New coach. New faces. Same result.
Graham High School’s wrestling stranglehold on the OHSAA state dual team championships was questioned this season with the retirement of coaching legend Jim Jordan and the graduation of six standout seniors.
Yes, the opposition closed the gap on Graham in the D-II finals. But in historic St. John Arena – host to the Ohio State University marching band’s popular Skull Sessions – the Falcons won their seventh team title in as many tries.
The win was especially satisfying for first-year coach Travis McIntosh, who served as Jordan’s assistant the previous three seasons. The buzz was this could be the season Graham’s streak of six straight dual team titles and 18 individual state team titles ended.
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“I was a nervous wreck before the finals,” McIntosh said following Graham’s 38-24 win over Aurora. “My stomach was in knots. I’ve wrestled in big matches – I wrestled in the NAIA national finals – and I was nowhere near as nervous for that as I was for this tonight. These guys deserve it.”
Top-seeded Graham beat No. 8 London 62-8 in the quarterfinals and No. 5 Sandusky Perkins 58-13 in the semifinals. No. 2 Aurora outlasted No. 3 Lisbon Beaver 34-25 in a physical semifinal.
In the title match, Graham won seven of the first eight classes to build a 32-3 lead.
The surprise win came from 145-pounder Jack Mefford. The sophomore stepped into the varsity lineup this week after senior D’artangan Spitler suffered a hernia.
Mefford was losing 5-1 late in the second period and fighting off getting pinned. In a defensive position, with his opponent draped on his back, Mefford managed to roll backward for a stunning pin in 3:52.
“I heard (coach McIntosh) yelling from the background he’s pinned so I sat back and tried to stick him as much as I could,” Mefford said. “It feels amazing. I’m looking forward to two more years of this.”
“I gave Jack one job,” McIntosh said. “Jack exceeded his job. I’m very proud of him. He kept wrestling. That’s the biggest thing. That’s all I ask of my guys. No matter what the score is keep trying to score points.”
Aurora rallied to win five straight matches from 160 through 220 and pull within 32-21. The Greenmen’s only chance for victory was pins in the final two matches.
Graham senior Trey Pence lost 3-2 at 220 in an ultimate tiebreaker, but it sealed the Falcons’ title. Graham senior Johnny Shafer punctuated it with a pin in 2:54 at 285.
“There was a lot of talk this year. That doesn’t matter,” said sophomore Alek Martin, one of seven Falcons to go 3-0. “We keep our heads on all the time and keep focused.
“I trust in my family here. My brothers. We come together as a team every day. I think that’s what helps us.”
Also undefeated Sunday were freshman Nolan Gessler (106), senior Dawson Show (120), junior Chris Kelly (126), sophomore Nick Moore (132), senior Jeffrey Thomas (152) and Shafer.
Sophomore Trace Braun (113), junior Isaiah Stickley (160), sophomore Will Mannier (195) and Mefford finished 2-1.
Rounding out the championship roster were sophomore Eric Thomas (170), freshman Nolan Neves (182) and Pence.
“It feels amazing to keep this legacy going,” Mefford said. “I’ve seen stuff all over where they don’t think we’re going to win. I’m just thankful for it all.”