The anticipation started to build during the Greenon Knights first wrestling meet, when the team won the final four matches to knock off Loveland and win the Adam Cox Norwood Dual tournament on Dec. 1.
It’s continued to grow with a title at the Xenia Invitational and second-place finishes at the McClain Invitational and the Clark County Clash. The Knights – in the middle of one of their best seasons in years – want to cap it off with their first league championship since 1980.
“I’d say the first tournament,” Chase Trainer said of when the team starting thinking they could end the drought. “We really went out there and gave it to them. We showed them what’s up.”
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Greenon sports a roster with four wrestlers at 20 or more wins, two more with 19 wins and another at 15. The Knights have winning records at 10 of the 14 weight classes, led by senior 195-pounder Levi Morrison.
Morrison (22-2) is eight wins away from 100 for his career. The returning state qualifier will have a chance to get closer when Greenon travels to the East Clinton Duals on Saturday.
“It kind of hit me during my sophomore year that it was attainable,” Morrison said. “Since then I’ve always had it in the back of my mind. It’s starting to creep up.”
Morrison’s milestone season gained momentum coming out of football. The Knights went 6-4 for their first winning season since going 7-3 in 2007. That confidence boost has carried over into the winter sports, too.
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“If you do well in one sport it definitely carries over to the next season,” Morrison said. “It’s a culture around the school.”
Greenon coach Kevin Ferguson has optional weight lifting sessions at 5:30 a.m. during school days. Participation has been near 100 percent each time.
“They’re probably the most dedicated group I’ve ever been around. I think they just love the sport,” Ferguson said.
Among the team highlights: Daytona Hensley is 20-4 at 106 pounds, Arlie Benson Jr. is 22-1 at 120, Evan Davis is 21-1 at 132, Trainer is 13-2 at 138, Blake Potter is 15-5 at 160, Josh Johnson is 19-5 at 182 and Tyler Jenkins is 19-4 at 285.
In one of the more unusual meets this season, the team put its talent on display in front of the Greenon student body with a School Day Scuffle against visiting Shawnee. The dual meet took place during the school day. Greenon plans to travel to Shawnee next season for the same event.
“That atmosphere was awesome,” Jenkins said. “Running out of the hallway and into the gym full of people was great. We made it fun.”
And they’ve kept it going. Johnson, for one, said he saw this coming a few years ago. The hard work the Knights put in during the summer cemented it.
“All summer we had this season in mind,” Johnson said. “All the wrestling we did and all the practices we did was for this season. (Coach Ferguson) knew we had a special opportunity to win league. … When we’re having a hard time in practice we just think, ‘Okay, what do I have to do to win the league title this year?’”
Benson, a freshman, is one of the newcomers to the team. His goal is to reach 100 career wins, too, just like Morrison. But more importantly he wants to get Morrison – a captain on both the football and wrestling teams – that league title.
“He’s striving for us to get better and for us young kids to be just as good or even better than he is,” Benson said. “I think we have a great shot to get our first one in almost 40 years. I’d be great to be part of that. … I think there’s a little bit of pressure because we don’t want to go out there and just flop. This team wants to go out there have fun and win as a team.”
Should that happen at league – and beyond – it’ll be long remembered by the Knights. That won’t be the only thing to make this a special season, though.
“The relationships that you build with the sport,” Davis said of the best thing about wrestling. “You meet new people every day and you learn life experiences from them. … “There’s a good culture in the room. Wrestling pushes you and makes you do things that maybe you don’t want to.”
It’s that drive that has taken the Knights this far. The goal is to complete the journey at the Ohio Heritage Conference meet Feb. 16 at Mechanicsburg.
“All of us have put in the work,” Trainer said. “If we keep grinding at it in the last few weeks I think we can definitely do that. … We’ve been together since youth to middle to school to high school. We’ve always been there for each other. This is like a big family. It feels great to be a part of it.”
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