By JAMIE BAKER
When the Division III OHSAA state wrestling tournament gets under way at 3 p.m. Thursday at Ohio State’s Value City Arena, there will be plenty of wrestlers to watch.
There are 17 area wrestlers qualified to compete in the 76th Ohio state high school wrestling tournament this season.
And two of those wrestlers, Upper Sandusky junior Tylor Pritchard and Bluffton senior Josiah Conley, will face one another right off the bat in the opening round at 182 pounds.
Pritchard (43-5) won a thrilling district championship at the Stroh Center with a takedown in the final seconds to knock off Ashland Crestview’s Logan Campbell 7-6.
Conley (39-10), meanwhile, wrestled his way to the semifinals and grinded out a 7-6 win in his go-to-state match at Kettering Fairmont on his way to a fourth-place finish.
Both wrestlers will be making their state tournament debuts and haven’t faced each other this season.
There’s the distinct possibility of another Upper Sandusky-Bluffton match up in Friday morning’s quarterfinals.
At 152 pounds, with opening-round wins, Upper Sandusky junior Alex Kenner (46-2) and Bluffton senior Zach Wilson (45-1) could square off.
Kenner, a district champ at BGSU, will take on Amanda-Clearcreek junior Caleb Horn (35-9) in his opener and his first-ever state meet appearance.
Wilson, a four-time state qualifier and fourth at state each of the past two years, will wrestle Orwell Grand Valley senior Sean Szitas in the opening round.
TOP DEVIL: Carey’s Brayden Leist not only survived a brutal 132-pound district weight class that featured two state placers and another state qualifier, he became the Blue Devils’ all-time wins leader over the weekend.
His win over Archbold’s Kenny Price in the district third place match pushed his school record wins mark to 135 victories.
During the weekend he passed the two-time state champ Nick Mengerink’s school record of 131 wins set between 1993-96.
“When we saw Brayden was in the same half as (Edgerton state placer) Jared VanVleet who knew it was going to be tough,” said Carey coach Ryan Pratt.
“Making it to the semis was huge. Then in the consolation semis being down 2-0, there was a little flip-flop and Brayden gets the stick.
“After placing here the last two years, I couldn’t be happier for Brayden. He works harder than any kid I know and he’s earned this.”
MORE MILESTONES: Patrick Henry’s Galen Powers, Carey’s Lincoln Stansberry and Upper Sandusky’s Cory Frey and Carson Mengerink all earned their 100th career victories last weekend at BGSU.
DALTON’S TURN: Perhaps the wrestler with the best chance at winning a state championship this weekend is North Baltimore senior Dalton Ishmael.
Ishmael, a two-time state placer and third-place finisher at state last season, is 42-1 after pinning his way through the 195-pound weight class at BGSU with four first-period falls.
His 35-second pin over Ontario’s John Goodwin was the 152nd of his career, which added to his state record total. The win was also the 175th of his amazing career.
He’ll open his final state tournament for the Tigers against Elyria Catholic junior Austin Kuchta (36-4).
RUGGED ROAD: Sixth at state last season, Fostoria senior Tony Reynolds faces a tough road to get a spot on the awards stand again at 170 pounds this season.
Reynolds (38-6) will take on returning state runner-up Brenden Stanley (53-1) of Apple Creek Waynedale in his first bout Thursday afternoon.
It’s one of four opening-round matches in Division III that will pit four returning state placers against one another.
VBI REMATCH: An opening-round match at 160 pounds will be a rematch of the finals of the Van Buren Invitational.
Van Buren sophomore Chance Sonnenberg (41-5) will make his state tournament debut against Allen East’s Max McAdoo (39-7).
McAdoo scored an 8-7 win over Sonnenberg in the finals of the VBI before Sonnenberg returned the favor with a 5-2 win in the third-place match of the LCC Invitational the following week.
FIRST TIME: The Riverdale junior trio of Seth Knoll (152), Koltin Martin (113) and Mitchel Matheny (120) made history last week by all qualifying for the state tournament.
The Falcons have never had more than one state qualifier in a single season and it’s been at least a dozen years since the school had even a single state qualifier.
The trio can make some more history this weekend.
Riverdale and Ada, whose program has been around only a few years, are the only area schools without a state wrestling tournament placer. If Martin, Knoll or Matheny can earn a spot on the awards stand, they’ll be the first state placer in school history.
Area First-Round State Pairings
106 — Thurston Dyer, Upper Sandusky, (9), 39-5 vs. Sebastian Vidika, Sullivan Black River, (11), 39-1
113 — Colton Ullman, Loudonville, (10), 14-5 vs. Carson Mengerink, Upper Sandusky, (11), 38-7
113 — Jett Heldenbrand, Jeromesville Hillsdale, (10), 25-7 vs. Kolten Martin, Riverdale, (11), 44-11
113 — Bobby Bowen, Akron Manchester, (11), 34-10 vs. Tyler Sarreshteh, Liberty-Benton, (10), 30-5
120 — Logan Lacure, Jamestown Greeneview, (9), 45-5 vs. Mitchel Matheny, Riverdale, (10), 48-4
132 — Brayden Leist, Carey, (12), 45-4 vs. Chase Mayabb, Troy Christian, (9), 20-17
145 — Thomas Williams, Johnstown Northridge, (12), 56-3 vs. Michael Baer, Elmwood, (12), 42-13
152 — Alex Kenner, Upper Sandusky, (11), 46-2 vs. Caleb Horn, Amanda-Clearcreek, (11), 35-9
152 — Sean Szitas, Orwell Grand Valley, (12), 36-6 vs. Zach Wilson, Bluffton, (12), 45-1
152 — Seth Knoll, Mt. Blanchard Riverdale, (11), 47-6 vs. Colin Visconti, Galion Northmor, (12), 22-6
160 — Max McAdoo, Harrod Allen East, (12), 39-7 vs. BG-3 Chance Sonnenberg, Van Buren, (10), 41-5
160 — Cory Frey, Upper Sandusky, (12), 46-9 vs. Jimmy Sandlin, Carlisle, (11), 39-3
170 — Tony Reynolds, Fostoria, (12), 38-6 vs. Brenden Stanley, Apple Creek Waynedale, (12), 53-1
182 — Tylor Pritchard, Upper Sandusky, (11), 43-5 vs. Josiah Conley, Bluffton, (12), 39-10
195 — Ryan Weber, Loudonville, (11), 32-3 vs. Dylan Robertson, Upper Sandusky, (11), 31-13
195 — Austin Kuchta, Elyria Catholic, (11), 36-4 vs. Dalton Ishmael, North Baltimore, (12), 42-1