The Graham High School wrestling program is seeking its 22nd consecutive Division II state championship, a streak that dates back to 2001.
With a Division-II best 10 wrestlers qualified for this year’s state tournament, including five district champions last weekend, the Falcons know they always have a target on their back.
“There’s three things we train for all year long: the Ironman tournament, the dual against (Lakewood St. Edward) and the state tournament,” said Falcons coach Jason Knott, a longtime assistant coach who took over for JT Rice this season. “From looking at our schedule, as far as Division II schools, we’ve wrestled, especially this year, the toughest schedule that anybody could have wrestled. We’ve got a bunch of guys that if we’d stayed here locally, we’d probably have a lot of guys undefeated. We like to take these young guys and showcase their talents nationally. Their records aren’t perfect, but iron sharpens iron.”
Medina Buckeye and Columbus St. Francis DeSales, which qualified seven and eight wrestlers, respectively, are expected to challenge the Falcons this weekend, Knott said.
“It’s going to be a fight for sure and we’re ready for it,” Knott said. “We’re excited. We’ve been preparing all year.”
It gets tougher to win the state title each year, Knott said, especially as more and more programs use former Graham coach Jeff Jordan’s blueprint for creating a program — teaching correct skills and work ethic at the youth level and honing those skills through junior high and high school.
“It’s about starting that foundation,” Knott said. “What used to be unheard, these other programs are taking Coach Jordan’s blueprint and having some success.”
The Falcons saw five wrestlers win district titles last weekend at Wilmington High School — returning state champion sophomore Brogan Tucker (132 pounds), returning state runner-up junior Gunner Cramblett (165) as well as junior Hayden Huges (138), junior Eli Jacks (150) and sophomore Luke James (157).
Falcons freshman Jake Landis (1-6), sophomore Kaleb Morris (113), sophomore Bryce Kohler (144) and sophomore Chett Mannier (190) also qualified for the state tournament.
Graham’s lone senior is Colt Ryan (120), the team’s captain who placed fourth at Wilmington last weekend.
“He’s a great kid, who works hard in the room and leads the team,” Knott said.
Brogan Tucker won the state championship last year at 112 and moved up to 132 pounds this season. He’s projected by several sources to repeat as state champion.
“When the lights are the brightest, that’s when he wrestles his best,” Knott said.
Cramblett, an Air Force commit, was runner-up last season and is also projected to win.
“The way we train, I think every one of our guys stands a chance to win a state title,” Knott said. “I believe in them that much and so do the rest of our assistant coaches.”
The Falcons finished runner-up at the recent Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals Tournament, falling to Medina Buckeye 35-32 in the championship round. The loss has provided even more motivation for the state tournament, Knott said.
“Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve come home, prepared more and refocused,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with losing. When you’re going into the preseason and through the season, it’s about wrestling and learning. You’re going to make a few mistakes along the way, but as long as you can fix those mistakes and continue to get better, that’s what we do at Graham.”
State Wrestling Qualifiers
106: Jake Landis, Graham, freshman, 25-13
113: Kaleb Morris, Graham, sophomore, 12-4
120: Colt Ryan, Graham, senior, 31-12
126: Cade O’Banion, Tecumseh, junior, 39-12
132: Brogan Tucker, Graham, sophomore, 33-5
138: Hayden Hughes, Graham, junior, 36-8
144: Bryce Kohler, Graham, sophomore, 34-8
150: Eli Jacks, Graham, junior, 37-6
157: Luke James, Graham, sophomore, 35-7
165: Gunner Cramblett, Graham, junior, 42-5
190: Chett Mannier, Graham, sophomore, 30-17
106: Nolan Fraley, Mechanicsburg, sophomore, 32-5
138: Ashtan Hendricks, Greeneview, senior, 45-4
190: Ronnie Thomas, Mechanicsburg, senior, 44-3
215: Zane Hitchcock, Mechanicsburg, senior, 47-5
285: Cohen Hickman, Greeneview, senior, 34-5
135: Gwen Matt, Greeneview, sophomore, 29-4
140: Eve Matt, Greeneview, sophomore, 34-2
235: Karlie Harlow, Greeneview senior, 31-1
OHSAA State Wrestling Tournament Schedule
Schottenstein Center, Columbus
Friday, 1 p.m.: Championship Preliminaries and Consolations Round 1
Saturday, 9:30 a.m.: Championship Quarterfinals and Consolations Round 2
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.: Championship Semifinals and Consolation Quarterfinals
Sunday, 9:30 a.m.: Consolation Semifinals and Consolation Finals
Sunday, 5 p.m.: Championship Finals
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