COLUMBUS — The goal for every wrestler is to end up on top of the podium at the state tournament. Being a state champion is the ultimate accomplishment a high-school wrestler can achieve in season.

However, there are only 42 of those every season between the three divisions in Ohio. With 672 wrestlers originally in the state-tournament field — and thousands more who compete in the sport during the season — the chances are slim for most to actually achieve that dream.

Which is why getting a spot on the podium remains a worthy prize for those who can wrestle for a championship.

That's why 10 Stark County-area wrestlers — save for Louisville Division II finalists Garett Lautzenheiser and Davin Rhoads — still were able to walk out of Value City Arena at the end of Saturday's final day with their heads held high. For those wrestlers, they will head home from Columbus having earned the status as a state placer.

"I used it as motivation," said Perry heavyweight Max Millin, who was the area's highest nonfinalist placer by taking third in Division I. "I may not have reached my goal. I can still finish the year on a strong note."

Millin was one of four who wrestled in Saturday's morning consolation-bracket session who can say they ended their year on a win. The other three came from Division III Tuslaw, with Kyle Ryder fifth at 160 and Brennan Shirley and Jake Loar seventh at 152 and 105, respectively.

Although Millin is a junior, the Mustang trio are all seniors, which added even more importance to the accomplishment.

"It's really big," said Ryder, who departs as a two-time state placer. "I've had so many memories from wrestling. My first-ever match was a win and my last one's a win. That's just great."

Millin and Shirley were two of six first-time state placers among the group as well. Louisville 195-pounder Brent Paulus (fourth), Tuslaw 145-pounder Brier Marthey (fourth), Green 132-pounder Caleb Green (eighth in Division I) and Minerva 106-pounder Drake Decker (eighth in Division II) also earned their first podium appearance.

Of those, Shirley and Graber are the only two not returning next season.

"It feels really good," Shirley said. "I faced a lot of adversity through this season and even in this tournament. To just get a win in my last match ever just feels really good."

Ryder is one of six multiple-time state placers, including fellow two-time placers Loar, Lautzenheiser and Rhoads. Manchester senior 126-pounder Zach Larue earned his fourth state placement by finishing fourth in Division III in the final match of his career, while Louisville junior 145-pounder Jax Leonard earned his third state placement by finishing fourth.

Both are their school's third four-time state placer. Yet, for Leonard at least, there's the unspoken acknowledgment of a goal that he — and the others who will return next season — still hope to achieve before they depart.

"I'd rather be a state champion than just place three times," Leonard said after he clinched his third trip to the podium with a consolation second-round win on Friday. "All that makes me want to go work harder in the room and get my mindset right so I can accomplish that goal."

 

Northern lights

The North ruled the roost once again in terms of finalist. Of the 28 spots in Division I, 16 came from Mentor (12) and North Canton.

In Division II, Alliance (13) and Norwalk accounted for 18 of the 28, and in Division III Lakota (14) and Garfield Heights counted 19.

 

Out on top

Wadsworth’s Michael North didn't get the championship he wanted, but the 145-pound senior set marks both from a program and Medina County standpoint. The Maryland pledge broke the area record set for wins in a season (52), eclipsing the mark by 2017 Buckeye graduate Eric Bartos by one. Kagan Squire, a 2011 graduate, held the Wadsworth record with 50.

North’s pin of Dublin Scioto’s Daniel Segura for third place also broke a school record for pins. His 36th decking pushed him past 2018 state champion Jordan Earnest, who had 35 last season.

 

Strong showings

Aside from the big-stage showings, area wrestlers showed well with top-four finishes. In Division I, Brecksville’s Vic Voinovich (152) and Ethan Hatcher (195) joined North, Barberton’s Gary Wokojance (182) and Perry’s Max Millin (Perry) with third-place finishes.

In Division II, Aurora’s Andy Garr (145) finished third, and West Holmes’ Tyler Master (120) joined Louisville’s Jax Leonard (152) and Brent Paulus (195) and finished fourth.

In Division III, Rootstown’s Caleb Edwards (113) and Niko Chilson (138) finished third.

Fourth-place finishes came from Crestwood’s Brett Szuhay (106), Manchester’s Zach Larue (125), Rootstown’s Trent Duvall (132) and Chris Langguth (182). Tuslaw’s Brier Marthey (145) and Rittman’s Sevi Garza (170) also finished fourth.

 

Superior Stanley

Waynedale coach Louie Stanley was inducted into the Ohio High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Stanley has compiled 423 dual meet wins and came into the tournament with 69 state qualifiers, 40 state placers and three state championships. The 2013 OHSWCA Division III Coach of the Year guided the Golden Bears to a small school state championship in 2012.

 

Johnny Be Good

Coventry’s John McGee was inducted into the Ohio High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame. A four-time state champion from 1993-96, McGee compiled a 154-3 record. He was the Division II Most Outstanding Wrestlers in 1996 and later went on to become a National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association champion at Iowa Central Community College. He was also a two-time NJCAA All-American.