Heading into their showdown with Graham in the Division I, Region 6 semifinals of the Ohio High School Athletic Association state team tournament, Butler wrestling coach Mark Peck channeled his inner WWE.
“As Ric Flair once said, to be the man, you gotta beat the man, and Graham has been the man for the last 15-20 years,” Peck said. “Graham has set the bar for all of us regardless of division.”
»RELATED: Area’s top teams advance in state duals
Butler, the top-ranked D-I team in the area, will visit against nationally ranked — and the top D-II team in the area Graham at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The winner will face the Beavercreek-Springboro winner for the regional title.
Graham will wrestle in the D-II individual tournament in March, but a change in the team tournament gave them the option of bumping up a division.
“The matchups for the team state tournament are exciting for our fans, wrestlers, and coaches because we are bumping up to Division I.” Graham coach Jeff Jordan said. “We are putting our sixth consecutive title on the line by moving up so it adds a little bit more excitement than past years.”
Graham is the lone team to have claimed the state team tournament in all five years since the state began sponsoring the event.
The two schools are familiar with each other. Both participate in the GMVWA Holiday Tournament and Butler attends Jordan’s Team Camp each summer.
Still, Peck is looking forward to the match.
“It isn’t every day that you can put your team up against the best in the state,” Peck said.
“… This will prepare us for the Greater Western Ohio Conference, sectional, district, and state.”
Urbana coach Tony Kitchen knew his squad had some holes to work around to advance to its first regional semi.
Urbana did just enough, defeating Greenville 37-36 on criteria, and St. Marys Memorial 39-33, to advance.
“We knew coming into (Wednesday) night that we would be giving up a lot of points due to forfeits. We had four wrestlers that are normal starters were not in the line-up,” Kitchen said. “Everyone pulled their own weight and we only lost two matches in each dual. I couldn’t be more proud of the team.”
Urbana will face Wapakoneta at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Northwestern.
Northwestern, also making its first appearance in the semis, will face Miami Trace with the winners wrestling for a spot at state.
Fifth-seeded Wapakoneta advanced after knocking off top seed Celina.
“I think we can match up well with almost any team in Ohio,” Kitchen said. “It hurts not having every weight class filled but I’m confident in our team. Wapakoneta is tough and we definitely have our work cut out for us.”
Another year, another showdown between Versailles and Covington with a spot in the regional finals on the line.
The two former Southwestern Rivers Conference rivals will square off at Versailles at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Region 24 semis.
“Covington is a good rivalry meet,” Versailles coach AJ Bey said. “Both teams are going to send solid kids out in each weight class. Both coaching staffs will try to do some maneuvering to get the match up we want, and let the kids decide it on the mat.”
If the Tigers take care of the Buccaneers, Bey expects to see Miami East waiting for them in the finals.
The Vikings, who face Indian Lake in the other semi, have been one of the favorites – along with Versailles – to advance to the state meet.
“Miami East has a great team, and a veteran coaching staff, so I believe whoever wins this can do some good things in Columbus,” Bey said. “I think our kids really look forward to the dual meet tournament. This is a goal of all the coaching staff and of all the seniors. The senior class every year tries to out do the senior class from the previous year.”
Buckeye invasion: The second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will put their perfect dual meet record on the line Sunday against No. 24 Purdue at 1 p.m. at Graham High School.
Coach Tom Ryan holds duals at high schools across the state as a way to allow more fans to see the team.
OSU’s Bo and Micah Jordan will make their first appearances on the mat at Graham since winning four state titles at the school. Bo is a senior. Micah a redshirt-junior. Both are returning All-Americans.
Mechanicsburg four-time state champ Kaleb Romero is being red-shirted by the Buckeyes.
OSU will be without NCAA, world and Olympic champ Kyle Snyder. The heavyweight will be representing the U.S. in Krasnoyarsk, Russia at the Golden Grand Priz Ivan Yarygin 2018, billed as “the toughest tournament on the planet.”
On deck: The Eaton Invitational concludes today after getting started Friday night. Twenty-two teams are in the field with wrestling beginning at 10:30 a.m. today with a round of consolation matches.
Finals will be held approximately one hour following the final consolation match.
Northmont is the defending champ while Milton-Union was second.