Division II Preview: Graham out to defend national championship

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Graham’s David Taylor is the only four-time champion at the Walsh Ironman. (Photo by Nick Falzerano)

The question isn’t whether or not St. Paris Graham will win Division II, but by how much. The Falcons set a record with 221.5 points in last year’s state championships, breaking their previous mark of 208.5 set in 2007. With 10 qualifiers and three state champions returning, that number could be challenged yet again.


The question isn’t whether or not St. Paris Graham will win Division II, but by how much. The Falcons set a record with 221.5 points in last year’s state championships, breaking their previous mark of 208.5 set in 2007. With 10 qualifiers and three state champions returning, that number could be challenged yet again.

The cream of the crop for Graham, Division II, and quite possibly all of Ohio, is mega-talent David Taylor. Having lost just two high school matches in three seasons, Taylor is one of the top overall wrestlers in America regardless of weight class. After demolishing the competition at last year’s tournament, Taylor will be an overwhelming favorite to win his fourth title this year and cement his place among the list of all-time Ohio greats.

Taylor is just one of many talented wrestlers in Division II. The lower weight classes are crowded, starting with last year’s 103-pound crop that returns all eight placers.

First-place winner Ty Mitch of Aurora (jr.) and runner-up Johnni DiJulius of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit (soph.) lead the way, along with the first of the returning Graham placers, third-place finisher Nick Brascetta (soph.).

Taylor ran the show at 112, but several other quality competitors return from that weight class as well. Runner-up Codey Neff of Washington Court House Miami Trace (jr.) is a two-time placer, as is third-place winner James Inghram of Hunting Valley University School (sr.). Also back is three-time placer Nate Westfall of Perry (sr.) and two-time placers Alex Minnard of Lancaster Fairfield Union (sr.) and Jake Strausbaugh of Orrville (sr.).

The 119 class saw the second of the Graham champions in Zach Neibert. Neibert, now a senior, won his first title after placing sixth at 103 in 2006 and second at 112 in 2007. He knocked off Cody Garabrandt of Uhrichsville Claymont (jr.) in the finals after losing to him at 112 in 2007. Also returning is three-time placer Jacob Garringer of Miami Trace (sr.), who finished fifth last year.

Graham’s third champion, Tucker Armstrong, won the gold at 125 and will be trying to win a second title in his upcoming junior season. 125 runner-up Kyle Leek of Warren Howland (sr.) returns as well.

There was a slight surprise of a winner at 130 as Harrison Hightower of University School (jr.), who will return for more this year. Also back are third-place finisher Jeremy Maiwurm of Orrville (sr.) and senior Brian Stephens of Graham, whom many thought could win at 130 last year but did not place.

The 135 class was a senior-dominated class as each of the top four finishers have graduated. Watch out for fifth-place finisher Manuel Cintron of Alliance (sr.) and sixth-place finisher Brad Wukie of University School (jr.), who also finished second at 119 in 135.

Three seniors also topped the ranks at 140. Matt Stephens of Graham (soph.) returns after posting a strong fourth-place finish as a freshman. At 145, third-place finisher Jonathan McGookey of Sandusky Perkins (sr.) and sixth-place finisher Steven McLaughlin of Athens return, while eighth-place finisher Harrison Rosch of Canal Winchester (sr.) was the only underclassman to place at 152.

Another of Graham’s expected title contenders returns from the 160 weight class, this one being senior James Mannier, who finished third last year. Among the other returning competitors to watch are senior Adam Walters of Chesterland West Geauga, who finished fourth, and senior and two-time place winner Zach Garabrandt of Uhrichsville Claymont.

A few other wrestlers to watch return at the higher weight classes. At 171, senior and two-time placer Nick Mills of University School will be looking to improve on his third-place finish. Junior Max Thomusseit of St. Paris Graham comes back from the 189 class and hopes to give Graham another champion after finishing third in 2008.

Three of the top four finishers return from 215 – second-place winner Tyler Houska of Medina Highland (sr.), third-place winner Branko Busick of Steubenville (sr.), and fourth-place winner Logan Erb of Wapakoneta (soph.). The favorite at the heavyweight division will likely be Graham senior Adam Walls, a three-time placer who took second last season.

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