ROSS TWP. — Wrestling history at the OHSAA dual team state championships says high schools seeded sixth or lower don’t stick around long at St. John Arena.
The Ross Rams are ready to rewrite history. Again.
Since the tournament started in 2013, No. 6 seeds have gone 3-15. The Ross Rams have one of those wins.
Teams seeded No. 7 are 1-17. Yep, the Rams did it there, too.
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“This year hopefully that magic comes back,” Ross coach Rich Dunn said of entering Sunday’s Division II tournament as underdogs again. “It’s a David vs. Goliath here, but we’re going to come to wrestle.”
The Rams’ path to a state championship likely goes through the top three teams ranked in the Division II state poll — No. 1 Graham, No. 2 Aurora and No. 3 Lisbon Beaver Local. Those three teams are also seeded that way for the dual tournament.
No. 6 Ross wrestles Beaver Local at 1:15 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The winner advances to take on No. 2 Aurora or No. 7 Millersburg West Holmes in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. The championship match is at 7:30 p.m.
Ross enters the tournament with five wrestlers in the D-II state rankings. Senior Brayden Ploehs is No. 14 at 138 pounds. Sophomore Sean Beltran is No. 20 at 145. Senior Logan Iames is No. 12 at 182. Senior Tom Coleman is No. 17 at 220. And junior Alex Coleman is No. 2 at 285. Beaver Local counters with 12 of its 14 wrestlers ranked in the state, including seven in the top 10.
“There are three really, really good teams and unfortunately we got one of those teams in the first round,” Dunn said. “The Lisbon Beaver crew that we have, you look at them and straight up and straight down there are no holes in their lineup. If we get past them, the next round against Aurora, they’re just as good.”
In addition to this season, Ross has qualified for the state duals in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2018, going 2-4 overall. Last season, No. 6 Ross upset No. 3 Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 37-36 in the quarterfinals before falling 60-12 to No. 2 Mentor Lake Catholic in the semis.
That upset at No. 7 came in 2013 when Ross beat Cuyahoga Falls CVCA.
“It’s being able to get 14 guys who can compete,” Dunn said of the key to qualifying year after year. “You’re not going to win all of the matches, but you need enough of those guys that aren’t your top-tier guys and still do well. And the guys just keep pushing each other. We have a motto we use, ‘Do your job. Do your job.’ They’re good at calling each other out and making sure everyone is accountable.”
To qualify for state, Ross beat Chaminade Julienne 43-28 in the regional semifinals and handed Monroe its first dual loss — 52-23 — in the championship.
Dunn felt the Rams performed well enough — in addition to their state dual history — to earn a higher seed. The Rams were seeded No. 7 their first three appearances and No. 6 these last two.
“We think we’ve done an excellent job every year we’ve been up there as the No. 7 seed,” Dunn said. “For some reason we’ve been relegated to a six or seven seed. I’m not sure what else we can do. We’re going to go back up there and wrestle as hard as we can.”
The dual state championships are held at St. John Arena, built in 1956 and still used today for Ohio State wrestling, volleyball and gymnastics. The individual state championships in March are held at the Schottenstein Center’s Value City Arena, built in 1998. Both are top destinations for wrestlers. And both carry a different environment.
“At the Schott, you get the flashy, huge crowds. You get massive yelling and you get that all when you walk out on the floor,” Dunn said. “When you get to St. John, everyone is right on you. Just the whole aura of St. John. The kids love it. I love bringing the guys up there to get the memory of that experience. It’s a memory they’ll have for life.”