Fairfield’s Jabari Thomas (left) earned a Division I state tournament berth by placing second at 126 pounds at this weekend’s district event at Fairmont’s Trent Arena. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY GREG BILLING

Prep wrestling: Division I state tournament next for Fairfield trio

KETTERING — The bond forged in wrestling rooms is described as a brotherhood. That’s especially true at Fairfield High School. Or more specifically, in the basement of Jabari and Amar Thomas’ house.

The senior brothers have their own war room with a wrestling mat in the basement. They’ve drilled for countless hours since taking up the sport in junior high. So, who usually wins?

“Bigger brother,” said Jabari, breaking into a smile. “He’s huge.”

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Both came up big Saturday at the Division I district tournament at Fairmont’s Trent Arena. Jabari earned his third trip to the state tournament with a runner-up finish in the 126-pound weight class and Amar — though suffering a hard-luck loss in the third-place match — advanced for the second time at 152 pounds.

“I’m looking to place at state, hopefully,” Amar said. “Do better than I did here because I made some mistakes. Jabari should place pretty high.”

In his match to determine third and fourth place, Amar controlled most of the action against Elder’s Seth Lambers. But Lambers caught Amar with a takedown with nine seconds remaining for a 6-4 win.

Jabari also suffered a loss in the closing seconds against La Salle’s Antoine Allen. The match was tied 1-1 going into the third period and stayed that way until Allen scored a takedown with 38 seconds left. Jabari pulled within 3-2 on an escape with 30 seconds left but ran out of time.

“They’re pretty tough,” Jabari said of the nationally-ranked La Salle team. “I was was trying to go 100 percent out there, but I couldn’t finish those single legs.”

Jabari has placed at state twice, including last season’s seventh-place finish. He’s looking to improve on that this time.

“I’m hoping to win a state title in my last year of high school,” he said. “I feel more confident than ever. I’m trying to keep matches at my own pace. Trying to make them tired at the end of the third period. Just keep going and going and wear them down.”

Added Fairfield coach Jason Laflin: “They’ve been some of the hardest-working kids we’ve ever had be part of our program. You can’t have success without working hard. They’re both kind of quiet. But they work so hard. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The Thomas brothers will be joined at state by senior Moustapha Bal. His 120-pound title match against La Salle’s Lucas Byrd ended when Bal was pinned in 2:28. It was just the second loss this season for Bal (41-2).

“My three guys have potential. I think you start with the goal of placing in the top eight,” Laflin said. “I know they have higher goals than that. I think it’s important you go with the right mind-set that one, I deserve to be here, and two, I’m ready to go.”

The Fairfield trio will be joined at state by Lebanon freshman Luke Marsh and Talawanda senior Sean Mondello. Marsh beat Harrison’s Hunter Barge 3-1 in overtime to finish third at 138. Mondello lost 7-5 to Centerville’s Drew Wiechers to place fourth at 160.

The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualified for the state tournament. The event runs Thursday through Saturday at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus.

“When you’re wrestling the best kids in the state here, hopefully you can use that as a little fuel for next week,” Laflin said. “The goal is to hit the podium. The margin of error and the difference between the top kid and the ones below him are not that much. Hopefully we can close that gap.”

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