By JAMIE BAKER
Before the postseason began, Patrick Henry junior Wil Morrow made a strategic decision.
He’s about to find out if it’s going to pay off.
Morrow is one of a handful of area state placewinners that will hit the mats today when the OHSAA state wrestling Division III preliminaries begin at 3 p.m. at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena.
Morrow racked up a 24-1 record during the regular season — all at 195 pounds. When it came time for sectionals, he opted to move up to the 220-pound division for the postseason.
“I want to face the best. There’s the No. 1 kid at 220 who is the returning state champ. If you’re going to win, why not beat the best?” Morrow declared.
“There’s only one state placer at 220, but there are probably four placers at 195. I was thinking of ways I could optimize my chances at state and one state placer, compared to four, made my decision for me.”
Moving up, or down, a weight for the postseason tournament isn’t all that uncommon.
Coaches and wrestlers put their heads together to try and maximize their postseason potential.
For some the decision involves the best chance to get past the sectional and on to districts. For others, the choice is made based on which weight class could possibly bring them their highest finish at state, or even a state championship.
“My freshman and sophomore year when I cut to 182, I probably could have done better at 195. But I took the chance and cut down to 182,” Morrow said.
“I was eating whatever I wanted at 195. Right now, I’m still probably 20 pounds lighter than everyone else,” added the PH standout, who weighed in at sectionals at 202 pounds.
“It matters a little bit, but it doesn’t affect me that much. They have the size on me, but I have the speed on them. We just equal it out.”
He’s still unbeaten in the postseason, albeit, with a narrower margin for error.
Morrow, who is 31-1 entering Thursday’s opening-round bout against Sarahsville Shenandoah’s Dalton Rice (44-9), has won his last six matches by decision including a 5-3 win over Van Buren’s Kaleb Snodgrass in the sectional final and 7-5 against Elmwood’s Will Bechstein in the district final.
All three area wrestlers will be among the favorites to medal at 220 pounds this weekend.
“Getting to the final. That’s been my goal since my freshman year, but I’ve come up short,” Morrow said. “I’m planning on not being denied this year.”
To get there, he will have to beat the best.
A possible matchup with unbeaten returning state champ Hudson Jump of Columbus Grandview Heights looms in Friday night’s semifinals.
Here’s some other storylines heading into the state tournament.
NEXT CHAMP?: Last year’s championship performance by Ottawa-Glandorf’s Daniel Beemer at 182 pounds snapped a 12-match losing streak for area wrestlers in Division III championship matches that dated back to 2009.
The odds-on favorite to win has to be Bluffton 182-pounder DeAndre Nassar, who was fourth at 195 pounds last season. At 44-0, Nassar is trying to become the school’s ninth state wrestling champion. The Pirates have sent eight other wrestlers to the state final during its history.
The Pirates have also had an area-best 38 state placers over the years.
Nassar is one of 20 unbeaten wrestlers at state.
NOT SO FAST: If Nassar doesn’t win at 182 pounds, there’s a chance it may still be an area champ.
Carey’s Tanner May has been ripping through the competition recently. The junior two-time state placer was sixth as a freshman and fifth last year. He is 44-2 and can tie Carey two-time Nick Mengerink with his third state tournament medal.
Ottawa-Glandorf returning state placer Danny Rosales is 29-6 and will be making his third appearance in Columbus, after finishing seventh as a junior. Five of Rosales’ six losses have come to Nassar.
LONG TIME COMING: If Cory-Rawson junior Deontae’ Davis (37-8) wrestles his way to the awards stand in a rugged 160-pound weight class, he’ll be just the Hornets’ second state placewinner in school history.
Keith “Rhino” Risner finished third in the Class A unlimited weight class in 1983.
Davis has a tough bout in his opener, though, as he’ll face unbeaten returning state champ James Limongi (39-0) from Genoa.
ALL-AREA MATCHUP: The first round of the state tournament will feature a rare all-area matchup.
At 285 pounds, Columbus Grove’s Jeff Meyer (43-8) will face Elmwood’s Kain Brossia (39-6) in an opening-round battle of two-time state qualifiers.
Meyer won the Troy District while Brossia was fourth last week at Lakota. Despite both wrestling, and placing, at the Van Buren Invitational the past two seasons they have never met.
PLENTY OF BIGS: When area wrestlers take the mat, they’ll come through the tunnel and onto the floor at Value City Arena at a fast and furious pace.
Of the 18 area state qualifiers, only Findlay’s Jonah Smith (138) and Mohawk’s Morgan Price (145) are under 160 pounds.
The breakdown: 160 (3), 170 (1), 182 (4), 195 (2), 220 (3) and 285 (2).
Matches featuring area wrestlers could be wrestled simultaneously on as many as four or five of the 10 mats at Value City Arena during Thursday afternoon’s first round.