State wrestling: Greenon juniors secure podium finishes

MARION – This wrestling season has been one of the toughest Greenon High School junior Arlie Benson Jr. has endured. And that includes his freshman season when he broke his neck.

But, as Benson said in the hallway of Marion Harding High School on Saturday: “If you don’t have fun why do it? That’s what I try to think about. Tomorrow is going to be very fun.”

Benson secured a podium finish at the Division II OHSAA state championships on Saturday, going 2-1 in the 132-pound weight class. Benson won his first match with a 10-1 decision. He was pinned in his quarterfinal match, dropping him into the consolation round.

In that win-or-go-home match, Benson came up with an 11-4 victory over Oak Harbor sophomore Owen Miller.

He’ll be joined on the podium by junior teammate Trevor Stewart. Stewart reached the semifinals at 182 with a pin in 21 seconds and an 8-4 victory. Both return Sunday for the final rounds.

Also at Marion, Mechanicsburg qualified junior Trey Allen to the 126-pound semifinals and had three more wrestlers in the consolation bracket.

At the D-II tournament at Highland High School, north of Columbus near Mareno, Graham advanced six wrestlers to the semifinals in its bid for a 20th consecutive team state championship. The Falcons also had four wrestlers still alive in the consolation bracket.

The OHSAA tournament is normally held at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center. This year’s tournament is being held at three separate sites. The D-I tournament is at Hilliard Darby high school. Highland High School is near Mareno, north of Columbus.

Schott or not, Benson is more than happy to simply be wrestling. He briefly considered giving up the sport after his neck injury. He broke the C7 vertebrae attempting a shot during practice. At the time Benson was undefeated heading into the sectional tournament, which he missed.

“There was a thought, just because I didn’t know if it was a major fracture,” Benson said. “I came back six weeks later. I was on the mat and I was super tired because I hadn’t done anything. But I came to practice and I felt good. I felt like I was at home. Ever since then I knew this was my sport.”

Benson credited senior teammate Evan Davis and Stewart with pushing him in practice. Davis also qualified for state but was eliminated Saturday.

“(Placing) is a big relief because I put my heart and soul into this season,” Benson said. “With Trevor and Evan there with me, they’ve been pushing me. They’ve been kicking my butt in the wrestling room. Some days I didn’t even get a takedown. They pushed me to my max.

“It’s just an amazing feeling knowing my name is going to be (on the school’s wall of honor) with a placement. I love leaving a legacy especially with this Greenon name. I’m all about Greenon. It feels great knowing I can wrestle with this Greenon name across my singlet. … Without wrestling I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Mechanicsburg qualified six wrestlers to state and four remain. Allen won his first match by pin in 5:51 and scored a 5-1 victory to reach the semifinals. Alive in the consolation bracket, which guarantees a top-eight podium finish, are juniors Jesse Stroud, Westyn Moyer and Jake Hurst.

Shawnee senior Adam Myers also remained in the consolation bracket.

In D-II, Graham has 10 of its 12 wrestlers remaining after the first day. Two victories away from state titles are freshman Beric Jordan (106), junior Nolan Gessler (126), senior Nick Moore (138), senior Alek Martin (145), freshman Carter Neves (182) and junior Nolan Neves (285).

Senior Trace Braun, senior Timmy Greenhouse, sophomore Nick Hart and freshman Gunner Cramblett are still in the consolation bracket.

Wrestling resumes 10 a.m. Sunday with the semifinals and goes through all the consolation matches. After a break, championship matches only start at 4:30 p.m.

“I knew I had to get better over the summer. Lift weights. Get stronger. Get bigger. Get more mentally better. That’s why a lot of people don’t like wrestling. There’s so much stress on you. I try and make that stress into excitedness.”

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