State wrestling: Springfield’s Cochran confident, starts fast

Joe Cochran of Springfield wrestles Kyle Walsh of Toledo Whitmer at 195 lbs. in Division I during Thursday’s OHSAA championship wrestling tournament at Value City Arena in Columbus on March 9, 2017. BARBARA PERENIC/COLUMBUS DISPATCH

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Joe Cochran of Springfield wrestles Kyle Walsh of Toledo Whitmer at 195 lbs. in Division I during Thursday’s OHSAA championship wrestling tournament at Value City Arena in Columbus on March 9, 2017. BARBARA PERENIC/COLUMBUS DISPATCH

As Springfield High School junior 195-pounder Joe Cochran walked around the Jerome Schottenstein Center prior to the first day of the 80th Ohio High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament, he made an observation to his dad — and coach.

“Everything looks smaller this year,” Cochran said.

Thursday afternoon in the opening round, Cochran was the one who looked large and in charge, recording five takedowns in a 11-2 major decision over Kyle Walsh of Toledo Whitmer to move into this morning’s quarterfinals.

“Having the experience here last year definitely helped,” Cochran said. “This whole season, I have felt more confident every match.”

It was a confidence that began hatching following a pair of 3-2 losses on the first day of the state tournament last year — a feeling that is starting to move further into the rearview mirror.

“This helped me get past last year because it was really burning at me,” Cochran said. “I’m not completely over it and I know I got more work to do (Friday).”

Division III: Mechanicsburg went 6-1 in the first round and sat a half point behind Oak Harbor after the first round in the team race.

The race for the title has become a rallying cry since the Indians fell short in the state duals.

“We were breaking every practice with ‘state champs,’ but after we lost state duals we said we weren’t going to do that again until everyone came together,” senior Alex Rhine said after advancing at 132 with a pin. “This week we did.”

Rhine led 6-1 when he recorded the fall and is glad to finally enter a state tournament healthy.

“It feels great,” Rhine said. “I feel like I’ve peaked the last two weeks and I am really wrestling well now.

“We are all trying to get as many bonus points as we can because that’s what wins state titles.”

Three-time champ Kaleb Romero pinned his first-round opponent in seconds, so quickly that the clock didn’t start.

Greeneview’s Devan Hendricks recorded an escape and takedown late in his 106 pound opener to break a 2-2 tie in a 5-2 win.

“When you first walk out and hear how loud it is and how big it is,” Hendricks said. “I was pretty nervous.”

Division II: Graham went 11-for-11 in the first round to jump to the top of the leaderboard. The Falcons put 40 points on the board to lead second-place Wauseon by 20 points.

On deck: Wrestling continues today with the quarters at 10 a.m. Semifinals begin at 6:15 p.m. following the coaches of the year award ceremonies.

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