Mechanicsburg senior Austin Reese isn’t listening to the experts. He’s looking up.
The brilliant lights. The rocking crowds. It can overwhelm a wrestler’s senses as he exits the dark tunnel leading to the 10-mat circus on the Schottenstein Center floor.
“Everyone always says don’t look up because it’s too much to deal with. I always look up,” said Reese, a favorite to win the state championship in the 160-pound weight class. “You have to enjoy it and soak it all in.”
Reese is one of five Mechanicsburg wrestlers — one short of a school record — competing in today’s opening round of the high school state wrestling championships. Reese can make some history of his own by placing. No Mechanicsburg wrestler has placed at four state championships (eighth place or higher).
Reese finished third (103 pounds) as a freshman, second (120) as a sophomore and fifth (138) last year. When he looks up Saturday, he hopesit’s from the top step on the podium after the awards ceremony.
“He’s a completely different animal than he has been in past years,” coach Brady Hiatt said. “He went from being one of the better guys in the state to being one of the better guys in the nation in his class.”
He’s joined at state by freshman Alex Rhine (106, 28-8), sophomore Nick Miller (120, 35-12), freshman Kaleb Romero (138, 42-1) and junior Joe Ziegler (145, 46-6). Romero is also projected by some to win state.
Mechanicsburg has had two state wrestling champions: Travis Adams (171) in 1996 and Bryce Baker (112) in 2009. Add in track star Kathy Huebner’s state title in the 880 in 1975 and that accounts for all of the Indians’ state championships.
“If we could go from three to five in one weekend that would be pretty incredible,” Hiatt said.
Reese is prepared to do his part. His disappointing fifth-place finish last year fueled his workouts during the summer and into the school year. Harder lifting bulked him up and Reese said not cutting as much weight compared to last year has left him feeling healthier.
“After getting second then dropping down to fifth last year, it hurts,” Reese said. “It motivated me. I feel like I’m two times the better wrestler I am last year.”
Lone warrior: Springfield senior Devin Nye is the lone area representative in Division I. Nye (38-2, 220) placed fifth in that class last season.
Falcons soaring: With 12 wrestlers at state, Graham is loaded for a run at its 14th straight state championship and 16th overall. Uhrichsville Claymont is the only other team at state with double-digit qualifiers (11). Graham senior Micah Jordan (44-0, 145) goes for his fourth state title. He also has state championships at 119, 126 and 132.
Area state qualifiers
(Weight class: name, grade, record)
220: Devin Nye, senior, 38-2
106: Justin Stickley, soph., 39-4
113: Eli Stickley, junior, 46-3
120: Mario Kastl, soph., 39-4
126: Eli Seipel, junior, 45-3
132: Brent Moore, soph., 39-3
138: Kyle Lawson, freshman, 44-6
145: Micah Jordan, senior, 44-0
152: Garrett Jordan, soph., 37-9
160: Alex Marinelli, soph., 45-2
170: Lane Thomas, senior, 36-6
182: Hayden Bronne, junior, 23-13
195: Josh Couchman, junior, 33-9
Kenton Ridge (4)
120: Elijah Cochran, senior, 40-5
132: Seth Cochran, senior, 40-10
138: Preston Bowshier, senior, 42-6
145: Tyler Sowards, junior, 39-9
120: Devin Rogers, junior, 37-5
182: Jack Harris, soph., 46-2
106: Alex Rhine, freshman, 28-8
120: Nick Miller, soph., 35-12
138: Kaleb Romero, freshman, 42-1
145: Joe Ziegler, junior, 46-6
160: Austin Reese, senior, 50-1
145: Logan Lacure, soph., 48-3
182: Armani Robinson, senior, 47-2
220: Adrian Harding, junior, 43-6
Catholic Central (1)
152: Anthony Decarlo, senior, 33-4
182: Rickey Bruce, senior, 37-6