COLUMBUS — Three Redskin wrestlers ended their high school career on Saturday, all placing in the Top 6 in the State Wrestling Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.
Wapakoneta sent four seniors to the State tournament, and three of them made it to the final day of wrestling. Those three were John “JT” Martin, Holden Hengstler and Nate Valentine. Alec “AJ” Brown also traveled to the tournament, but he was eliminated on Friday.
All three wrestlers started off their morning with a placement match for which finals match they would be in. If they won their first match, they would compete for third. If they lost, they would compete for fifth.
Martin was first on the mat in the 106-pound class. His match was against St. Paris Graham Local’s Eli Stickley.
Stickley, according to intermat.com, is the No. 8-ranked wrestler in the nation at the 106-pound class.
Stickley pinned Martin at the 4:45 mark.
Martin was now competing, less than an hour later, for fifth at the State Tournament. His opponent in the final match of his high school career was Tariq Wilson of Steubenville.
Martin fell behind early, but fought back and persevered throughout the match and ended up winning, 10-8.
“My goal was a State Title, and I didn’t quite get there,” Martin said. “It felt good to finish my high school career off with a win though.”
Martin talked about his tournament.
“Your first priority in a tournament like this is to place, then you want to see how high you can place,” Martin said. “It didn’t go as planned, but I’ll take it.”
Martin talked about what was going through his head during his last match of his high school career.
“The emotions were running pretty high,” Martin said. “I felt like I needed to get that win to cap off my career. I wasn’t going to stop until I secured it. I didn’t want to end my career on a loss, especially the way my first match went, definitely did not want to end on a loss. I didn’t want to let the kid beat me.”
Wapakoneta varsity coach Jason Rostorfer talked about Martin’s match and fifth place finish at the State Tournament.
“JT had a tough loss in the consolation semifinals, then he came back and hung in there,” Rostorfer said. “He got taken down first, but he kept digging and he got a set of back points.”
Two of the points Martin got were on back points, and he got them on a technique Martin has never done before.
“He came off the mat and was like, ‘well, I’ve never done that before,’” Rostorfer said. “Points come when they are there, because at this level there’s not many openings.”
Next was Nate Valentine at the 145-pound class. Valentine started his Saturday morning with a match against Joseph Jones of Hamilton Ross. Valentine fell, 7-1, and would now compete for fifth place against Jeff Hojnacki of Cuyahoga Falls CVCA.
Valentine got a key takedown in the second off a missed attack by Hojnacki, and another in the third when Hojnacki fell out of position. Valentine secured the victory and fifth place at the State Tournament, 5-4.
“I feel pretty good because I came back from two losses in the tournament,” Valentine said. “I came back and got fifth, so I feel pretty good.”
Valentine talked about the nerves he had in the first day of the tournament.
“I felt a lot more confident (as the tournament progressed), after the first day it just felt like I was wrestling a league tournament. I felt fine and comfortable out there, just wrestling,” Valentine said.
Valentine talked about that takedown in the third period, the one that capped his high school career.
“I felt pretty confident after I got that takedown,” Valentine said. “I was pretty sure I was going to win the match. I felt pretty good in my last match of the year.”
Rostorfer talked about Valentine’s points he was able to pick up.
“Kids get out of position when they take shots, and you gotta score when they are out of position and the kid took two bad shots, and we scored on both of them,” Rostorfer said. “Nate was able to capitalize on that because he was in good position.”
Valentine talked about hanging tough and not losing focus in a tournament like this.
“I’ll think back to this tournament, it was all about hanging tough, not losing focus, and finishing the tournament,” Valentine said. “And that’s what I did.”
The final wrestler was Hengstler at the 182-pound class. Hengstler had a Saturday morning match against Jacob Kasper of Lexington, but unfortunately fell 7-2.
Being the third Redskin to fall in the first round Saturday, Hengstler knew fifth was the best anyone could finish, and the only thing that stood in his way was Jack Harris of Urbana.
Hengstler and Harris were fairly even almost through two periods when Harris had Hengstler’s arm in an awkward position, and eventually pushed it back his threshold, and Hengstler was down in extreme pain.
Trainers came on the floor for Hengstler, and after a couple minutes of examination, cleared him for the rest of the match, but Hengstler was holding his injured shoulder at any break in action.
He came out in the third period ferocious and pissed, but on an injured shoulder, was unable to get the takedowns that he needed to win.
Harris pinned Hengstler with three seconds left in the match. Hengstler placed sixth in the State Tournament.
“Their goals were a State Title, but just because they didn’t win it doesn’t mean that it was a failure of a tournament,” Rostorfer said. “The way I look at it is that all of them came back from tough losses in the quarterfinals, and were able to come back and get into the place rounds.”
Rostorfer said there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the top wrestlers in the state.
“When they go out and wrestle, they are ready to go,” Rostorfer said. “The Top 6 kids in the state, there’s not a whole lot separating them. It’s a small difference. JT and Nate can be proud that they finished their careers with a win. Not many kids can do that.”