While Conan Becker was Northmor’s only placewinner at the state wrestling meet, the Knights did send four other wrestlers to Columbus for the event. The five competitors was a school record for Northmor in the state meet.
Both junior Jake Neer and senior Griffin Jenkins were able to snare one win over the course of the tournament. Competing at 106 pounds, Neer, competing in the state meet for the second straight year, opened with a 9-6 win over Luke Hopkins of Cuyahoga Heights.
Friday would not be so kind, though, as he opened with a 3-1 loss to Ronnie Pietro of Dayton Christian in a defensive-minded match. He then fell to Camron Neal of Camden Preble Shawnee by an 8-1 margin to bow out of the tournament.
At 120 pounds, Jenkins suffered an 8-1 loss to Michael Sergent of Troy Christian. He bounced back to pin Terry Stockton of North Jackson Jackson-Milton in 1:19 of his first consolation match, but would then lose Friday to be eliminated.
Also wrestling were sophomore Aaron Kitts (126 pounds) and senior Jake Farley (138). Both wrestler went 0-2 on the weekend, with Farley losing by major decision and decision and Kitts falling by pin and major decision.
Head coach Scott Carr was left with a lot of things to feel good about as the state meet wound down, with his personal accolades ranking least on that list. Carr was officially presented with his award for being named the 2014-15 Coach of the Year for Division III on Friday.
“The accolades are great and that’s all fine and good, but to see these guys succeed and grow up and mature means more to me,” he said.
Northmor’s great late-season performance, which included Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Blue Division, sectional and district championships, as well as the five state qualifiers, did a lot to make up for any disappointment Carr felt over his team falling in the regional finals of the state dual meet tournament for the third time in four years.
“We knew we had a decent time and we kept getting better and better,” he said. “We brought two seniors and three underclassmen and had another kid (junior Mathew Ross) on the camera to soak it in and get experience.”
Northmor will return a strong team next year, with state placer Becker and qualifiers Neer and Kitts returning, as well as district qualifiers Ross, Mason Burger and Nathan Price, to go with some incoming freshmen, which include Becker’s brother, Conor, a highly-regarded eighth-grader.
One interesting fact about Northmor’s state meet was that all five qualifiers were lightweights, with the team sending on their representatives in the 106, 120, 126, 132 and 138 classes, with Ross (145) missing state by one match.
“They get in groups and wrestle with each other and are drill partners,” said Carr. “They keep pushing each other and they really came together. The last three weeks is where they became one solid unit — something clicked.”
Highland junior Zach Baker was able to open the Division II state meet with a victory, but then suffered a pair of losses to be eliminated one match short of placement.
Baker started the tournament on Thursday well, topping Jared Fenner of Washington C.H. Miami Trace by a 9-4 decision.While he won by a decisive margin, the Scot wrestler didn’t feel he’d shown his best effort, as he didn’t take the lead for good until the third period.
“I figured I’d come out and move aggressively, but I didn’t warm up as well,” he said. Baker noted that he at least had an idea of what to expect from the atmosphere at the Schottenstein Center. While this year was his first competing in the state meet, his older brother, Dustin, participated as a senior last year.
“It gets you a little over-excited,” he said. “Coming here last year to help my brother warm up helped a bit, but wrestling here is different.”
Baker’s coach, Adam Gilmore, added that while a wrestler might only see the mat once or twice in a day, instead of the 4-5 opportunities they may get in a regular-season tournament, each match has a lot of meaning.
“What you have here in a quarterfinal is the same as a finals match, but it’s at 10 a.m., while they’re at six in the evening,” he said. “Zach wrestled tough and now that he’s done, we have to keep the momentum going. You just have to be a little bit better now.”
Unfortunately for Baker, he would not get his arm raised in victory again at the state meet. In the quarterfinals, he fell to Chris Cook of Akron Coventry by an 8-4 score. He then lost 7-5 to Ben Ocheltree in his first consolation match to be eliminated.
Northmor’s Jake Neer won his first state meet match, but then fell twice to be eliminated.
Northmor senior Griffin Jenkins closed out his high school wrestling career by competing in the state meet. He won one match at 120 pounds.
Jake Farley of Northmor competed in the state meet this year as a senior.
Northmor’s Aaron Kitts wrestles in the consolation bracket of the 126-pound weight class on Thursday night.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS