by JOHN HOWLEY / sportingpumpkin.com
COLUMBUS — The state wrestling championships ended on a winning note for two Teays Valley wrestlers Sunday with Gunner Havens placing fifth and Zander Graham placing seventh.
Havens lost his 106-pound consolation semifinal in one of the day’s first matches and came back to beat Massillon Perry’s Emeric McBurney in the consolation finals.
Graham had just the one match Sunday and had Lakota West’s Matthew Szczepaniak pinned in 26 seconds to place seventh.
Havens began his day taking on Elder’s Konner Lamber in the semifinals where he was pinned in the second round.
That dropped him into the fifth-place match against McBurney.
“I hold myself to very high standards so that was just a little wake up call. I got a little fire in me,” Havens said.
Havens got an early 5-0 lead and bumped it up to 7-0 in the second on the way to a 7-4 win.
“I’m still upset about myself not making it to the (championship) finals, obviously that’s my goal. So anything I can do to make up for it,” Havens said of getting out in front and defending the lead in the third period. “I was just trying to block off, keep my lead and look for points.”
“We know that he can’t pin everybody in the first period. He knows he has to go five, six minutes with people,” TV coach Todd Nace said. “Sometimes he does break down about it — this match he didn’t.
“The five-point lead at the beginning of the match was huge. Then he’s riding and doing some things right, and then just kept doing what he had to do.”
As for what he’ll take from the weekend’s action, “Favorite memory was probably losing, honestly,” Havens said. “I need that wakeup call and I think that’s what’s going to give me the push this summer to be like my teammate Cameron McDanel and be out there and dominate.”
McDanel will be wrestling later tonight for the Division I title at 190 pounds.
Havens completes his junior season with a 41-4 record.
Graham finished his career at Teays Valley doing what he does best.
“My nickname is the spladle king. I’ve done it since I was little, so I had to end my last high school career match with a spladle,” Graham said.
And Graham did it quickly, getting the whistle just 26 seconds into his seventh-place match.
“As soon as he touched my leg, I knew it was there,” Graham said. “He shot in so deep. Sometimes when they shoot in too deep, you can’t separate your hips so that’s when you fall to your butt and then work the move, and that’s what I did.”
Graham has been battling a sore should much of the season and it was aggravated during Saturday night’s quarterfinal match. He said it was sore and took some extra stretching to get ready this morning, “but I just went out there and wrestled my match.
“This year it was rough, I had a lot of adversity,” Graham said. “Beginning of the season I hurt my shoulder, then middle of the season I caught Covid and was out for a little bit. So I was battling through stuff and ended up stringing three good tournaments together and finishing up a state placer.”
“We’re super proud of Zander just battling through the last four or five weeks with that shoulder,” Nace said. “For that match, you’ve just got to let it hang out and go. That’s been his signature move the last four years, the spladle, and the coaches said go for it, what have you got to lose.
“I’m really, really happy for him and super proud of him getting seventh. When you get bumped down and have to win that last match, that’s huge. Three-time state qualifier and seventh in the state — there’s no shame in that, at all.
Graham wraps up his senior season with a 31-6 record.
“(Wrestling) taught me a lot and I think I’m ready for that next level to step up and go at it the next four years at Ashland,” he said.
“He’s been a captain, been a leader, has been a part of our program since he was six years old,” Nace said. “We’re super excited for him to move on to Ashland University.”
Graham and Havens placing bumped Teays Valley’s team points up to 48, good for ninth in the team standings, heading into Sunday’s night’s title matches.
St. Edward and Perrysburg are battling for the Division I team title with 167 and 152.5 team points, respectively.