Madison’s Drew Price stood in the tunnel leading to the floor at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament and took a breath as he gazed out waiting his turn to be called to a mat.
“The dream is real,” Price said of his state debut. “I remember always thinking in my mind that I can’t wait to go out of that tunnel.
“I was nervous, but when the whistle blew, I knew I had to go out and go at it.”
Price was one of 14 area Division III wrestlers to advance to Friday’s quarters, recording an escape in the second period for the winning points in a 4-3 victory over Carter Winegardner of Zanesville Muskingum at 138 pounds.
“Once the nerves got over, I realized it’s not as hard as it is,” Price said.
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The first time was also the charm for Southeastern’s Jesse Mitchell and Bethel’s Kellen Calhoun.
Mitchell and Calhoun were each making history as the first state qualifiers from their school and now both are one win away from becoming the first state placers in school history.
Calhoun was dominant in his match at 170 with Richard McFarland of Martins Ferry, recording a quick takedown before securing the fall at 1:43.
“That got the nerves out,” Calhoun said. “I was nervous, but this is what I have worked for the whole time. I was just going to go out and give it my all.”
Mitchell broke a 0-0 tie in the second period of his match at 160 with Gibsonburg’s Brady Jason and made it stand up in a 2-1 win.
“I’ve been working for toward this for 12 years,” Mitchell said. “Every year I have busted my butt more to get here.
“I was a little nervous, but once I stepped on the mat it went away.”
While the newcomers were getting nervous, it was business as usual for Miami East projected state champ Graham Shore.
Shore cruised into the quarterfinals with a 23-8 technical fall at 120.
“It’s almost routine,” Shore said. “I remember the first time I came and looked around and it was the big stage. Now, I’m used to it and I just want to go out on a high note.”
Miami East and Troy Christian were tied for 10th in the team race after the first round with 9.5 points. Genoa jumped to an early lead with 19.5.
The state tournament is nothing new for Ross’ Jake Gentry.
Winning his first-round match?
That’s a different story.
Gentry manhandled Parma Padua Franciscan’s Jimmy Balazy, securing a fall in 27 seconds to move into the quarters at 113.
“It’s definitely easier being on the big stage now,” said Gentry, a two-time placer. “I’ve never won a first round match until now.
“The first time you come, you have a little stage fright, but now I am much more comfortable and ready to wrestle.”
Graham advanced 11 of 13 to the quarters to jump to a 23.5-point lead with 38.5 points. Chaminade Julienne, which got two huge wins in the opening round, is 10th with 8.0 points.
Isaiah Worthum pulled the first upset for the Eagles at 126, knocking off two-time placer Conor McCrone 8-2. Micah Marshall made it two two-time placers to fall victim to CJ, taking a 5-1 decision over Norton’s Bret Baker at 145.
Alter’s Jack Forschner also advanced at 160 with a 8-3 decision.
Fairfield ended the first round in the top 10 after winning three of four matches.
The Indians were in sixth with 10 points while Butler advanced two wrestlers and were eighth with 7 points.
For Fairfield, returning state runner-up Zach Shupp recorded a pin in 3:45 at 106 while Moustapha Bal claimed a 10-3 win at 113 and Jabari Thomas secured a fall in 3:40 to advance to the quarters.
Butler got wins from Ronnie Pietro (132) and Jestin Love (152).
Love’s win was part of a Miami Valley rally with Centerville’s Drew Wiechers and Wayne’s Jordan Hardwick also advancing at 152.
Projected state champ from Fairmont, Nevan Snodgrass, advanced at 160, but Springfield’s projected champ – Joe Cochran – got caught and pinned late in the third period of his first-round match with returning state placer Josh Bever of Ashland while leading 2-1.
Wrestling continues Friday with the quarters and second round of consolation at 10 a.m, with semis slated for a 6:30 p.m. start.