By Bret Curren
West Holmes High School wrestlers Cael Woods and Tyler Masters stood on the podium as All-Ohio honorees at the 82nd Ohio High School Athletic Association Div. II State Championship Tournament at Value City Arena in Columbus on Saturday evening.
Woods (Jr., 113 pounds) came up shy in his bid for a state championship, dropping a heartbreaking 4-2 sudden victory decision to returning two-time state champion, three-time state placer and Ohio State signee Jacob Decatur (Sr., Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy) in the title match. Woods and Decatur tested each other during the first minute with Woods the aggressor, causing Decatur to receive a stalling warning at 0:56 during the scoreless first period.
Decatur chose down to start the second stanza and scored an escape point at 1:40. Woods was hit with a head-slapping penalty seven seconds later after getting a finger into Decatur’s left eye. That put Decatur up 2-0. After a few seconds of medical treatment, the match resumed. Woods and Decatur again tied up, trying to find an opening, and with 1:00 left in the period, Decatur was hit with another stalling penalty, giving Woods a point to trail 2-1.
Woods chose down to start the final period of regulation and quickly scored an escape five seconds in to knot the score at 2-2. Both wrestlers again tied up and went for shots, but each other’s defense was outstanding as time ran out, sending the championship match into the one-minute sudden victory period where first points scored win the match. Woods attempted shots as did Decatur as the clock wound down. With less than five seconds remaining, Decatur caught Woods off guard and scored the winning takedown as the clock went from one second to zero. That ended Woods’ fantastic season with a state runner-up finish. However, Woods earned his third All-Ohio honor and finished his junior campaign with a sparking 47-1 mark.
During the post-match meeting with the media, Woods thought the clock had run out, saying, “I thought I was out of time, and apparently the refs didn’t think so, and that’s what they called. I thought they were going to blow the whistle, and I was paying attention to the clock and wasn’t really paying attention to the match. Rookie mistake.”
Knights wrestling head coach Scott Vaughn questioned the lead referee before the winner’s hand was raised to see if Decatur’s takedown was actually scored before the clock ran out. But the referee wouldn’t overturn the call.
“It was a close call,” Vaughn told the media. “Greg (assistant coach Greg Woods and Cael’s father) and I were both watching the match and weren’t necessarily watching the clock. I was just trying to make sure that there was still time. It’s a heartbreaker to see a kid that works that hard lose like that, and you’ve gotta give some respect out for a three-time state champ. Decatur has been there before and wrestled a smart match and did what he had to do. Maybe it wasn’t Cael’s time, but he’ll have his time.”
The match-up was the third in one calendar year that Woods, a two-time returning state placer for the Knights (third in 2018, eighth in 2017), and Decatur faced each other, each winning once. Decatur won the first meeting between the two with an 8-2 decision in last year’s state tournament championship quarterfinals. Woods returned the favor when he beat Decatur by a 2-1 overtime decision for the championship at the North Canton Holiday Invitational this past Dec. 15.
“It’s just going to burn. It’s going to hurt, and I’m going to take some time off and then go back at it,” Woods told the media. “Wins and losses, they don’t define me. I was thankful to run across the stage [for the finals] and to tech-fall my kid in the semis, and I felt like I would really come out on top.”
Woods put the exclamation point on his march to a state title opportunity scoring an 18-3 tech fall victory over Napoleon senior Caleb Hernandez in a championship semifinal match on Friday evening and began the day with an impressive 11-4 decision victory over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary sophomore Dierre Clayton in the morning championship quarterfinals. Woods started his tournament flattening Cincinnati Wyoming sophomore Jacob Bryan at 5:24 Thursday afternoon.
Masters (Jr., 120 pounds) capped his season with a fourth-place finish, dropping a hard-fought 2-0 decision to Josh Dunn (Jr., Goshen, 37-2) in the bronze medal match on Saturday morning. The first two periods were scoreless, and it looked like Masters may again be headed to extra time as he had been in several matches the past three weeks. Masters was in control of Dunn for most of the third period, but with 20 seconds remaining in the match, Dunn was able to work free of Masters and score a reversal just before the wrestlers went out of bounds, leaving only nine seconds on the clock. Masters tried everything he could in the remaining time but couldn’t get a reversal. With the fourth-place finish, Masters is now a two-time All-Ohio honoree. Last season he placed sixth in his first state tournament appearance for the Knights.
“Tyler had a great tournament,” Vaughn said. “Not only did he improve on his placement from last year, but I think he really advanced as a wrestler. I think the coaching staff did a great job working with him and adding moves to his arsenal. I am proud of how Tyler wrestles and works. He is a great young man. Fourth place in a great weight class and also an Academic All-Ohio honoree.”
Masters, who finished the season at 40-5, qualified for the bronze medal match by upending talented Beaver Local freshman Logan Ours by a 3-2 count in Saturday’s consolation semifinals. In Thursday’s opening round, Masters dug down deep and notched a heart-stopping 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker decision victory over two-time returning state placer Christian Wayt, a senior from Beloit West Branch, to move on in the championship bracket. However, Masters was dropped into the consolation bracket after suffering a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to eventual runner-up Gavin Ritter, a senior from Napoleon, in the championship quarterfinal match-up on Friday morning. Masters bounced back in the consolation second round with a fine 9-0 major decision win over Claymont senior Jarrett Warrington during the afternoon session.
“Knowing someone that well has its advantages and disadvantages, but he is a really great competitor,” Masters said of Warrington. “I came into this match with a lot of confidence and had faith in myself that I would come here and compete. Getting the early takedown gave me a lot of confidence, so I kept pushing and pushing.”
That victory sewed up All-Ohio honors and guaranteed a podium finish for Masters, who came back with a hard-fought 3-2 decision victory over senior Jason Mayes of Jefferson Area in the consolation quarterfinals on Friday night.
Vaughn was impressed with Masters performance saying, “He really came out firing Thursday night. Beating Wayt, a projected state champ, in his first match was huge. His motor eventually wore Wayt out. I thought he wrestled well against Ritter. He just didn’t end up on the winning end. Fighting back through the consolations was something that he did a lot better than last season. I think the highlight of coming back through the consolation was avenging his loss at Cambridge to another projected state champ, Ours from Beaver Local.”