Ross High School wrestling coach Rich Dunn doesn’t quibble when the topic of the Ohio High School Athletic Association state duals comes up.
“The state duals are a big deal to our kids,” Dunn said.
»RELATED: State duals schedule for area teams
The Rams have had a lot of success in the five years of the tournament, advancing to state three times and twice being regional runner-up in Division II.
In 2013, the Rams won a tiebreaker over second-seeded CVCA to advance to the semis.
“We have been successful in the past,” Dunn said. “Our juniors and seniors know what is like to go to St. John’s (Arena). They really want to return.
“Most of the freshmen and sophomores were in the stands watching us clinch the trip to State in 2015 and 2016. They vividly remember the come from behind win against an excellent Eaton team in 2015,”
Ross’ losses in the regional finals were to Western Brown, now a Division I team. The Rams also will not have to face Graham if they advance to state.
The OHSAA made a few changes this year, including giving teams the option of going up a division. It is an option Graham jumped on to compete in Division I.
“I think allowing Graham to wrestle up in D1 will add a lot more excitement and interest in both D1 and DII,” Dunn said.
The OHSAA also assigned regional hosts prior to the seeding this year, grouping teams geographically. In 2019, the regionals will move fto a one-day event at 24 sites across the state.
Ross opens Division II, Region 16 action at home Wed. Jan. 24 against Wyoming.
While the Rams have made a habit of going to Columbus, Fairfield is hoping to make its second appearance.
“Going to state a few years ago was huge for our program,” Fairfield coach Jason Laflin said. “We had a great experience. Going back would be great for our community, school and wrestling program.”
Fairfield will host first-round matches in Division I, Region 7, but enter as the second seed. The Indians will face Mt. Healthy with the winner facing top-seeded Winton Woods.
“The state duals is an opportunity to grow,” Laflin said. “We are wrestling new teams in the first round. We love to get new looks from teams we don’t wrestle regularly. My group of seniors remember going when they were sophomores and are building it up to the rest of the team.”
Madison moves back down to Division III after just missing a state spot in Division II in 2016.
Madison, which opens at Region 23 action at Carlisle, has high hopes of advancing to Columbus for the first time.
“The state duals are very big to us this year. We have a full squad with big dreams,” Madison coach Stan Oligee said. “This is the first year in a while that wrestlers are checking other teams out and are very confident about making the trip to Columbus.”
The Mohawks will face the Preble Shawnee vs Carlisle winner in the second round.