COLUMBUS - The hard part is over for 672 student-athletes - including 11 area participants - and the fun is about to begin.
The Ohio High School State Wrestling Tournament commences today at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus, and while a state championship is on the minds of some, just qualifying for the tournament is an achievement most wrestlers dream of from the time they start.
Two freshmen, two sophomores, two juniors and five seniors from eight different local schools will toe the line in front of thousands of people starting at 3 p.m. today.
The first to do that will be a Girard freshman who surprised most people by qualifying in his first chance. The Indians' Dakota McCloskey faces Jake Adkins of Johnstown Northridge in his first-round matchup. Since Division III starts off the tournament at 3 p.m., with Division II and I following shortly after, the 106-pound McCloskey will be up first, with Jackson-Milton's Mitch Tikkanen right behind him at 113 pounds. Tikkanen, a junior also competing in the tournament for the first time, takes on Brady Barnett of Milan Edison.
Girard and Brookfield both have 170-pound wrestlers competing in Division III. The Indians' Nick Cardiero and the Warriors' Zach Jamieson are both seniors experiencing a lifetime goal. Cardiero squares off against Jared Pack of Centerburg, while Jamieson wrestles Jake Datz of Madison Plains.
Division II follows, and senior Korey Frost will lead a trio of Canfield Cardinals. Frost, who also qualified as a sophomore and is one of the highest rated wrestlers at 120 pounds, grapples with Mike Stewart of Marengo Highland. Cardinals freshman Georgio Poullas faces Luke Leonard of Fostoria shortly after at 126 pounds. The younger Frost brother, C.J., a sophomore at his first state tournament, competes against Josh Mossing of Toledo Central Catholic at 138 pounds.
Howland junior David-Brian Whisler, who took fourth at the state tournament last year and is the top-ranked wrestler at 152 pounds this season, tangles with Andrew Dunn of Hamilton Ross in the first round. Two-time qualifier Mike Audi, a senior from Poland, takes on Tye Smith of Washington Court House in the 170-pound weight class.
In Division I, Boardman sophomore Mario Graziani makes his initial state tournament appearance against Trey Grine of Fremont Ross at 145 pounds. Austintown Fitch senior Camran Rezapourian, a state alternate last season and first-time qualifier, wrestles Jakob Hinz of Westerville North at 170 pounds.
The tournament continues at 10 a.m. Friday, with another session beginning at 6:30 p.m. The final two sessions take place Saturday at 10 a.m. and 5:30 pm.