Graham wrestling ‘king of the state’ after moving up division, winning D-I championship

Joey Sanchez works on finishing off a takedown during his win against St. Edward in the OHSAA state team tournament finals. Graham won the D-I title 28-23 over the Eagles Sunday at St. John’s Arena. John Cummings/CONTRIBUTED

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Joey Sanchez works on finishing off a takedown during his win against St. Edward in the OHSAA state team tournament finals. Graham won the D-I title 28-23 over the Eagles Sunday at St. John’s Arena. John Cummings/CONTRIBUTED

With Graham clinging to a 25-23 lead over Lakewood St. Edward in the Division I finals of the Ohio High School Athletic Association state team tournament, coach Jeff Jordan disappeared for a minute.

Heading into a winner-take-all match, Jordan slipped up the ramp and into the bathroom to splash some water on his face.

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“I had to throw some cold water on my face to get calmed back down,” Jordan said. “It was a barn burner.”

And when Johnny Shafer recorded a takedown in the waning moments at 285 for a 3-1 victory, Graham stood atop the Division I bracket after accepting the challenge to bump up from Division II for the team state tournament.

“This shows the rest of the state that we are king of the state and you can’t hold us back anymore by saying we are this good because we are Division II,” Shaffer said following the 28-23 win. “When coach asked us if we wanted to do this last spring, we all wanted the challenge. We wanted to show people how good we are.”

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Graham’s Johnny Shafer raises his arms after clinching the D-I state title with a 3-1 win at 285 Sunday at St. John’s Arena. John Cummings/CONTRIBUTED

Graham’s Johnny Shafer raises his arms after clinching the D-I state title with a 3-1 win at 285 Sunday at St. John’s Arena. John Cummings/CONTRIBUTED

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Graham’s Johnny Shafer raises his arms after clinching the D-I state title with a 3-1 win at 285 Sunday at St. John’s Arena. John Cummings/CONTRIBUTED

The match was similar to the dual at St. Edward three weeks ago (a 28-27 Graham win) with two matches flipping the other way and the Falcons saving some bonus points they had surrendered the first time.

“We had flipped wins at 138 and 145 from the first time, but I am proud of our effort,” Jordan said. “St. Ed’s is our big rival and to get to do it for a state title is special.”

St. Edward led 18-7 heading into 152 before Joey Sanchez started a run through the middle weights with a 6-3 win. Ryan Thomas followed with a decision and Rocky Jordan a 17-0 tech fall to tie the dual at 18-18.

Andrew Shaffer gave the Falcons a 21-18 lead before St. Edward went up 23-21 on a technical fall.

However, Jordan had bumped Gage Braun and Shafer up a weight class like he did in the original dual.

“We have been very fortunate to win the coin toss and get our pick,” Jordan said of who reports to the table first. “We had the choice at 195 and juggled the lineup the same way we did before to see if we could do it again.”

Braun cruised to a 12-3 major decision for a 25-23 lead before Shafer finished off the night with a win.

“I knew it,” Shafer said. “I told everyone it was going to come down to me and of course, I got more nervous than usual.

“I am just extremely proud for and happy for the team that we did this.”

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Graham coach Jeff Jordan (vest) celebrates Graham’s D-I state title. The D-II Falcons defeated perennial D-I power St. Ed’s 28-23 in the finals. John Cummings/CONTRIBUTED

Graham coach Jeff Jordan (vest) celebrates Graham’s D-I state title. The D-II Falcons defeated perennial D-I power St. Ed’s 28-23 in the finals. John Cummings/CONTRIBUTED

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Graham coach Jeff Jordan (vest) celebrates Graham’s D-I state title. The D-II Falcons defeated perennial D-I power St. Ed’s 28-23 in the finals. John Cummings/CONTRIBUTED

Graham had advanced to the final with a 56-15 win over Marysville and a 43-16 win over LaSalle.

Division III: Versailles reached the semifinals before falling to eventual champ Genoa 50-9.

The Tigers got a pin at 106 from Kobe Epperly and a decision at 285 from Jeffrey Ware, but it was all Comets in between.

“We wrestled them tough and eliminated extra bonus points in a lot of matches,” Versailles coach AJ Bey said. “They’ve just got too many hammers.”

Versailles jumped to a quick 30-3 lead on Waynedale in the opening round only to see the fifth-seed cut the deficit to 33-24.

“We knew the dual would be tough,” Bey said. “We knew we had to get a big lead and then our last three did what they needed to do.

“This is good for the younger kids see. They needed to take this in. At the beginning of the matches, we had some nerves and hopefully being here this year, they won’t be as nervous next year.”

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