High School Wrestling: Teams eye titles as state duals begin

The wrestling postseason begins this weekend at the district level of the state dual tournaments.

Centerville is this district’s top seed in Division I and will host one of eight four-team tournaments across the state. The eight winners advance to the state finals Feb. 12 at Lakewood St. Edward.

“Most wrestling coaches put more emphasis on the individual state tournament because you want to have high state placers, but this another chance for your team to have team success,” Centerville coach Alan Bair said.

The state duals have been around for over 20 years. The tournament gives wrestlers a chance to compete against those they might see at the individual state tournament and allows wrestlers who don’t qualify for state the opportunity to compete at the state level. The Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association started the tournament before eventually turning it over to the OHSAA. But the coaches took it back last year.

Teams qualify based on the performances of their underclassmen the previous year in the individual district tournaments. Then team performances this year help determine seedings.

Centerville begins its quest Saturday. The Elks were supposed to wrestle eighth-seeded Harrison, but Harrison opted out. So No. 4 Springboro faces No. 5 Lebanon in the only semifinal at noon and the winner will face Centerville afterward in the final for a trip to Lakewood. The other four-team pod for the district wrestles Sunday at No. 3 Cincinnati Moeller. The Crusaders open with No. 7 Northmont while No. 3 Beavercreek faces No. 6 Vandalia Butler.

Bair, in his 17th year with the Elks, last guided his program to the eight-team dual finals in 2013. The Elks were regional runners-up in 2014, 2016 and 2017. The Elks are in the position they are for duals because of last year’s strong team that graduated only three seniors.

Leading the Elks are 120-pounder Damion Ryan and 126-pounder Luke Acuna. Ryan placed fifth at state last year and Acuna has placed eighth twice. Both are three-time state qualifiers.

“They’ve been the backbone of our team the last three years,” Bair said. “When they go out, we pretty much know how they’re going to do.”

The Elks were district runner-up to Cincinnati La Salle in the individual tournament and have the depth to be in the hunt again. Simon Taylor (132) is a senior who made it to state as a sophomore. He is followed by senior Spencer Meng to cap a strong first four on the mat that usually get the Elks off to a good start. The Elks also rely on sophomore Ayden George (165), a district alternate last year, and junior Gunnar Pool (215), a district runner-up and state qualifier last year.

In other state dual districts this weekend, Graham hosts in Division II and Miami East hosts in Division III. Legacy Christian is a No. 1 seed in Division III and travels to Allen East to open against Carlisle. On Feb. 12, the Division II finals are at Louisville High School and Division III is at Versailles.

Conference tournaments hit the mats the following weekend. Miamisburg hosts the GWOC on Feb. 19. Centerville’s attempt to defend its title will be challenged by Springboro and Beavercreek. Springboro is led by juniors Conner Kleinberg (138) and Myles Johnson (215).

The OHSAA individual tournaments begin at the sectional level the following week, followed by districts and concluding with the state tournament on March 11-13 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.

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