The result wasn’t what the Ross Rams wanted, but if there’s one thing to know about Rich Dunn’s wrestling program it’s this – the Rams will be back to take another crack at the OHSAA state dual team tournament.
Ross qualified for the sixth time in the tournament’s eight-year history. That they entered as a No. 8 seed in the eight-team tournament meant they faced top-ranked Louisville in the quarterfinals at St. John Arena on Sunday morning. Louisville won 69-6.
“When you’re wrestling a team of that caliber, hey just go out and battle and you can come away with some moral victories,” Dunn said. “That’s what we were aiming for. To come up and wrestle those guys tough. I thought in a couple of our matches we did under-perform, but hats off to those guys. They’ve been working for it and they’ve earned the victory.”
Louisville won seven of its 13 matches by pin. For Ross, the moral victories came at the 106-pound weight class where freshman Jaiden Earls wrestled tough before falling 13-2, at 145 where junior Sean Beltran nearly pulled off a win before falling 3-2 and at 182 where senior Mehki Bouldin took a 9-0 loss.
“It was really cool getting to come up there my freshman year,” Earls said. “It’s cool to be on the floor with the team. It’s a good experience.
“It’s cool to think all the hard work you’ve done this year has paid off. It’s a good feeling.”
The Rams win came at 285 when Louisville, already having the match in hand, forfeited. Senior Alex Coleman, the defending individual state champion in D-III, was awarded the victory.
“We would have loved to have him get the opportunity to wrestle, but I understand from their point,” Dunn said. “(Louisville is) competing for a state title and the match was already wrapped up. You don’t want to risk an injury.”
Ross has appeared as a No. 6 seed twice, a No. 7 seed twice and now as a No. 8 seed. The Rams have victories at both No. 6 and No. 7. But getting one at No. 8 – which no team had done in the tournament’s history – was too much to ask for. Louisville earned the No. 1 seed, snapping St. Paris Graham’s seven-year run as the top-ranked team.
“(Louisville) has been coming along strong. … That says something when you’ve got Graham up here – who has never lost in this tournament – to knock them off the No. 1 seed, that says a lot about the caliber of team they are.”
On Sunday night, Louisville ended Graham’s streak of seven straight team dual titles (six in D-II, one in D-I) with a 34-30 victory that was decided in sudden victory overtime at 285.
“We didn’t try to fool ourselves. We didn’t blow smoke at the guys saying we were going to beat these guys,” Dunn said. “We said let’s go out here and compete. It started off with our 106-pounder and he battled with him.”
The Rams are veterans at getting to Columbus. The next step is securing a higher seed. That’s decided by, among other things, how many individual state placers and qualifiers a team returns. Reputation also helps.
“It’s looking at how many guys you have that are high caliber,” Dunn said. “Once we get that and moving past that semifinal round we’ll get the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed. That’s still a process we have to work through.
“I’m proud of the guys. In our region we had to fight. Those are quality teams with (among others Chaminade Julienne, Monroe and Wyoming). They are deserving of wrestling up here, too. Our guys stepped up when they needed to.”
Next up for Ross is the Southwest Ohio Conference tournament next weekend. Then the second season begins with the sectional, district and state tournaments. Competing in front of 2,427 spectators on Sunday – a tournament record for the quarterfinal and semifinal sessions – provides valuable big-match experience.
“Just being on the floor … I thought it would be a little less rowdy,” Earls said. “I didn’t know it was this big. It’s a big stage.”
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.