By John Bombatch
KETTERING — Despite having earned a second consecutive trip to the state wrestling championships in Columbus, Fairborn’s A.J. Warner wasn’t pleased with how he finished out his district tournament on Saturday.
Warner fell way behind Clayton Northmont’s Chase Craft, nearly pulled off a surprising takedown and pin of the Greater Western Ohio Conference champ in the closing minutes, only to lose 13-5 in the 120-pound Division I final, Saturday at Kettering’s James S. Trent Arena. The Skyhawks junior said he learned from the loss.
“I learned that I need to stay more solid when I wrestle and not as many risky moves at the beginning of the match. That’s stuff I need to save for the end of the match when you’re losing or when you need it to win,” Warner said. “I just need to wrestle solidly and smart.”
Warner nearly had Craft pinned with 1:25 left in the match, but couldn’t quite get the Thunderbolt junior’s right shoulder to the mat. When Warner shifted his weight to his left in order to get the shoulder down, Craft was able to wiggle out of his grasp and escaped to go up 11-5. A late two-point takedown went Craft’s way for the final margin.
“I think A.J.’s been on fire lately,” said Fairborn coach Bill Dawson. “Ever since his first-round loss at the GWOC tournament, he’s wrestled really well. It’s absolutely great to see. You want to see a kid peaking at this point and driving forward, not just stagnating. I think he’s found what was missing a couple times this year. I think he’s found it again.”
Warner is now 42-8 this season. He’ll face Fremont Ross wrestler Lamonte Chapman in his opening match.
Xenia’s Cody Smith will also make a return to Columbus, but as an alternate at 220 pounds.
Smith reached the D-I district semifinals before losing a 6-3 decision to Cincinnati Walnut Hills’ Quinton Mincy. West Chester Lakota West wrestler Drew Fenton tied the consolation semifinals match with Smith in the final seconds, then won 7-4 in the overtime tiebreaker. That cost Smith a top-4 spot and a chance to get back to Columbus as a seeded wrestler.
His forfeit win over an injured Cincinnati Sycamore Drew Sutton earned Smith the alternate spot, but that means he can only compete if one of the qualified wrestlers ahead of him is unable to compete, and that’s not likely.
“It’s a little upsetting, I thought I would do better than I did,” Smith said, “but not everything can turn out the way you want it to.”
In the Division II district tournament at Wilmington High School, Bellbrook 182-pounder Tyler Wiederholt earned a return trip to Columbus by winning his weight class. The Golden Eagle senior has a 39-2 record this season. He finished second at 152 last season, and placed sixth at 145-pounds two years ago.
Carroll’s Nick Berry will also wrestle in Columbus. Berry finished second in the D-II 120-pound final. The Patriot senior currently has a 31-6 record.
Bellbrook’s Ben Sherrill (120) placed fifth and will go to Columbus as an alternate.
Greeneview’s Isaiah Harding placed fifth in the Division III district tourney at Troy’s Hobart Arena and will also be an alternate. No other wrestlers from area schools were able to advance this season.
However, a pair of Jamestown natives did advance.
Both Tommy Hoskins (113 pounds) and Logan Lacure (145) return to state as members of the Dayton Christian wrestling team in Division III.
Hoskins has a 42-2 record this season as a sophomore. He is the defending state champion in his weight class.
Lacure is the two-time defending champ in the 145-pound weight class. The DC senior is 28-0 thus far this season. He has yet to place lower than second at the state tournament. Lacure was the runner up at 120 pounds as a freshman in 2013.
The state tournament will take place Thursday through Saturday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
John Bombatch can be reached at (937) 372-4444, Ext. 2123.