COLUMBUS — The Aurora wrestling team got the rematch it wanted.
A year and six days after losing in the state final to St. Paris Graham. the Greenmen got another shot at the Falcons in the semifinals Sunday at the Division II state dual team tournament at St. John Arena in Columbus.
Aurora led by 10 points heading into the final two bouts, but the Falcons ended the Greenmen’s dual-meet season with a loss again.
Graham got pins in its final two matches to pull out a 32-30 win over Aurora and advance to the state final for the eighth straight time. The Falcons improved to 23-0 in state dual matches with the win.
The Greenmen burst out of the gate Sunday, opening with a dominant 63-6 win over Washington Court House Miami Trace in its quarterfinal match. Aurora won all 13 wrestled matches vs. the Panthers with their only loss coming via forfeit at heavyweight.
Aurora finished its dual-meet season 16-1.
"We need to learn how to embrace the process," Greenmen head coach Johnny Papesh. "We need to get better. We has some young kids really fight [Sunday]. Not giving up six [a pin] was big. [Freshman] Quinn Gorman had probably his best week of the season for us."
Ty Lillard acknowledged Aurora wanted to be the first team to knock of Graham at the state duals.
"I think as a team we really wanted this one badly," he said. "We’ve been chasing those guys all year. At the same time, we worry about who is in front of us. I’m not not wrestling Graham now. I’m worried about who’s in front of me.
"They got us this weekend. However, I think we can get them on another weekend."
The Falcons finished with an 8-6 edge in individual bouts, though Aurora picked up bonus points in all but one of its wins.
The Greenmen benefited from a pair of forfeit wins from 106-pounder Codie Cuerbo and 120-pounder Antwan Sagaris to open the match. Sandwiched between the forfeits, Graham got an 11-4 decision from 113-pounder Nolan Geesler over Aurora’s Robbie Sagaris.
Graham’s strength in the lightweights showed as the Falcons took the lead with three straight wins.
Aurora 126-pounder Bo DiJulius went right at Graham’s Nick Hart but lost a 6-2 decision.
At 132 pounds, the Falcons’ Chris Kelly handed Aurora’s Brian Kennedy a 25-9 technical fall.
Finally, Greenmen 138-pounder Nic Willingham went right at Graham state runner-up Nick Moore, but Moore scored a 9-3 decision.
The marquee bout of the match came at 145 pounds, as Aurora state runner-up David Cumberledge faced Falcons’ state champion Alec Martin. Cumberledge had defeated Martin earlier this season at the Grizzly Invitational Tournament.
This time, though, Martin got three takedowns, including a clinching one on the last 10 seconds, to score a7-3 decision.
"We knew 145 would be the coin-toss match and we need to win that match," Papesh said. "They made their adjustments. Now we need to make ours. We won the first match, they won the rematch, so we have to work to win the rubber match."
Needing a spark, the Greenmen got it from their middleweight leaders.
First, Lillard showed off a nasty chinwhip to dominate Graham’s Trace Braun at 152 pounds. Though Papesh thought Lillard had the pin twice, Lillar settled for a 22-8 major decision.
Sophpmore 160-pounder Dylan Fishback then ran over the Falcons’ Camden McDaniel, scoring a 19-3 technical fall.
Senior 170-pounder Ethan Anderson scored Aurora’s lone pin in the match, using a cradle to stick Graham’s Erick Thomas in 5 minutes, 9 seconds.
"There was a great quote in a book I just read," Papesh said. "It said, ‘You don’t rise to the level of your competition, you sink to the level of your training.’ Those three guys train their butts off every day."
Papesh lauded Gorman for avoiding the pin against the Falcons’ Jack Mefford at 182 pounds, as he gave up only a 7-1 loss and was competitive throughout the match.
At 195 pounds, Greenmen sophomore Evan Anderson dominated Graham’s Evan Lykins, but the defensive-minded Lykins gave up only a 10-3 decision, which had the Falcons’ fans cheering.
Although Aurora led the match 30-20 at that point, the Falcons finished strong. Papesh bumped sophomore Zak Mohan up to 220 pounds, but he was pinned in 31 seconds by Graham’s Nolan Neves.
With a four-point lead, the Greenmen could win the match if freshman Joey Arnold to avoid a pin or technical fall as he bumped up to heavyweight. However, Graham’s Zack Burroghs dominated the heavyweight bout and got the pin in 3:09 to advance Graham to the final.
"We’re a little mad about this now, but we’re happy to have the chance to compete here," Papesh said. "We love this sport and we’re happy to be here."
Regarding the Miami Trace match, Papesh said he was "satisfied" with his team’s effort and lauded his two freshman upperweights.
Gorman scored a 12-8 decision over the Panthers’ Dawson Wallace, while Arnold scored a pin in 2:19 In his normal 220-pound weight class.
"Quinn and Joey stepped up for us," Papesh said. "To have them both win matches here is pretty big."
Aurora also got pins from Cuerbo (47 seconds), Cumberledge (2:27), Ethan Anderson (3:28) and Evan Anderson (1:33) against Miami Trace. Antwan Sagaris (17-0), Kennedy (17-1) and Fishback (16-1) each scored technical falls in the win.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO.