State Wrestling: Graham rolls to 20th straight team title

Graham junior Nolan Gessler won a state title Sunday at 126 pounds. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED
Graham junior Nolan Gessler won a state title Sunday at 126 pounds. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

MARENGO – Different site. Same result.

Previously held at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center, the OHSAA state wrestling championships were moved to three different high schools to help with social distancing. Graham did its part, separating itself from the field early to run away with the program’s 20th straight team state title.

On Sunday at Highland High School, the Graham Falcons won three individual titles – and missed two more by mere seconds – to win Division II championship with 181.5 points. Runner-up Louisville scored 95.

Mechanicsburg also had a strong showing with four placers and finished fifth as a team with 51 points.

Graham freshman Beric Jordan won the 106-pound weight class, junior Nolan Gessler took the title at 126 and senior Alek Martin won his second championship, this one at 145 pounds.

Jordan (36-1) controlled his match and held on for a 5-4 victory over Aurora’s Codie Cuerbo. Gessler (30-3) scored a 13-8 victory over Licking Valley’s Alijah Stevens. Martin (33-0) gained control for a two-point takedown with two seconds left in his match for the 5-4 win over Lisbon Beaver’s Logan Ours.

“All that was habit. I didn’t think about anything,” said Martin, who won the 138-pound title in 2019. “I thought there was like 30 seconds left.”

The three individual titles gives Graham 99 overall, second in the state to D-I Lakewood St. Edward’s 115.

“I’ve been dreaming about this for years and years,” said Jordan, no relation to the legendary former Graham coach Jeff Jordan. “My parents talk about it all the time. It finally came true. I was so happy it happened.”

Gessler said through grade school and middle school he’d reached three title matches without a win and had a pair of third-place finishes, among a half dozen other podium finishes. That finally changed Sunday.

“It’s a big relief,” Gessler said.

And not just to Gessler. He said after a long wrestling season dealing with coronavirus precautions and the build-up to state, he wasn’t the easiest person to be around.

“Toward the end (of the season) the wait started complicating things with my family. I feel like after this gold medal comes home all those relationships are going to be healed … Yeah, I have a little bit of an attitude,” Gessler said, grinning.

Graham senior Nick Moore (31-4) finished second 138 with a heartbreaking loss in a 7-5 sudden victory finish. It was Moore’s third runner-up finish at state.

“It crushes you,” Graham third-year coach Travis McIntosh said. “You feel bad for the kid. You wonder if there’s anything else you could have done for him and put him in a position to win the match. In the long run it might be for a reason. Maybe he’ll be a four-time All-American in college or a national champ in college. Just give him a little bit of fire.”

“He’s worked so hard and I wrestle him every day in the room,” Martin said. “He’s literally a brother to me. It’s heartbreaking. … He’s the best on our team. I definitely wish I could give (my title to him).”

Graham freshman Carter Neves also finished second at 182 with a 3-1 loss that turned late in the third period.

Also for Graham, junior Nolan Neves (285) finished third, sophomore Nick Hart (132) and senior Trace Braun (152) finished fourth, freshman Gunner Cramblett (160) and senior Timmy Greenhouse (170) both finished seventh and junior Zach Burroughs finished eighth.

Eleven of the 12 wrestlers Graham qualified for state placed, giving the Falcons 235 in program history for No. 2 all-time in Ohio.

“We come into the wrestling room every day after school and just kill each other. After practice we’re all best friends again,” Gessler said. “You keep your brothers close to you and they always have your back.”

Added Jordan: “I love this team. They’re like my family. They took me in and loved me. I hope I can do the same for them.”

At the D-III tournament held at Marion Harding High School, Mechanicsburg junior Trey Allen finished second at 126 following a 5-4 decision to Wayne Trace’s Jarrett Hornish.

At 182, Greenon junior Trevor Stewart fell 3-2 in the title match to Archbold’s Carson Meyer.

Greenon junior Arlie Benson Jr. was seventh at 132.

Along with Allen, Mechanicsburg placed four wrestlers on the podium with top-eight finishes. Junior Jake Hurst finished third at 152, junior Westyn Moyer was seventh at 145 and junior Jesse Stroud was eighth at 132.

Shawnee senior Adam Myers placed sixth at 182.

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