By Willie Saylor
You can safely point to early February as “Championship Season” for the bulk of the country. Last week we noted each state’s tournament dates. There were 11 championships staged last weekend. Sixteen more will be contested this weekend, with another fifteen the following week.
We’re right in the midst of culminating state supremacy in every nook of the country.
And last week, three biggies were determined, in some of the most tradition-rich wrestling hotbeds; dual champions were crowned in Oklahoma, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, featuring numerous squads appearing in WIN’s team rankings.
We’ll recap them here, and give a brief preview of the action that this week offers.
All season last year, Tulsa Union was considered the best team in Oklahoma. That was until Broken Arrow threw a monkey wrench in that assessment by beating the Redskins for the state title.
All year this season, Broken Arrow, ranked by WIN at No. 16, was universally considered the best team in Oklahoma. And even though Union, our No. 25th-ranked team, beat BA in their dual last week, some thought it was an anomaly, and that when the two squads met at the state duals, the previous decision would be reversed.
But Union did it again.
In a back-and-forth battle, Union built a 21-9 lead before BA studs Clay Archer and state champion Chase Ferman posted pins.
Union’s State Champion Kyle Ash (152) was upset by talented sophomore Tanner Bailey, making things tighter than ever.
Later, Union bumped future Oklahoma State Cowboy, 182-pounder, Kyle Crutchmer, up to 195 to face fellow state champion Seth Calvert. Tied at nine, Crutchmer converted the decisive takedown with eight seconds to go, making the Union deficit, 27-25.
Broken Arrow’s 220-pounder, Steve Allen, earned a decision, putting them up by five heading into the final bout, where Union got the fall they needed for a 31-30 win, and their first state dual title since 2008.
Other OK State Dual Results:
5A: Collinsville def. MacArthur, 52-17
4A: Tuttle def. Blackwell, 31-16
3A: Perry def. Berryhill, 40-18
The New Jersey State Group Championships took place Sunday. Contenders had spent nearly a week wrestling through qualifying duals. Most notably, the state’s No. 1- and No. 2- ranked teams (Jackson Memorial and St. Peters Prep, respectively) were bounced before reaching the Group Finals, which placed the final four teams in each division at The Pine Belt Arena in Toms River South.
The state is divided into six groups; four public and two private, according to size.
Here were your finals:
Group 4: Phillipsburg def. Brick Memorial, 29-27
Group 3: South Plainfield def. Ocean Township, 31-27
Group 2: Raritan def. Delsea, 30-28
Group 1: Bound Brook def. Hanover Park, 40-24
Non-Public Group A: Bergen Catholic def. Christian Bros. Academy, 54-18
Non-Public Group B: Camden Catholic def. DePaul, 54-18
No. 7 Canon McMillan survived a scare from four-time defending state dual champions, Central Dauphin. In a semifinal that was the de facto title match, Canon-Mac escaped with a 28-25 win over the Rams in the bottom half of the bracket.
Easton, the District 11 champs, came in as the top-half favorites. And history was on their side; they had a state record, eight, finals appearances.
But someone forgot to tell that to Erie McDowell.
The King of the Mountain champs entered with an unblemished record this season. But no District 10 team had ever made the state finals in AAA.
McDowell was able to win all the close ones as they ousted Easton, 30-25, in the quarters before getting to the finals via a 31-28 win over Mechanicsburg, who featured a tough upper half of the line-up.
McDowell was a game opponent for Canon-Mac in the finals, but couldn’t overcome the Big Macs firepower. CM took the title, 35-20.
It was Canon Mac’s first state dual championship and, surprisingly, just District 7’s second ever (Connelsville, 2005).
In AA, No. 15 Bethlehem Catholic made it two in a row, blitzing the field with wins over Bermudian Springs, last year’s runner-up, Ft. LeBoeuf and Brookville, before meeting Boiling Springs in the finals.
“The Bubblers,” Boiling Springs rolled through their half of the bracket and created a murmur within the Giant Center confines that perhaps they could pull an upset.
But BECA flexed its muscles in the finals in a lopsided, 52-15 affair.
Now we really get busy. There’ll be no shortage of intrigue as 16 states hold championship events, including major wrestling hotbeds, Illinois, Iowa and, one of my favorite state tournaments: Indiana.
Iowa’s 3A classification is annually one of the best high school tournaments in the country. On Wednesday, they’ll hold the state dual championships where Southeast Polk, No. 13 Bettendorf, No. 19 Iowa City West, and perennial-power Waverly-Shell Rock will all square off.
On the individual side, 16 kids appearing in WIN’s national rankings will compete for a state title. And what an interesting group there is. Corey Clark, Topher Carton and John Meeks will attempt to win their fourth straight, while national studs like Justin Koethe, Gabe Moreno, Alex Meyer and Willie Miklus all look for their first crown.
An early look at brackets notably includes Jack Hathaway, who gave Clark his first and only career loss earlier this year, potentially meeting Clark in the quarterfinals.
With restricted competition regulations that preclude the Hoosier state from wrestling other national powers, the mat prowess of Indiana is often marginalized. But make no mistake about it, there’s tons of talent here. Leading the way is WIN’s 22nd-ranked Perry Meridian squad, which qualified nine individuals to this weekend’s state tournament. That’s no small feat in a single-class system.
As evidenced by their impressive runs at Cadet and Junior Duals and in Fargo, Illinois is home to a bevy of individual talent. Twenty-two individuals from Illinois populate WIN’s national rankings.
The Illinois High School Association does not keep official team scores, but leading the way should be Wilmington (1A), Montini Catholic (2A) and Oak Park-River Forest (3A), who are ranked tops in the state.
Follow along here with these links to state championships this week:
New Mexico: http://www.trackwrestling.com
North Dakota: Both Duals and Individual at http://www.trackwrestling.com