Sometimes it only takes inches and seconds to win in wrestling and the Marion Pleasant wrestling squad knows this too well as they prepare for the state wrestling tournament at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. The Spartans narrowly finished second to Troy Christian last year by 2.5 points.
Sometimes it only takes inches and seconds to win in wrestling and the Marion Pleasant wrestling squad knows this too well as they prepare for the state wrestling tournament at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus this weekend.
The Spartans’ program, under the lead of 15-year head coach Doug Short, reveals a wealth of talent which showed during the Central District Tournament where Pleasant advanced an 11-wrestler delegation to battle returning state champion Troy Christian.
“Last year we were more of a surprise to people,” Short said as his Spartans finished 2.5 points behind Troy Christian. “We knew we had the potential to do that and not a lot of other people did. The guys felt last year we didn’t do everything we could’ve (to win the state) and they have talked about being two and half points short all season as motivation.”
Pleasant's 151.5 points at the state last year are the highest of any runner-up team in any classification in Ohio wrestling history. But that means nothing to the Spartans as their big goal slipped away resulting in silver team status.
“We are very experienced,” Short said. “The nucleus of our team has state-tournament experience.”
The Spartans three losses to graduation were big holes. Matt Reynolds, Trevor Davis and David Little were all state placers a year ago and picked up big bonus points in the consolation rounds, but Pleasant's depth has plugged those spots without missing a beat.
“We have several state placers back and spread throughout (the lineup),” Short said. “You get a good workout everyday in our practice room. With as many guys as we have you cannot slack because there is always someone that wants your starting positions. So you have to work hard and push each other.”
The Spartans’ attack is centered on returning state champions Jedd Moore (152) and Steve Wilson (160). The senior combo has accumulated well over 100 wins each and knows it is their last go at it as prep wrestlers.
“They work out a lot together and only get better,” Short said. “It has dawned on our close knit group of seniors it is their last year. They don’t want to look back saying what could we have done differently during the year to make the end of the season a better outcome.”
The attitude has been award winning and the work ethic has been second to none Short said, but when you get to the end of the season a mental edge is going to be the key to the Spartans’ success.
“Our guys may not be favorites in their weight classes going into the state tournament, but our kids have battled returning state champs in different divisions and have been right there in the match with them the entire time,” Short said. “We feel confident with all the guys we are taking (to the state).”
The key to the Spartans’ success will be very similar to most teams this weekend.
“We just have to put together several good matches,” Short said. “We think we have quite a few guys we think can get to the finals and I look forward to watching it unravel this weekend.”
At 112-pounds, Riki Reynolds (30-9) hopes to build upon last year’s fifth place finish as 103-pounder. The Spartans’ scrappy sophomore earned his trip to the state tourney by earning runner-up in both the Cardington-Lincoln and the Heath district. Both losses came from Galion Northmor’s Tyler Heminger in the form of decisions.
At 125-pounds, Zack Pope (40-4) is no stranger to the state tournament placing seventh at 103-pounds in 2005 and third at 112-pounds in 2007. The senior grappler positioned himself in the bottom part of the bracket this weekend with many other returning state place winners after winning a district title at Heath.
At 130-pounds, Cody Coomes (34-8) returns to the Schottenstein Center after finishing fifth place a year ago in the 125-pound weight class. The junior grappler has some Goliaths of the wrestling world to conquer as last year’s returning champion Daniel Kolodzik of Dayton Miami Valley School, runner-up Zac Hancock of Troy Christian and sixth place finisher Dustin Carnahan of Paulding all have moved up one weight, like Coomes, to collide in the 130-pound bracket.
At 135-pounds, Quinton Cooperider (41-4) has built himself quite a name winning both his respected sectional and district tournaments. The junior grappler will not have it easy having multiple returning state place winners in his bracket, including two-time champion Ryan Gambill of Casstown Miama East.
At 140-pounds, Scott McDaniel (40-6) is making his last campaign towards some Division III hardware this weekend after advancing to the state with a district bronze. The Spartans’ senior will have his hands full early as he opens up in the preliminary round with three-time state place winner Lee Schumaker of Arcadia.
At 145-pounds, Mike McCoy (38-9) has already battled a tough road to the state settling for silver against London Madison Plains’ Zach Nelson, a 2006 state champion and three-time place winner, during his district finals bout. The Pleasant senior is capable of placing with his fruitful positioning in the top half of the bracket keeping away from high caliber wrestlers as long as he stays in championship competition.
At 152-pounds, Jedd Moore knows the routine and is expected to make it back for his third consecutive state championship bout. The 2007 champion has been unstoppable posting a 42-0 ledger and looking to top off his prep career with an additional gold medal.
At 160-pounds, Steve Wilson (38-1) fought tooth and nail for an overtime takedown against Bridgeport’s Bryan Skoff to earn his district title and a spot in the bottom part of the bracket this weekend. Accompanied by five other former state place winners, Wilson is a heavy favorite to repeat, but will need to show it out on the mat, as he usually does, to bring home another gold.
At 171-pounds, Spencer Adams (42-4) was not quite satisfied with his sixth place finish last season and has been making a point all off-season to improve to take his wrestling to the next level. The Spartans’ senior picked up an easy district title as opponent Chase Tucker of Martins Ferry defaulted because of injury. The rest has only given Adams an advantage practicing this week as the senior is hungry to compete. Adams is one of only two returning state place winners in his respected bracket.
At 189-pounds, Colton Bower (35-4) picked up a lot of experience after bowing out early in last year’s state tournament. Bower, a junior, improved during the off-season and has improved his shot which led him to a district title last weekend. He’ll be housed in the top part of the bracket with some high caliber wrestlers as three of them saw the state podium last season.
At 285-pounds, Aaron Edington (38-7) does not want last year’s two and out experience to repeat at this year’s state tournament. The junior heavyweight has picked up some late momentum this season and hopes to take it into the three-day grind at the Schottenstein Center. Only two wrestlers in the weight class have been former state place winners, one of these being Derick Hesson of Caldwell who pinned Edington in the district finals last weekend.
As Marion Pleasant leads the field with 11 participants this weekend, defending champion Troy Christian will not let the Spartans’ depth get in its way of another title as they enter eight participants. Other teams with large delegations include Apple Creek Waynedale (6), Bedford St. Peter Chanel (7), Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (6), Delta (6), Jamestown Greenview (6) and Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic (6).
BUILDING A PROGRAM
Building a respectable program is no easy task and takes a lot of time as Marion Pleasant’s Short has learned the last two decades of coaching in Central Ohio. The veteran mat coach does not compare his program to St. Edward or St. Paris Graham quite yet, but says he is happy where his program has grown from over the years.
“We’ve developed every year. We have a great group helping us out and have made wrestling into a really respectable sport at Pleasant,” Short said. “You cannot develop great wrestlers overnight. It is just not possible. It takes a lot of time and dedication to the program.”
As the skill level began to increase over the years Short says the mindset of the Pleasant community was the next to change.
“We have changed our goals, aims and what we have been working on,” Short said. “Our kids have really bought into it and we have a group that wants to work hard to win. When you have kids like we do it makes it a joy to be a part of the program.”
The Spartans’ junior high feeder program is also going to continue to offer great depth in the future as Short indicated he has 40 kids wrestling in the seventh and eighth grades this season.
“We want to get ourselves up to that level with the elite,” Short noted. “We still have a ways to go. But I think we are a respectable program and are on our way up.”