By Josh Brown
COLUMBUS – Covington’s Jarred Ganger and Troy Christian’s Garrett Hancock found themselves in a familiar position after Friday’s Division III state wrestling semifinals.
Both won state championships last season, and both will now be wrestling tonight to defend those titles after victories in the semifinal round.
Jarred Ganger didn’t need to think about defending his state title as motivation Friday.
He may have wanted revenge far more.
“He (Newark Catholic’s Caleb Ohl) beat me after I first came back from my surgery, at the first really tough tournament back,” the Covington junior said. “Give it to him, he got the best of me that day. “But not today.”
Ganger (126) built an early lead and held on in the third period to score a 5-3 semifinal victory over Ohl at the Division III state tournament at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, cementing his place in today’s title match.
For Ganger, the semifinal may as well have been the title match.
“I wanted this one,” he said. “I forgot about that (the state title shot). The only thing going through my head was that this kid beat me before, and I wanted revenge.
“I wrestled this match like it was a state title match.”
“He was ready for him,” Covington coach Tom Barbee said of Ganger. “Last time, the kid was defense, defend, defend, defend and then he beat Ganger in the last 10 seconds. And he wrestled like he did last time, waiting to try to catch him going for a big move, but Jarred is a very disciplined wrestler. He doesn’t make mistakes.”
Instead, Ganger capitalized on Ohl’s timid style and scored a pair of first-period takedowns to grab a 4-2 lead. He then scored an escape in the second to go up 5-2, and Ohl elected to start on the bottom in the third.
“I knew he’d probably pick down to get the one (point), so I let him up,” Ganger said. “He only has the one shot, and I held on.”
Ganger, who beat Loudonville’s Colton Ullman by a 10-2 major decision in the quarterfinals, will face Ashland Mapleton’s Zack Durbin for the state title today.
“It feels good. This is my third straight year in the finals – not a lot of people can say that,” Ganger said. “Now I can get that second title tomorrow.”
Ben Miller (170) made his way to the semifinals with a third-period pinfall in the quarters, sticking Madison Plains’ Jake Datz in 5:06. After that? Defending state champ Ryan Harris from Beechwood.
“If you can keep it close and hang around, the match is never over. I caught (Datz) with a special at the end,” Miller said. “(Harris) was the match I was looking for when I saw the draw. I wanted to see what it was like to wrestle a state champ.”
“It’s different, but then again I’m the one wrestling with no pressure. I just wanted to go out and give all I had.”
But Harris was too strong, building a 6-2 lead after one and 15-5 after two before sealing up a 23-8 tech. fall.
“It definitely helps to wrestle the best in the state in your weight class,” Miller said. “It shows what it takes. It definitely set some goals in my mind for next year.”
Before then, though, Miller gets to come back and shoot for a third- or fourth-place finish in the morning today.
After beating Caldwell’s Kameron Rayner 9-4 in the quarters, Ryan Ford (132) also faced a Beechwood senior in Sam Gross in his semifinal match. Ford got behind 5-1 after the first period, and from there Gross held the Buccaneer sophomore off for a 7-3 win.
“That shot sweep single to the outside, he caught me off-guard with it,” Ford said. “By the time I adjusted, he’d taken me down two times.
“I felt pretty good knowing I was coming back for the semis. I just had planned to go further than I did. Now I’ve got to win, come back and get third tomorrow.”
“He (Gross) attacked the offside to the leg, and that kind of changed things up,” Barbee said. “We didn’t get adjusted fast enough, and the kid took us down twice in the first.
“We got in deep after that, but the kid defended well and we just couldn’t finish a move.”
A.J. Ouellette (195) also earned a berth in the semifinal round, beating Magnolia Sandy Valley’s Hudson Cole by a 10-0 major decision in the quarters. But against Loudonville’s Ryan Weber, he ran into his first deficit of the tournament and simply couldn’t make up the ground in time, falling 5-3.
“The kid got the lead, and we were in his hands,” Barbee said. “From there, he kept tying us up, and we couldn’t get in deep where we needed to be. He caught us off-guard with that first takedown.”
Ouellette fell behind 4-1 after one period and trailed 4-2 after two. After a stalling call on Weber made it 5-3 with 20 seconds left, Ouellette turned up the heat and nearly scored a takedown going out of bounds with seven seconds left. And as time ran out, the Bucc senior went for another one, but he simply ran out of time.
“It’s hard. You put your hopes and dreams into this and come up short,” Barbee said. “But he’s a great kid, and he gave a lot of effort. We wish that one was a finals match instead.
“We’ve got to get him refocused now. If he doesn’t, he’s not going to be ready for his match tomorrow morning. We’ve got to get him back refocused so he can fight back to third.”
Two Tigers place
Two Versailles wrestlers secured spots on the podium Friday.
First, senior 126 pounder Matt Mangen overcame a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Zack Durbin of Ashland Mapleton in the quarterfinals by defeating Montpelier’s Sean Taylor with an impressive 9-5 win in the consolation bracket.
Mangen, lost 2-0 to Tim Mecklenburg of Rocky River Lutheran West and will wrestle Colton Ullman of Loudonville for seventh and eight place Saturday morning
No sooner did Mangen get off the mat, teammate Kyle Dieringer walked on to battle Hudson Cole of Magnolia Sandy Valley in a 195 pound match.
And after surrendering a first period takedown, Dieringer dominated en route to an impressive 8-2 win.
He followed that with a 3-1 win over Lima Central Catholic’s Jack Huffman, meaning Dieringer could place as high as third depending on Saturday morning’s matches.
He will wrestle Glenn Zeller of Orwell Grand Valley. A win would put him in the third-place match, while a loss would drop him to the fifth-place match.
Ben Robinson contributed to this story