The Ross High School wrestling program sat in a bittersweet spot in state history. The Rams had 21 state placers without a state championship, ranking them fifth all-time in that category.
Getting to state wasn’t a problem. Getting that coveted state title was.
Junior Alex Coleman stunned the ninth-ranked wrestler in the nation and the defending state champion with a 10-7 victory to win the Division II 285-pound weight class at the Schottenstein Center. He’s the first state champion in Ross history and also its first state finalist.
“I think he was expecting to come out and beat me,” Coleman said of Girard senior Jack DelGarbino, who entered Saturday’s final 28-0 and ranked nationally by Intermat. “Amazing. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
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The match could have gone either way several times and it did. Both wrestlers flirted with pins. Coleman led 8-7 to start the third period and didn’t allow a point to DelGarbino.
“There a couple of times — it went back and forth — where he could have said I’m in trouble. But he found a way to win,” Ross coach Rich Dunn said. “That’s the way he’s been doing it all year long. Find a way to win.”
Coleman finished his season 49-3. His losses were to D-I state champion Jacob Padilla twice and La Salle heavyweight Robert Brown, who finished sixth in D-I on Saturday.
“This was a guy who was an undefeated returning state champ and he didn’t back down,” Dunn said. “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had a lot of great wrestlers who have gotten to that semifinal and for some reason or another didn’t break through. This is for all of those that got here.”
Six times Ross wrestlers had reached the state semifinals prior to Saturday. The Rams had three third-place finishes and three fourth-place finishes. The Rams pushed their state placer total to 23 on Saturday with Coleman’s championship and senior Logan Iams’ seventh-place finish at 182. Iams beat Neil Ginnetti of Beloit West Branch 10-7 earlier in the day.
Coleman emphatically put an end to the Rams’ title drought.
“Yeah, I knew it,” Coleman said of DelGarbino’s national ranking. “It was one of my toughest matches all season. One of the few that went six minutes. That took it out of me.
“I came into the tournament not expecting six-minute matches until the semis or the finals. As soon as came into a match and expected to go six minutes it helped me. I didn’t waste my energy in the first period.”
Also on Saturday:
Fairfield also saw a pair of wrestlers place with seniors Jabari Thomas at 126 and Moustapha Bal at 120. Both placed eighth. Senior Amar Thomas also qualified, but didn’t make it out of Thursday’s opening round.
Jabari Thomas earned his third podium finish. He placed eighth at 120 as a sophomore and seventh at 126 as a junior. Bal finished sixth last season at 113.
“They’re hurting right now because things didn’t go their way,” Fairfield coach Jason Laflin said. “But the dad in me and the coach in me has seen the big picture with that. They’re great kids and I couldn’t ask for more.
“Most important is they’re all exceptional young men. They’re great ambassadors for our program. As I move on my career, I kind of get a picture grasp of what goes on here. Often wins and losses are not what it’s about. Yes, we want to win because the kids work hard. But it doesn’t define a kid. It doesn’t change how I feel about them. I love these guys win or lose.”
Bal’s wrestling career ended on the campus of Ohio State, but his future still involves the college. Bal, who Laflin said has a 4.3 grade-point average, plans to major in engineering at OSU.
“It’s nothing but great memories coming in here,” Laflin said.
Also placing on Saturday were Talawanda senior Sean Mondello and Madison sophomore Devin Oligee. Mondello finished eighth at 160 in D-I and Oligee was sixth at 170 in D-III.