Photo courtesy of Oak Harbor Amateur Wrestling Club Facebook.
Some years, six wrestlers finishing first, second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, would be good enough to win a state championship.
Unfortunately for Oak Harbor, it was competing against a number of elite teams and fell short of winning the Division III title, coming in third. Mechanicsburg, the favorite, finished first behind three champions and accumulated 118.5 points while Genoa, which had four finalists, including three champions, was second (95), followed by the Rockets (91), who set a school record by having six wrestlers place.
To no one's surprise, Dylan Thorp, the top wrestler in a group that featured seven qualifiers, became the 24th state champion in Oak Harbor history. Bruce Hrynciw finished second, Jake Huston was third, Kian Thompson came in fifth, Dylan Mansor was sixth and Cam Dickman finished seventh. Trevor Scherf, who was seventh in Div. III last year, missed out on placing by one match.
"We placed six, that was a school record, so we were happy with that. Every kid has their own story. It's the state tournament, you're wrestling a state qualifier every match, and there are no kids that aren't good wrestlers. On another weekend, maybe you'd have a different outcome. You don't know who's coming off the flu or an injury. It's a different tournament than any other tournament," said Oak Harbor coach George Bergman. "It is different, the setting, there's not other time when you're wrestling in front of 15,000 fans. You don't know how the kids are going to prepare, (but) they've got to go out and perform. We were fortunate that our kids performed."
Having lost just two matches this year, both of which came at the nationally-renowned IronMan Tournament, Thorp, who wrestles at 220 pounds, won his first two matches in convincing fashion, pinning Newbury's Kade Marker in 1:47 and defeating Patrick Henry's Kent Petersen by major decision, 9-2. Thorp won his toughest match, edging Carlisle's Reece Human, 6-4, in the semifinals and ending the reign of last year's state champion, New Paris National Trail's Ben Sullivan, 7-3, in the finals to notch his 47th victory of the season. It was sweet redemption for Thorp, who just missed out on placing last season, and on top of that, he had a tough draw as all four of his opponents placed.
"He was in an overtime match last year (and lost); he barely missed out. He went undefeated at Disney Duals, went to IronMan and knocked off a defending state champion. That put a bullseye on him," said Bergman. "He's continued to work hard and it was nice that his dream and goal came to fruition on Saturday. He had a tough draw, that's a lot of pressure on a young man; everybody that he wrestled placed. In the semifinals, he faced a guy that was rated third -- that was tough match -- and in the finals, he faced a four-time state placer that had never place lower than third. Dylan performed well under the lights and on the big stage."
Hrynciw (126), who lost his first match last year before winning five in a row to finish third, did himself one better this time around, reaching the finals before losing to a three-time state champion, Delta's Drew Mattin, a University of Michigan recruit, by fall in 3:39. The key match for Hrynciw was in the semifinals against Wayne Trace's Ruger Goeltzenleuchter, who he defeated, 3-2. It was the culmination of a career that saw Hrynciw become only the ninth wrestler to win four Sandusky Bay Conference titles and finish in the top-3 in Div. III twice. He will continue his wrestling career at Tiffin University.
Huston (152) won his first match by fall and the second by technical fall before losing, 4-1, to Mechanicsburg's Colt Yinger in the semifinals. However, Huston recovered to win his final two matches, defeating Johnstown Northridge's Forest Belli, 9-6, and Smithville's Riley Smucker by sudden victory, 2-1, to take third. It was the second straight year that Huston placed after coming in sixth last year.
Thompson (182) won his first match by fall in just 46 seconds before losing, 8-3, to two-time state champion James Handwerk of Rocky River Lutheran. (Handwerk lost in the finals, 3-1, by sudden victory.) Thompson recovered, though, winning by technical fall, 20-2, and injury default before losing, 8-6, to Elmwood's Jace Grossman. But Thompson, who just missed out on placing last year, finished out his career on a high note by defeating Carey's Tanner May, 7-2, to finish third.
Mansor (145), who had qualified for the state tournament in each of the previous two years, got over the hump and reached the podium this year. He beat Massillon Tuslaw's Kyle Ryder, 9-3, before falling to the eventual-champion, Mechanicsburg's Tanner Smith, 11-0. He recovered and beat Swanton's Chase Moore, 5-0, before losing to St. Paul's Derek Gross, who entered the tournament with a 51-0 record, 8-3, and fell to Edison's Alex Neuberger, who he had defeated in the district and SBC tournament, 7-4, to finish sixth.
And Dickman (113), the only non-senior of the group, defeated Navarre Fairless' Ben Ruegg, 6-2, before falling to Troy Christian's Jake Edwards, 6-1, in the semifinals. Dickman won two of his next three matches, beating Coshocton's Austin Guthrie, 7-4, losing to Edison's Dylan Burns, 3-1, and defeating Johnstown Northridge's Klay Reeves, 3-1, to finish seventh.
Scherf (132) had a tough draw despite coming in as a district champion, losing to two wrestlers that finished third and fifth, respectively. He lost to Allen East's Schuyler Caprella, 9-2, in the first round, beat Nelsonville-York's Brian Heller, 4-2, and fell to Garrettsville Garfield's Logan Kissell, 8-2.
"I think it's another good class. We have good, solid group of grinders. The thing that stands out is to have six of them place, and Trevor placed last year. We were in Div. II for all of my years until the last two. There's more depth in Div. II, (but) these individuals don't have any say," said Bergman. "This is a deep class, maybe not the superstars of Keith (Witt), Cody (Magrum) and Kirk (Tank), but six state placers in one class is pretty incredible.
"After Dylan's match, he went up to the podium and they took pictures, and we exchanged hugs and I told them I appreciated all they did for the program. A lot of these guys have wrestled and gone through our biddy program. I acknowledged each one of them and gave them a hug and told them I appreciate how much they have done for the program."
The weekend was extra special for Bergman, who was inducted into the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Bergman, who took over coaching the team from his brother, Joe, in 1992, has mentored 13 state champions, eight runners-up and 56 state placers. As a program, Oak Harbor has 24 individual state champions and 80 all-state medalists.
"I've always believed that any award a coach receives is because of the great athletes he's coached. I've been very blessed to have some great athletes though the years -- Ian Miller, J.D. Bergman, Cody Magrum, to have to one of them in 20 years would be a blessing. I've had a great seat and these guys have made me look like I know a little. They've gone out and done the work and succeeded."
Bergman has also had a great group of assistants over the years, a group that currently includes Bill Scherf, Aaron Bomer and his nephew, Paul Bergman.
"The four of us could all be a head coach. Bill has been with me for so many years and was a good wrestler, Aaron Bomer was a head coach at Gibsonburg and Fostoria and Paul wrestled at Mercyhurst," said Bergman. "I think we fit together like fingers on a glove -- we all see it very similar. We all get along well and we're all good friends, and it's made for a great working relationship. Their expertise and knowledge of the sport is incredible. I've been blessed to have these coaches by my side."