In his bid for a second straight state appearance, Mechanicsburg High School senior Jaron Patterson decided to take a less scenic qualifying route in the Division III wrestling district championships on Saturday.
Last year Patterson lost his first-round match, clawed back into contention by winning four straight matches, then dropped his final match to finish fourth and grab the final state qualifying spot.
This time he took the more direct approach at Hobart Arena. Patterson won the 182-pound district title with four straight victories during the two-day tournament, capping his title run with a default victory over Troy Christian senior Craig Montgomery in the finals.
“I feel a lot more confident. I worked on a lot of things I messed up on last year,” said Patterson, who improved to 42-8. “I’m just trying to get better at what I do one step at a time.”
Though Patterson claimed the area’s lone D-III district title, he’ll hardly be alone at state. Junior teammate Caden Coleman finished second at 220, sophomore Trey Allen was third at 113 and sophomore Jake Hurst was also third at 152. The top four placers in each weight class advanced.
“Jaron’s mindset has really changed this year,” Mechanicsburg coach Cameron Doggett said. “Probably about the last month we’ve seen a big change in how he wrestles. Just being a little more aggressive. Pushing the pace. I think in year’s past he got a little timid at times. But he keeps pushing and pushing. That’s the direction he needs to go in right now. I’m confident in him right now.”
Greeneview freshman Ashtan Hendricks finished fourth at 106 and Greenon junior Evan Davis finished fourth at 145 to also advance to state.
As for Coleman, he followed Patterson’s approach and stormed through the field after going 1-2 at district last season and failing to place. He reached the title match with a pin in 4:18, 2-1 decision and pin in 3:07 in the semifinals. In the title match, he was pinned by Kenton senior Noah Eikenbary in 5:14.
“Caden has been turning it on this year,” Doggett said. “He’s an extremely strong kid. Last year we got in trouble on positioning a little bit. This year he’s figured out where he needs to stay position-wise on his feet. He’s wrestling really tough right now.”
Coleman wrestled at 195 last season, and bumping up a weight class has improved his confidence.
“I feel a lot stronger. I feel like I have more endurance than everyone else,” said Coleman, who loves the sport for that toughness.
“I like that it’s physical. I only played football when I moved to Mechanicsburg in the eighth grade. I started wrestling and I loved it.”
In the D-II district tournament at Wilmington, Graham scored 242 points to claim the title with a 156.5-point victory over runner-up Licking Valley. The Falcons, in pursuit of their 20th straight state team title, won six individual district titles and advanced eight to the state tournament.
Graham sophomore Nolan Gessler (113), freshman Nick Hart (126), senior Chris Kelly (132), junior Nick Moore (138), junior Alek Martin (145) and sophomore Nolan Neves (220) all won district titles.
Junior Trace Braun (152) placed second and freshman Camden McDanel (160) finished fourth to also advance.
Urbana sophomore Trevor Stewart (182) placed second and Kenton Ridge senior Drew Gray (138) was third to also qualify.
In the D-I tournament at Kettering’s Trent Arena, Tecumseh qualified a pair to state with senior Cyle Wells (145) and senior Alec Hall (182). Wells finished third and Hall was fourth.
The state tournament takes place Friday through Sunday at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus. The tournament has previously been held Thursday through Saturday.
“I’m planning on placing,” Patterson said. “It’s been a dream of mine my whole life and I’ve worked hard for it. … (Coach Doggett) believes in me a lot. I’m here to show everybody what I can do.”
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