By JAMIE BAKER
UPPER SANDUSKY — Upper Sandusky senior Ian Baker will be forever known as the wrestler that clinched the Rams’ first trip to the OHSAA state team tournament.
Baker scored a 5-1 win over Western Reserve’s Chris Bolen at 220 pounds to clinch Upper Sandusky’s 38-32 win over Western Reserve in the Division III Region 18 championship match on Wednesday night.
With the win, Upper Sandusky advances to the OHSAA team tournament state quarterfinals set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Ohio State University’s St. John Arena. The team tournament finals are set for 8 p.m. Saturday night. The quarterfinal pairings for the state team tournament will be released by the OHSAA on Thursday.
Ahead just 35-26 with two matches left, the Rams needed a victory by Baker to assure themselves a win over Roughriders.
Baker trailed Bolen 1-0 heading into the third period. He got an escape with 1:33 left to tie the match at 1-1.
Baker slipped behind Bolen and got a takedown and match-clinching two-point nearfall with 56 seconds left as the Upper Sandusky wrestlers and coaches jumped in celebration knowing that Baker had just punched the team’s ticket to Columbus.
“I just knew I had to work hard. I knew I had to score and I couldn’t let my team down, it was all about the team,” Baker said. “There were tons of butterflies before I went out there because I knew I had to win. I just had to push through it.
“I’ve never felt that much pressure in wrestling or football. I just didn’t want to let anyone down tonight,” he added.
As expected, the Rams started strong.
Will Orians, normally Upper Sandusky’s backup 106-pounder, scored a 15-0 technical fall against Dalton Boen. Thurston Dyer and Carson Mengerink, both up a weight class from their normal divisions, added major decisions to give the Rams a quick 13-0 lead against the Roughriders.
Back-to-back major decisions by Western Reserve’s Mason Robson (132) and Jake Ruppert (138) followed by pins by teammates Jake Ruppert (138) and Josh Sommers (145) put the Roughriders on top 20-13 at the midway point of the match.
Upper Sandusky’s Alex Kenner and Western Reserve’s Tim Hunkley traded pins at 152 and 160 pounds respectively before the Rams took charge.
Upper Sandusky senior Cory Frey scored a major decision at 170 pounds to trim Western Reserve’s lead to 26-23.
Upper Sandusky’s Tylor Pritchard and Dylan Robertson scored back-to-back pins at 182 and 195 pounds before Baker’s win over Bolen sealed the win for the Rams.
Western Reserve’s Ian Ramos finished the night with a pin over Ditlev Overgaard in the 285-pound class.
Upper Sandusky’s regional championship performance on Wednesday brought on a joyous, yet solemn celebration in a difficult week for the school community.
As the team posed for photos with the regional championship trophy, each member of the team made the letter “Z” with their hands. Many of the wrestlers were good friends with Zenan Wampler, of the three young people who died in Monday’s fatal fire in Harpster.
“Zenan passed away in a house fire and that was his nickname “Z” so we kind of wanted to remember him. He graduated last year and we all played football with him so a lot of us were close to him,” Baker said.
“We were kind of motivated by that a little bit. It was a tragic loss for everyone and it was really tough yesterday at school.
“Z was the kindest kid you could ever meet. He knew everybody, he talked to everybody and never had a bad thing to say about anybody. He’ll really be missed.”
UPPER SANDUSKY 38, WESTERN RESERVE 32
106 — Will Orians (US) tech. fall Boen Dalton, 15-0.
113 — Thurston Dyer (US) maj. dec. Kyle Winebrenner, 13-2.
120 — Carson Mengerink (US) maj. dec. Nathan Beal, 15-4.
126 — Chase Griffith (WR) maj. dec. Derek Hansen, 11-0.
132 — Mason Robson (WR) maj. dec. Steven Richmond, 13-0.
138 — Jake Ruppert (WR) pinned Troy Landrum, 3:11.
145 — Josh Sommers (WR) pinned Taran Gillen, 3:40.
152 — Alex Kenner (US) pinned Cody Ramage, 5:00.
160 — Tim Hunkley (WR) pinned Nate Payne, :56.
170 — Cory Frey (US) maj. dec. Kenny Bement, 16-2.
182 — Tylor Pritchard (US) pinned Kyle Fitch, 1:01.
195 — Dylan Robertson (US) pinned Adam Workman, 3:55.
220 — Ian Baker (US) dec. Chris Bolen, 5-1.
285 — Ian Ramos (WR) pinned Ditlev Overguaard, 1:54.