By Bret Curren
The state wrestling tournament turned out to be a great way for West Holmes to wrap up its season. Four wrestlers went down to Columbus, all four won a match and each made it to the second day of wrestling. However, the good news didn’t stop there.
West Holmes High School wrestlers Cael Woods and Tyler Masters closed out their 2018 appearance at the 81st Ohio High School Athletic Association Div. II State Championship Tournament with podium finishes on Saturday, March 10 at Value City Arena inside the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Woods, who went 5-1 in the state tournament at 106 pounds, posted a pair of major decision victories in Saturday’s consolation semifinals and placement round to earn third place, picking up his second All-Ohio honor in as many years. Last season as a freshman he grappled his way to an eighth-place finish at 113 pounds.
Unfortunately Masters, who went 2-3 in the tournament but won his first two matches to secure a spot on the podium, couldn’t duplicate Wood’s final-day success. Masters dropped both of his final day bouts but still enjoyed the fruits of his labor by placing sixth at 113 pounds to grab All-Ohio honors.
Woods not only earned a spot for the bronze medal when he stopped freshman Peyten Kellar of Vincent Warren (50-4) by a 10-1 score in the consolation semifinal, he also avenged a 4-3 loss to Kellar in the previous week’s district championship match. Woods kept the pressure up in the third-place bout with a 13-4 major decision win over freshman Garett Lautzenheiser of Louisville (47-3) to finish his season with a sparkling 52-3 record with 37 fall wins.
After losing in Friday night’s championship semifinals to eventual state champion junior Tanner Jordan of St. Paris Graham Local (42-3), Masters faced senior Jake Gentry of Hamilton Ross (45-6) in the consolation semifinals but came up short by a 5-0 score to Gentry. In the fifth-place match Masters lost by a tight 2-0 decision to junior Gavin Ritter of Wauseon (48-6) in a rematch of their championship quarterfinal bout won 4-2 by Masters. Masters capped off his season at 50-6 with 27 wins by fall.
“Going into the tournament, I told the kids that they all had legitimate chances to place,” Knights head wrestling coach Scott Vaughn said following the tournament. “Our main quote we used was, ‘If you’re on a line in the bracket, you always have a chance.’ I truly believed that too. I think they all showed that they believed it as well.”
Woods opened his tournament Thursday evening with a fall win over junior Kaleb Ream of Springfield Shawnee (32-8) at the 2:51 mark. Facing defending state champion and state-placer junior Jacob Decatur of Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (37-0) in the championship quarterfinals Friday morning, Woods wrestled a gutsy match against the nation’s top-ranked 106-pound high school wrestler, eventually losing to Decatur by an 8-2 decision.
Needing a win to stay alive in the tournament plus earn his second straight All-Ohio podium, Woods did just that with a strong 8-5 decision win over sophomore Jake Manley of Tontogany Otsego (31-3) in the afternoon’s consolation second round. Woods kept the win streak going Friday night, notching a 9-0 major decision victory over sophomore Michael Petrella of Columbus Bishop Hartley (49-6) to wrestle in Saturday morning’s consolation semifinals.
“Cael was our top placer and had quite the season,” Vaughn said of the two-time All-Ohio wrestler. “Being a returning state placer, he had a target on his back every time he stepped on the mat. I think he did a phenomenal job blocking out everything and grinding to get better every day. Cael devotes the majority of his time to the sport. He went with the Ohio Cadet National Team to the Fargo, North Dakota Nationals as well as the Cadet National Duals (summer of 2017), and I think that went a long way to prepare him for this season. I know his goal is to be a state champ, so when he lost in the championship semis – to the number one kid in the country – I know he was disappointed. I am proud of the way he came back and dominated to take third place. He avenged a district final loss in the consolation semifinals and won his third-place match, both with major decisions. Cael will be coming back next season with the goal to be on top of the podium.”
