By JAMIE BAKER
COLUMBUS ― Not many people figured Fostoria’s Tony Reynolds would even make the Division III 170-pound state wrestling finals.
And yet, Fostoria’s senior standout narrowly just missed winning it all on Saturday night.
Reynolds did all he could but was unable to score with a furious last-second rally in a 3-2 finals loss to Rootstown junior Travis Linton in front of 13,820 fans at the 76th OHSAA state wrestling championships at Value City Arena.
“He got the two points very late, we were hoping to get some back points or a stalling call there at the end because he was kind of laying on the mat, but I am a little biased,” said Fostoria coach Nick Davis. “Tough loss, good tournament, just not the way we wanted it to go.”
It was a Herculean effort just to reach the championship match for Reynolds. Probably 95 percent of the 42 state finalists began wrestling sometime in elementary school. Reynolds wrestled his way there through a combination of raw natural talent and hard work. Only taking up the sport for the first time as a freshman as something to do because he didn’t really want to play basketball or bowl for the Redmen.
Reynolds, who was sixth at the state tournament last season and is just the second Redmen wrestler two earn two state tournament medals, successfully navigated a rocky, star-studded road just to reach the finals.
He beat returning state runner-up Brenden Stanley of Apple Creek Waynedale by default in Thursday’s opener before stopping Coshocton’s Dom Johns in a 16-11 quarterfinal donnybrook Friday morning.
He manhandled defending state champ Zach Mays of Nelsonville-York in Friday night’s semifinals to reach the title bout against Linton (44-4), who was third at state in 2012 and whose brother won the 195-pound state crown last season.
It was a rematch of last year’s state quarterfinals when Linton pinned Reynolds in 3:46 on his way to a third-place showing.
This time, though, it was much closer.
Linton shot in on a single-leg attack and was able to finish for a two-point takedown with 1;25 remaining in the first period. He rode Reynolds out for a 2-0 lead at the break.
Getting on the board first is big in every wrestling match. But it’s magnified in the state finals as wrestlers fight and scrap for every single point they earn.
“First takedown is key in almost any match. It’s a doable deficit but on this stage it’s tough to overcome,” Davis said.
Linton, whose coaches were obviously worried about Reynolds skills from the top position especially after his dominating performance on top in the semifinals against Mays, chose to begin the second period from the neutral position.
Linton added to his lead when Reynolds was assessed a penalty point for unnecessary to make it 3-0 heading into the third period.
Reynolds (41-7), who was trying to become Fostoria’s fourth state wrestling champion, chose the down position for the third period. After being unable to escape Linton’s grasp for most of the final frame, Reynolds finally managed to reverse Linton with 19 seconds left in the match to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Reynolds desperately tried to turn Linton using a leg attack but the time ran out before he could score any nearfall points.
Davis is hoping that Reynolds’ path to success on the mat is a blueprint that other young athletes at Fostoria can follow in the future.
“Hopefully it gives our underclassmen a bright light and shows them you don’t have to be a senior to place at the state tournament. And, something I’ve struggled with since I’ve been at Fostoria, is numbers,” Davis said.
“Hopefully we can get more young kids out. Tony is a good example of a green freshman. He came out and took his licks, he worked through it, put in his time and is a two-time state placer.”
By JAMIE BAKER