While there were a couple bumps in the road, Mount Gilead senior Andy Williamson was able to close his career by etching his name into Mount Gilead’s record books for manufacturing the wrestling program’s best state meet performance on Sunday.
Williamson (52-3) placed fifth at 182 pounds to surpass Zack Tinch’s seventh place finish at 103 pounds back in 2007. He was able to finish the two-day Division III state tournament hosted by Marion Harding in style, pinning Adam Myers of Springfield Shawnee at the 2:58 mark.
“To end my career with a pin is icing on the cake,” he said. “Only four guys at every weight get to end winning…it means a lot.”
While Williamson gave up a first-period takedown to fall into an early hole against Myers, he controlled the rest of the match. Myers picked neutral to start the second period and the Indian grappler responded with a takedown and then put his opponent on his back for the pin — his third in four victories over the weekend.
Williamson’s father and coach, Mike, felt his son did a great job of rebounding from adversity. To finish fifth, he had to overcome losing a back-and-forth consolation semifinal match against Lucas Stoddard of Berkshire by a 14-12 margin after surrendering a five-point move in the final seconds.
“Especially after that last match where he was up by three and blew it in 30 seconds,” said Mike Willamson. “He’s just mentally tough. They’d play football and he’d play full-bore until the end and it’s the same here. Every time he’s lost a match, it’s helped him.”
Andy agreed, although he noted that it wasn’t easy to recover from that defeat.
“It took me a lot because I almost broke my headgear in the hallway,” he said. “It took a lot of time and a lot of willpower.”
That was Williamson’s second heartbreaking loss of the state meet. In his first match on Saturday, he fell 6-5 to Lane Mefford of Indian Lake. Trailing 4-2 with 37 seconds left in the third period, he was able to get an escape and followed that up with a quick takedown to hold a 5-4 lead. However, he could not keep Mefford down for the final 10 seconds of regulation, surrendering a reversal as time ran out to fall to the consolation bracket.
He would recover against Ben Meyer of St. Paul, recording a third-period pin in a match he led the entire way, although there was a bit of tension when he got caught by a head-and-arm in the third period and had to fight off his opponent’s pin attempt.
In his final match on Saturday, there was no such suspense. Taking on Jerry Rose of Cardinal, he turned a first-period takedown into a pin 43 seconds into the match to clinch a spot on the podium and advance to Sunday’s action.
“Holy crap, yeah; that was crazy,” he said of the end to Saturday. “My first match, losing by one, and then coming back. It’s not what we wanted, but I’ll keep going. I’ll just have to open the bag of weapons I have and let it all out there.”
He had a tough opponent in his first match on Sunday in Bidwell River Valley’s Will Hash, who previously won the Coshocton district in which Williamson placed third. The MG wrestler would win a low-scoring match by a 5-3 count. Two back points in the second period staked him to a lead and then, when holding a slim 3-2 lead midway through the third period, he recorded a takedown and was able to maintain a lead.
He would be edged by Stoddard in the next round, but bounced back to earn fifth place.
“Breaking the record and being the highest finisher means a lot,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m the best from the school. I’m on the record board and everything and some will say I am, but I will not.”
Competing at the state meet was a dream come true for Williamson. Last year, he qualified for state, but then the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the end of the winter sports season and he didn’t get the chance to compete.
“We thought we had a pretty good draw last year,” said Mike Williamson. “When it didn’t happen, it was heartbreaking.”
While the state meet wasn’t held at the Schottenstein Center this year and each of the three divisions were held separately at Central District high schools, Andy Williamson wasn’t going to complain about the diminished atmosphere.
“This means everything to me,” he said. “It’s been a long way and so much stuff got in the way. It’s not the big stage you want, but it’s the same hardware.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS