by JOHN HOWLEY / sportingpumpkin.com
COLUMBUS — History was made Friday as the Ohio High School Athletic Association held the first state girls wrestling championships alongside the 86th boys tournament.
Teays Valley junior Ava Miller and freshman Madi Hamilton represented Pickaway County in this inaugural championship, and Miller made a little extra bit of history thanks to the way the schedule worked out.
Miller’s 105-pound match against West Union’s Scotlyn Adams was the 10th match on the schedule for the girls’ tournament. With 10 mats going on the floor of Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center and the boys Division I opening round still finishing up, Miller and Adams ended up paired off in the first-ever girls state championship match.
As the referee prepared the start their match, the PA announcer informed the crowd of the historic event which brought a mighty cheer from the thousands on hand, and Miller didn’t disappoint the crowd, or herself.
She was in control scoring an early take down and finished off the match in the second period by pinning Adams at the 2:52 mark.
While Miller participated in last year’s state tournament sponsored by the coaches’ association, held at Hilliard Davidson High School, coming to Ohio State to compete gives it a different feel.
“Being here now, that it’s sanctioned, it feels so much better being in front of all these people,” Miller said.
And big crowds have never bothered her.
“Before this, I did ju-jitsu and I would go to tournaments. I feel like that kind of prepared me for this,” Miller said of performing in front of crowds from a young age. “It just feels like all eyes are on me. I’m kind of used to it.”
While being a part of history is nice, the best part of Friday’s action was she got the win and moved on to the championship quarterfinals Saturday morning.
“It feels good that I don’t have to wrestle anymore (today),” she said.
Even though she placed fourth in the 100-pound weight class last year, Miller is taking nothing for granted as she tries to work her way further up the podium.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I have to take it one match at a time.”
Among the many people excited for Miller’s accomplishment was her coach Todd Nace.
“Wasn’t that cool?” he said.
Miller’s match actually followed TV heavyweight Joey Thurston’s opener on the same mat.
“We knew Joey was going to be up and, in looking at the numbers, she was probably going to be right up behind him. To watch Joey win and her come out there and make history as the first girl on the state mats was pretty cool,” Nace said. “And then win by pin, that’s even more special.
“We wrestled that girl about three weeks ago. It was really close, and we ended up pinning her later on in the match. We knew that she was dangerous.
“If (Miller) finishes her takedowns like she did on that girl, then I think she can do something pretty special.”
For Hamilton (17-16), though, Friday’s action wasn’t as successful.
She opened up the 140-pound tournament facing Marysville’s Addi Lyon (30-12). They battled into the third round before Lyon advanced with a pin at the 4:45 mark.
Coming back in the consolation bracket, Hamilton was pinned by Cleveland Central Catholic’s Ajiahna Triplett (23-2) in the first round.
“Madi – just super excited for her to be here. I don’t think she thought that match was going to be that close. That girls beat her about three weeks ago in about a minute,” Nace said of Hamilton’s match against Lyon. “She wrestled her really tough. We caught her on her back there, and if it had been about three seconds later, she probably would have been pinned. She got saved by the bell. I think we ran out of gas there at the end.
“(Madi) really put together a really good tournament last week and made it,” Nace said. “She’s disappointed she didn’t win that match (against Triplett). It was a 50/50 throw and the other girl won.”
“This is my first year ever wrestling. It’s not the outcome I wanted but it’s a great opportunity,” Hamilton said. “I worked really hard to get here and I’ve got a lot of bad habits I need to work on. But I’m going to come back and be better.”
“Maddie is just a great kid. We kind of pulled her out of the hallway, saying, ‘You kind of look like a wrestler, why don’t you come out and wrestle,” Nace said. “I told her we’ve got three years to get better and better. If she keeps getting better like this, then good things will happen.”
“I first started ever wrestling in November. So, what I’ve learned so far is all thanks to Todd Nace. He’s probably one of the best coaches,” Hamilton said. “The first practice I ever went to, he got down on his knees and wrestled with me.”
The hard work put in since first coming to practice paid off.
“I never thought I’d make it this far. I would jump rope in front of the state qualifiers board at my high school dreaming my name was going to be up there,” she said. “Having an opportunity to do it, I’m proud of myself.”
The Vikings had a team of four girls and that’s something Nace is hoping to see grow in the coming years.
Miller will be back on the mat about 11:30 Saturday morning taking on freshman Ava Steffel from Tinora. Steffel (26-7) pinned her opening round opponent in 3:19.