by default and then conceded the third-place match to take fourth.
Sophomore heavyweight Joey Thurston battled his way back through the consolation bracket Sunday to earn his trip to the state tournament. He won a 6-0 decision over Pickerington North’s Braden Watts to advance to the consolation semifinals and moved on to the finals by pinning Mount Vernon’s Nate Stradley in 1:15.
Thurston faced off against Dublin Coffman junior Riley Ucker in the finals where he lost by pin.
At 138 pounds, TV’s Zander Graham lost a consolation match 4-2 to Lancaster’s Jacob Reed Sunday morning but came back with a win by technical fall over Olentangy Liberty’s Broc Fitzpatrick to place fifth.
The Vikings will be back at Hilliard Darby High School — instead of Ohio State’s Value City Arena — for the Division I state championships Saturday as part of the changes taking place this year to combat COVID-19.
Last season, the state tournament was called off as state qualifiers were making their final preparations to head to Columbus.
“We’re excited just to wrestle,” Nace said. “We’re blessed to be able to be here and have a state tournament and have everything here at Darby again. They did a great job and are going to run a great state tournament. Competition is obviously going to be stiffer and we’re excited for it.”
With seven underclassmen in the group of nine district qualifiers and three of the four headed to state being underclassmen, the future looks bright for the TV wrestling program and Nace gives credit for the success to the group of assistants working with the kids.
“(Three-time state qualifier Cameron Latham) has been a huge, huge help for us this year with the tempo and the experience and just running the room this year,” he said. “We’ve got Josh McDanel coming in and running with the big heavier weight kids. Luke Nace in the middle weights is all over the place. He’ll wrestle Camden and come all the way down to the 106-pounder. And we’ve got other guys coming in and out of the room — I just can’t say enough about our assistant coaches and our program is looking up.”
The Vikings placed fifth in the district as a team with 106.5 points. Dublin Coffman outpaced the field as it won the team title with 224.5 points while Marysville was second with 136.5.