by JOHN HOWLEY / sportingpumpkin.com
Pickaway County wrestlers brought back a pair of state runner-up finishes this weekend from the state wrestling championships. Those were won by Teays Valley’s Camden McDanel in Division I and Westfall’s Starr Kelly in Division III.
HILLIARD — It had been 46 years since a Teays Valley wrestler had been in the title match at the state championships. If this weekend’s performance is any indication, it might not be that long before it happens again.
Teays Valley had three sophomores competing in the Division I state championships this weekend, led by Camden McDanel finishing as the state runner-up at 182 pounds and Gunner Havens took eighth at 106 pounds. Joey Thurston was one match away from placing at heavyweight.
McDanel finished second after a hard-fought match against unbeaten and Indiana University-bound Nordonia senior Salvatore Perrine (49-0) ended 5-4 in Perrine’s favor.
“His mentality all week is that’s where he wanted to be — to walk through that tunnel,” Teays Valley coach Todd Nace said. “Cam is so mature for a sophomore to walk into this building with all these people cheering. He is so focused and ready to go.”
McDanel started his weekend by pinning Olmstead Falls’ RJ Simon (25-7) in 4:49 and then won a major decision against Archbishop Moeller’s Jonathon Sanchez (25-11, 8th place).
He came back Sunday morning and beat Elyria senior Jake Evans (38-3, 5th place). Evans, ranked No. 2 in the state, is headed to Ohio University on a wrestling scholarship.
The match against Perrine was a battle to the end, with the senior keeping the sophomore at bay.
“He’s a sophomore wrestling these seniors who are men,” Nace said. “We’re so proud of him.
“He goes in and battles, battles, battles. He gives up a takedown and doesn’t lose focus, he comes out and gets the escape, then gets that reversal with 10 seconds in the (second) period. It was unbelievable. He just doesn’t stop. His motor is on full tilt all the time.”
The final moments were packed full of energy as McDanel tried to turn the score.
“I couldn’t get on his legs, that was the main problem. All my offenses are tie ups, he blocked me off and that match was exactly how he wanted it go,” McDanel said.
“We knew we were probably going to have to get a takedown at the end to win it. You take him down too early and then they get an escape and you’re down by one and you have to take him down again,” Nace said. “At the 30-second mark he was in on that kid’s legs so deep and that kid has just got hips that are out of this world to stop his takedowns.”
Finishing with a 41-2 record, McDanel is ready to do what it takes to get better and make his way back.
“My focus is going to be the same – striving to be the best. You make every day the best you can make it,” McDanel said. “I knew I was going to get here but didn’t know how far I’d get. I plan on going all the way. I’ve still got two more years and there are bigger accomplishments than just the state tournament.”
“We start April 6 – there’s no offseason, we’re ready to go,” Nace said. “I told him, ‘You made me get up this week and now I’m telling you that things will be alright for you. You’ll get up tomorrow and things will be OK.’”
Havens (33-6) ended his season by taking eighth place in the Division I tournament Sunday.
After opening his tournament with a loss Saturday morning, Havens battled back to win his next two matches by pin to advance to the next day’s action. Sunday didn’t go as well for Havens as he was pinned by Perrysburg’s Ryan Avalos (40-5, 5th place) and then finished eighth after being pinned by Micah Medina (41-10) of Oregon Clay in the finals.
“This sophomore class is just unbelievable,” Nace said. “We could have three kids here in the finals in two years. That’s where those guys are focused.”
Mike Wilson — who won the Class AA title at 175 pounds in 1975 — is the only state wrestling champion in the more than 60-year history of Teays Valley High School.
MARION — Westfall senior Starr Kelly had his hopes of a state championship dashed as the first period came to a close.
The 195-pounder was pinned by Oak Harbor’s Wyatt Miller (48-0) as the period came to a close.
Kelly (32-3) advanced with three decisions to make the finals.
He opened with a 7-5 decision over Kirtland’s Anthony Gencarelli (26-6) and finished Saturday’s competition with a 5-2 decision over Southeast’s Jaidyn Sapp (33-6, 5th place).
In Sunday’s semifinal, he had a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period, the match was tied up at 2-2 after the second and Kelly was able to outscores Southeast’s Jaidyn Sapp (33-6, 5th place) to advance with an 8-5 win.
“We just knew if we took the third period, Josey’s got a ton of heart and he knows how to win. We knew we had the gas, the motor to beat him,” Wesfall coach Will Breyer said after Starr’s semifinal.
“They were all three hard matches, I didn’t win by more than three on any of them, so they were all good competition,” Kelly said after his semifinal win.