Masters began his first state tournament with a tight 1-0 decision win over senior Ryan Jakubiak of Louisville (36-9) and wrestled a savvy match against junior Gavin Ritter of Wauseon (46-5) in the Friday morning session championship quarterfinals coming away with a 4-2 decision win to lock up his first All-Ohio podium and a spot in the semifinals. In the championship semifinal bout Masters squared off with returning state-placer Jordan and held his own against a member of the famous Jordan wrestling tree before eventually falling by a 6-3 count and dropping into the consolation semifinals.
In describing Masters season, Vaughn simply said, “Tyler Masters had an amazing season. He started out with a bang the first tournament of the year (winning the 126 title at the Cambridge Invitational) and kept it going throughout the season. At the beginning of the season his goal was to make it to state. I think it’s safe to say he exceeded that goal. I am excited for Tyler because he got to be in his own weight class after last year being bumped all the way to 120. Tyler ending up sixth in the state and only being a sophomore, he has a bright, bright future.”
For the Knights two other state qualifiers, senior Thane Kaufman, who went 1-2 at 120 pounds, and junior Josh Baldridge, who also went 1-2 at 182 pounds, the end to their seasons came Friday afternoon when both lost in the consolation second round.
Kaufman’s hopes of a coveted podium finish came to a crashing halt in the afternoon rounds when he lost to junior Kyle Petersen of Aurora (38-12), coming up one match shy of getting All-Ohio in his third attempt. Kaufman lost his opening round match by a 17-1 tech fall to defending state champion and two-time placer senior Nate Keaton of Circleville (45-3) and stayed alive in the tournament with an 8-2 decision victory over senior Jimmy Pelland of Napolean, (40-11) in Thursday night’s consolation first round. Kaufman finished his season with a record of 46-11 with 31 fall wins. The four-year-letter winner finishes his high school career at 158-45 with 105 fall wins, and he now holds the school record for most career wins.
“Next season will be tough to replace a kid like Thane Kaufman,” Vaughn said of his senior three-time state qualifier. “I have the utmost respect for that kid. He works hard, is extremely coachable and likeable. He was a three-time state qualifier for us and is the all-time wins leader in school history. He is a captain on our team. I know that his goal was higher than just qualifying this season, but the lessons he will take away from this sport will help him succeed the rest of his life. Heck, I’m already trying to recruit him to our coaching staff.”
Baldridge, making his first state appearance, also suffered the same fate and path as Kaufman, losing to senior Ryan Haas of Maumee (39-8) by a gut-wrenching 7-6 decision in the consolation second round, ending his first state tournament appearance. In that match Baldridge suffered a late takedown to fall behind but then scored an escape that would have tied it a fraction of a second after the final whistle had blown. Baldridge lost his opening round match to senior Noah Clary of Upper Sandusky (40-4) by a 16-1 tech fall but rebounded Thursday night with a heart-stopping 3-1 sudden victory decision against junior Nathan Snyder of Springfield Northwestern (37-8). Baldridge wraps up his junior campaign 31-7 with 24 falls.
“For Josh, with all the adversity during his season, I thought his showing was more than respectable,” Vaughn said of Baldridge. “He came back from a first-round loss, won a match, then was a point away from placing. I think Josh will take that into next season with a chip on his shoulder.”
Vaughn handed out the season’s final Knights Varsity Wrestling Hammer of the Week Award to his sophomore state placers, Cael Woods and Tyler Masters.
“Being state placers is not an easy accomplishment, especially not as sophomores,” Vaughn said. “Those two work out together and bring it every single day. It’s no surprise why Cael and Tyler made it on the podium.”
In the team race the Knights finished a respectable 18th of the 105 represented schools in Div. II, racking up 28 points. With 13 of their 14 wrestlers in the state tournament, St. Paris Graham Local easily won its 18th consecutive Div. II state team title at the individual state tournament with 217 points. Canfield placed a distant second with 77 points, followed by Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy at 73.5, Steubenville with 65 and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary with 59.