By Greg Billing
Facing the eight-time defending dual meet state champions is a challenge in itself. Doing it on their home mat in front of a supportive fan base? That takes it to another level.
“It was a hostile environment,” said Carroll wrestling coach Jason Ashworth, referring to the intimidation factor and not crowd behavior.
On the mats, the Graham Falcons weren’t any more hospitable. Graham reeled off seven straight pins to start and cruised to a 71-6 win in the Division II Region 16 championship in the state team tournament. The Falcons advance to the state quarterfinals 11 a.m. Saturday at Ohio State’s St. John Arena. The state semifinals follow at 3:30 p.m. with the state championship at 8.
“I told the guys let’s try to run the table. I know Carroll’s a tough team, but I thought my kids were a little bit tougher and we got some pins early,” said Graham coach Jeff Jordan. “I wanted to have a good roll going into the state dual finals.”
Graham’s plan of getting off the mat fast to reduce the risk of injury worked. Only two of the 14 matches went the full six minutes. Eleven ended in pins, 10 by Graham.
Eli Stickley (106-pound division), Eli Seipel (113), Brent Moore (120), Mario Kastl (126), Micah Jordan (132) Nate Hinkle (138), Garrett Jordan (145), Bo Jordan (160), Josh Couchman (182) and Anthony Welty (220) all had pins for the Falcons. Alex Marinelli (152) won by technical fall and Lane Thomas (170) and Cole Theodor (195) won by decision.
Carroll’s lone win came in the 285-pound finale when Kyle Fricke pinned Cabel Courtwright as the buzzer sounded to end the first period.
“I felt bad for Cabel,” Coach Jordan said. “If he would’ve fought one more second we would’ve had our shot. We’ve got to get him back ready for this weekend because it’s going to be a team effort.”
Graham has won the last eight state team tournament titles and goes for its 13th straight championship at the individual tournament later this month.
“We just wanted our guys to come in and battle with one of the best in the nation,” Ashworth said. “I was proud to be in the regional finals with a team like Graham. Without the state duals I don’t know when we’d have a chance to wrestle a team like this.”