Area wrestlers continue march to state tournament

District tournaments run through Saturday in Divisions I, II and III

LIBERTY TWP. – With 32 wins to one loss, it’s not easy to rattle Lakota East High School wrestler Max Boaz. But there’s one adversary Boaz just can’t seem to shake.

When Boaz steps onto the mat for the Division I district championships the nerves will be there. Just like they’ve been since kindergarten when he started competing in the sport.

“Before I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t drink. Now I just kind of overthink things,” said Boaz, who won the Division I sectional title in the 138-pound weight class at Lakota East High School last Saturday. “When you get into the match – and it’s been this way since I was about six – the nerves go away instantly. It’s right before the match that it’s real bad.

“I hated it growing up. I’m not going to lie. The feeling you get before a match is terrible. The nerves are crazy. As I got older and wrestled more matches they improved a little bit. It became a lot more fun, but the nerves are still there. I really enjoy it now. I’m happy he got me into it.”

Boaz was introduced to wrestling by his father, John, who also wrestled for Lakota East. Boaz said his dad was an average wrestler, but has been instrumental in his success. His dad’s passion for the sport rekindled when Boaz started wrestling.

“He wasn’t like an amazing wrestler, but he really enjoyed it. He wanted to get me into because it’s a tough sport,” Boaz said. “I was a small kid and he wanted me to be able to defend myself. … He’s the reason I’m here today. He’s taught me a lot of this and it’s a good bonding experience.”

At the sectional championships, Boaz fought off a spirited and physical challenge from Edgewood senior Olathe Siegla to win the title. Boaz battled through several timeouts to stop a nose bleed. He also wrestled on an injured MCL. He persevered to win 5-1 and qualify for the district championships at Kettering’s Trent Arena.

The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to the state tournament. Boaz finished fifth at district last season, which made him a state alternate.

D-I and D-II (held in Wilmington) wrestling starts Thursday with early-round matches for 106 through 145 weight classes. The 152 through 285 classes wrestle early matches Friday. A split session follows Saturday with the lower weight classes completing their tournament in the morning and the higher weight classes in the evening.

The D-III tournament in Troy runs with split sessions on both Friday and Saturday. The lower weight classes wrestle first and the heavier classes follow after a break.

Boaz is joined at the district meet by five teammates -- senior and fellow sectional champ Max Pennix (160), seniors Eli Willis (152) and Ashtin Reip (170), junior Kevin Kornau (220) and sophomore Nick Brady (145) as qualified.

“We’ve got some good kids,” Boaz said. “It’s just fun wrestling with them and being on a good team.”

Even with those nerves. Boaz admits he’s gotten better with the butterflies. But when wrestlers like Cincinnati LaSalle’s Jake Niffenegger are in your half of the bracket it’s OK to be a little jittery. If the results go according to the seeds those two would meet in the semifinals.

“In all honestly, I’m trying to get second,” Boaz said before the brackets were drawn up. “I’d like to say first – I’m not saying it’s impossible for me – but Niffenegger is a beast.

“(One of my favorite things about wrestling) is the mindset it gives you. Never quit. It’s one of the hardest things you’re going to do. You get beat up so it’s fun. My mindset is work harder than everyone else and whatever happens, happens.”

Fairfield enjoyed a stellar day at the D-I sectionals and qualified 11 wrestlers to the district tournament. Edgewood (7), Lebanon (7), Lakota East (6), Lakota West (4), Middletown (3) and Hamilton(2) also advanced wrestlers.

In D-II at Wilmington, Ross leads the way with 10 qualifiers. Graham (12) and Blanchester (11) were the only other program to advance in 10 or more weight classes. Also competing are Franklin (7), Monroe (7), Badin (6) and Fenwick (2).

In D-III at Troy, Carlisle advanced in 10 weight classes and Madison in seven.

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