Longtime Ross High School wrestling coach Rich Dunn has the Rams in the state team dual finals for the third straight season. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Ross wrestling excited to ‘wrestle up there with the big dogs’ at state duals

In fact, as soon as the Rams’ bus pulled out of the St. John Arena parking lot on the Ohio State University campus following last year’s state team tournament the coaching staff was already formulating their strategy to return.

“Literally, the bus ride home the assistant coaches and I will already be starting to work on the lineup for next year,” Ross coach Rich Dunn said.

It’s that dedication and attention to detail that has made the Rams a regular at the state dual team tournament. On Sunday, Ross makes its third straight appearance and sixth overall in the tournament’s eight-year history.

»RELATED: Saturday’s high school roundup

“We’re pretty happy and proud to represent Southwest Ohio for the third year in a row,” Dunn said. “That’s something we’ve always put as one of our goals, to be the regional champs and wrestle up there with the big dogs.”

Ross drew the one with perhaps the most bite in Division II. Ross was voted the No. 8 seed in the eight-team tournament and will wrestle No. 1 Louisville in the quarterfinals at 11 a.m. Louisville’s starting lineup has all 14 wrestlers ranked among the top 22 in the state (according to borofanohio.net), including two favored to win individual state titles at the 120-pound weight class and 132 pounds.

By comparison, Ross has a pair of state ranked wrestlers with senior and defending state champ Alex Coleman (No. 1) at 285 and junior Sean Beltran (No. 28) at 145.

“The likelihood you can beat one of them is kind of small. The likelihood you can beat several of them is extremely small,” Dunn said of going head-to-head with Louisville. “But we’ll battle with those guys and shoot for a couple of upsets. We’re focusing on our guys getting better individually. Getting a little confidence.

“Years past we’ve gone up there and really taken it to teams even though we’ve been a lower seed. This year, though, we don’t have the guns we’ve had in the past.”

Since the tournament started in 2013, No. 6 seeds have gone 3-18. The Rams have one of those wins. Teams seeded No. 7 are 1-20. The lone win belongs to the Rams. Ross, though, has never competed as the No. 8 seed.

By Dunn’s calculations, the No. 8 seed scores around eight points per match. The No. 1 seed averages about 60 points.

“The No. 8 seed puts you in a bad spot. That does not have a great history in Columbus,” Dunn said.

“We’re going up there knowing we’re huge underdogs. We’re going to try and wrestle well and get a little respect. Pulling off an upset of them would be a big miracle. Louisville has wrestled really well all year long.”

Even so, having your name on the bracket – and doing it six out of eight seasons – is an accomplishment in itself. Dunn, along with assistant coaches Brian Sawyers, John Ray, Joe Conrad and Todd Foster, plan to do it again next year, too.

In its 42-34 win over Wyoming for the D-II regional title last week, the Ross lineup featured three seniors with Logan Bruns (113), Tyler Bruns (126) and Coleman. Juniors Ben Breaker (132), Beltran, Cody Smith (152), Hayduke Hess (170) and Griffin Peacock (220), sophomore Jude Hess (195) and freshmen Jaiden Earls (106), Ben Rye (120), Rylee Miller (138), Ryan Iams (160) and Mehki Bouldin (182) give the Rams a great start on next season.

As soon as Sunday’s trip is over, Dunn and his staff will be crunching numbers in an effort to return in 2021.

“From the very first meeting we have we talk to our guys about goals. That’s a constant reminder so they know what they’re working toward and stay focused on it,” Dunn said. “We have a mantra that we use: Just Do Your Job. Fortunately they do their job.”

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