By JAMIE BAKER
When the season is on the line, some athletes fold when the pressure is greatest.
Not Findlay High School junior Justin Jolliff.
Jolliff passed his test at last week’s Division I district wrestling tournament at Cleveland State with flying colors and will compete in today’s OHSAA state wrestling tournament which gets underway at 3 p.m. with the Division III preliminary matches at Value City Arena.
Jolliff had his eyes on a district title last week but lost his 126-pound semifinal match to season-long nemesis Jared Davis of Oregon Clay 6-0.
That meant he had one more shot at earning a shot at state just about an hour later in the consolation semifinals.
He was up to the task, though, as he survived a pair of late stalling calls to knock off Lakewood St. Edward’s Isaac Collier and earn a trip to Columbus.
“Justin was really counting on winning that semifinal match and making it to the finals last week,” Findlay High School wrestling coach Ben Kirian said.
“Give him a lot of credit though because didn’t let that loss affect him. He kept his focus and won a tough match in his next match to qualify.”
Jolliff will be the first Findlay wrestler at state since 2010 when Max Gladstone finished third at 285 pounds and Michael Alexander was fifth at 171.
“It’s a big weight off our chests to finally get someone back down to state,” Kirian said. We’ve had a lot of kids with the ability to get there but they just haven’t been able to perform at districts when they needed to and Justin did.”
The Division I 126-pound weight class is loaded with talent so Jolliff (35-8) will have to be on top of his game this weekend to earn to earn a spot in the top eight, which would mean a medal and spot on the awards stand.
There are six returning state placers in his weight class and his first round opponent is three-time state placer and 2012 state champion David Bavery (47-5) of Division I team favorite Massillon Perry.
We’ve worked on a lot of things this week to try and counter Bavery’s height advantage because he is so tall,” Kirian said.
“But I like Justin’s chances and I’d stack him up against anyone in the state right now.”
FIRST TIMER: Fostoria junior Luke Leonard has been on a tear in the postseason.
Leonard (38-7) won a sectional title for the Redmen and followed that up by reaching the district finals at 126-pounds to earn a spot in the Division II state tournament for Fostoria.
It will be his first state tourney appearance.
“I was excited after qualifying, but I was still focused on getting to state and placing,” Leonard told the Fostoria Review Times this week.
“I feel like the difference down there is attitude. Everybody down there is good, but it comes down to who wants it more and who’s going to wrestle harder to get it.”
He’ll take on Canfield freshman Georgio Poullas (40-4) in his opening-round match.
FOUR FOR MORE: Four Upper Sandusky wrestlers are back for more this weekend.
Thurston Dyer (113), Carson Mengerink (132), Alex Kenner (160) and Tylor Pritchard (220) are all returning state qualifiers.
Last season all four qualified in Division III, this year the school has moved up to Division II.
Kenner (42-5) was the lone Ram to earn a spot on the awards stand last season as he finished sixth at 152 pounds. He’ll be trying to become school’s third multiple placewinner.
Trey Vince (2001, 2nd; 2002, 3rd) and Brian Patrick (1983, 5th; 1984, 3rd; 1985, 4th) are the others.
Kenner will open the state tournament against returning state champ Alex Marinelli of St. Paris Graham.
Thurston Dyer (31-10) faces Urichsville Claymont sophomore Lane Peters (22-7), Mengerink (42-7) wrestles Circleville returning state placer Tyler Knul (43-2) and Pritchard (28-4) takes on Norton two-time state placer Sean Rutherford (28-1) in Upper Sandusky’s other opening-round bouts.
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By JAMIE BAKER