By JAMIE BAKER
UPPER SANDUSKY — Going up?
Often, Upper Sandusky bumps several wrestlers up from their normal weight classes when competing in dual matches. It hasn’t been a problem for Upper Sandusky’s wrestling team during its run in the inaugural OHSAA team tournament.
Upper Sandusky is just one win away from qualifying for the OHSAA state team tournament and will battle Western Reserve for the Division III Region 18 championship Wednesday at 7 p.m. on its home mat.
Upper Sandusky coach Chris Rodriguez knows how to play the game of musical chairs that often occurs in important dual matches. Bumping kids to the right spot in the lineup to maximize your own team’s point total or minimize your opponents’ points could be critical in advancing to the next round of the tournament.
“We have pretty good depth and most of all we have a lot of confidence in our kids,” Rodriguez said.
“We want to put our guys in the best position we can so our team is successful. If we have to move them up a weight, the kids don’t seem to have much of a problem with it. They go out and wrestle as hard as they can and it doesn’t really matter who they are wrestling.”
Moving up a weight class doesn’t seem to faze the Rams’ wrestlers one bit.
“Moving up in these dual meets isn’t that big of a deal for me. I feel like I can move up and still hold my own in some of these matches.” said senior 152-pounder Cory Frey.
“You just have to give 100 percent at all times. Even if you are going up against a kid that’s tougher than you, it’s still making you a better wrestler and in the long run that’s definitely a good thing.”
The Rams have a luxury not many other teams do with two 106-pounders in Will Orians and Thurston Fyer. When Orians is in the lineup, it allows Rodriguez to occasionally bump up both Dyer and 113-pounder Carson Mengerink when it’s to the team’s advantage.
“I’ve done it a lot this year so it’s not really a big deal. I go up to 120 and its tougher because kids are taller and stronger but its something you just have to push through,” Mengerink said.
Mengerink and his teammates are looking forward to wrestling in front of another good home crowd for the third straight Wednesday during the OHSAA team tournament. The way they see it, that local support will come in handy when the Roughriders come to town with a regional championship on the line.
“We’re all talking to our friends and classmates about it and being able to wrestle in our home gym is awesome. We’re just trying to get people out here and get more support,” Mengerink said. “Other people in school are talking about wrestling, not just us, and its kind of nice.”
Upper Sandusky will be facing a Western Reserve team that’s on a bit of a roll.
The Roughriders eked out wins over Huron (39-32) and Margaretta (36-35) to win last week’s sub-regional tournament at Norwalk St. Paul.
Western Reserve followed that up by winning its first Firelands Conference championship since 2006, clinching the title when Ian Ramos won the 285-pound title to give the Roughriders a 21/2-point win over runner-up St. Paul.
In addition, Chase Griffith (126), Jake Ruppert (138) and Tim Hunkley (160) also won Firelands Conference titles last weekend. Two other Roughriders to watch are Cody Ramge (152) and Mason Robson (132), both of whom are returning district placewinners.
The winner of Wednesday’s match advances to the OHSAA state team tournament finals Saturday at Ohio State’s St. John Arena.
By JAMIE BAKER