By JAMIE BAKER
Findlay High School’s seniors have carried the FHS wrestling program where it’s never been before — the regional semifinals of the OHSAA team tournament.
The Trojans are a pair of wins away from a berth in the Division I OHSAA state team quarterfinals.
Today’s 5 p.m. regional semifinal match against Oregon Clay will be the end of what’s been a grueling month of January, that’s taken a physical toll on Findlay.
“From the Maumee Bay Classic, to the Wadsworth tournament, the regional duals and five matches at Elmwood, this month has been a real grind. Let’s just say it was a lot more than I pictured in my head for January,” Findlay High School wrestling coach Ben Kirian said. “We’ve done well, but it has been tough on the kids.
“We have a couple of injuries and we’ve been fighting the flu and that respiratory thing that’s been going around. Half of our hammers have missed some time. We’re hoping to have most of our guys healed up and ready to go against Clay.”
At one point or another over the last month, the Trojans have been without several key wrestlers.
Seniors Boston Dubocq (22-9 at 152 pounds) and Liam Morrison (25-8 at 126) and juniors Jaden Johnson (26-9 at 132) and Max Jolliff (22-9 a 138) have been sidelined at times. Senior returning state qualifiers Dru Hernandez (25-7 at 160) and Zach Bryant (32-6 at 195) have also missed mat time.
Senior Seth Douglas (32-7 at 145) has managed to stay relatively healthy and picked up his 100th career win last weekend at Elmwood.
Findlay didn’t have their best lineup on the mat when they met the Eagles in a dual meet at Clay on Dec. 17. The Trojans gave up a pair of forfeits to start the match and fell behind 23-0 in a 46-21 loss.
A delay, and some pre-match hoopla before the Trojans even took the mat against the Eagles, kind of set the Trojans up for a tough night.
“We need to be more focused. Last time we saw them, we weren’t very focused. They had a special night with a DJ, smoke and spotlights,” Kirian said.
“They delayed the weigh-ins and start time We were there for 3 hours before we stepped on the mat. It was a very long, drawn out night. It threw us off, we’re a no-nonsense team we don’t do stuff like that so it threw everyone off.”
Other FHS wrestlers that could find their way into the lineup tonight include seniors Josiah Trevino (26-9) at 170, Joey Bower (11-14) at 220, Jesse Guzman (11-17) at 285, Cameron Owens (11-6) at 145 and Pim Phadphom (10-10) at 160. Juniors Avery Charles (10-4 at 138), Mitchell Johnston (15-11 at 120) and Jeremiah Snider (23-10 at 182), sophomore Jonah Smith (28-8 at 126) and freshman Andy Cruz (6-6 at 113) will also make the trip to Elyria.
It will also be an important match with regards to seeding for the Three Rivers Athletic Conference scheduled for two weeks from Saturday.
Kirian likes the Trojans’ chances.
“Kids are very excited for the opportunity and we think we have a good shot at beating Clay this time. We haven’t had our optimum lineup since the Findlay Duals, and even then, we didn’t have our 113 pounder,” Kirian said.
“That’s what we keep telling ourselves, we haven’t had our best lineup out there yet so we think we can be an even better team than we’ve shown so far.”
Host Elyria and Grafton Midview will wrestle in the other semifinal bout at Elyria. The two winners will meet 20 minutes following the semifinals to try and win a spot in next week’s OHSAA state finals at Ohio State University’s St. John Arena.
Upper Sandusky, meanwhile, will be making its second straight regional semifinal appearance when the Rams take on Ashland Crestview in a Division III regional semifinal match Wednesday at Genoa. Powerful Genoa and Edison square off in the other semifinal bout. The Comets pinned a 45-28 loss on the Chargers in the championship match at last weekend’s 18-team Division III duals at Sandusky St. Mary’s.
The Rams lost to Whitehall Yearling in last year’s Division II regional semifinals and are the only area team to have ever qualified for the state quarterfinals when they advanced to the state quarterfinals during the 2013 season.
A solid group of four seniors in the upper weights anchor Upper Sandusky’s lineup this winter.
Senior two-time state qualifier Noah Clary is 29-3 at 182 pounds. Classmate Brandon Derr (17-6) will man the 170-pound class, state alternate Connor Johnston (31-4) is at 220 pounds and Mitchell Dewitt (20-8) is at 195.
Sophomores Brayzin McDaniel (21-9) and Ronan Gullifer (11-4) are wrestlers to watch for Upper Sandusky in the 126- and 113-pound weight classes respectively.
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By JAMIE BAKER