COLUMBUS — Reflecting on his team’s performance at the Division II state wrestling tournament, Aurora head coach Johnny Papesh was happy, but not satisfied with the results.
"I’m pretty happy," he said. "It says a lot when you have four state placers, which is the most we’ve had in a while, and I’m still angry. I love these kids. They’re going to put in a lot of work. It’s going to be a fun year next year."
The Greenmen saw juniors Andy Garr and Will McGhee take fifth place, junior Jack Gorman capture sixth place and junior Kyle Petersen finish in eighth place at the the state tournament, which concluded Saturday at Value City Arena in Columbus. The top eight finishers in each weight class earned All-Ohio honors.
Aurora finished with 34.5 team points, which was good for 14th place in the Division II team race. St. Paris Graham won its 20th Division team title with 231 points.
The Greenmen got a bit of a boost on the opening day of the tournament Thursday. Papesh noted former long-time Aurora coach Dick Bliss came up from Florida for the tournament and talked to the five Aurora qualifiers — all of who he coached when they were freshmen.
With the man affectionately known as "Barney Rubble" cheering the Greenmen on, Aurora rumbled its way through day one, finishing 5-0 in the first round.
"It was a very, very good day for us," Papesh said Thursday. "I told them not to look past the first round and just wrestle. We had a lot of guys step up."
In his first trip to Columbus, McGhee earned his All-Ohio place the easy way, as he reached the semifinals. After dominating Lisbon Beaver’s Jared Wright with a 15-0 technical fall in the first round, McGhee clinched his podium spot with a 5-3 win over Tiffin Columbian’s Joey Simcoe.
"I was just trying to get a win," McGhee said after his semifinal match. "He’s strong. He’s got some funky hips. I feel like I can could win it all. There’s no one here who was outstanding in my bracket."
However, in the semifinals, McGhee’s state-title hopes ended when he was pinned in 1:33 by Steubenville’s Jashon Hubbard.
In his consolation semifinal, McGhee couldn’t get his offense going in a 4-1 loss to Carrollton’s Justin Shaw, but claimed fifth place when he won by forfeit over Wauseon’s Sandro Ramirez.
At 138 pounds, Garr had to work a bit for his first All-Ohio spot. After winning his opener 10-1 over Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan’s Cole Houser, Papesh said he felt Garr "wrestled a horrible match" vs. Medina Buckeye’s Mike Clark as he lost 6-4.
Nonetheless, in the consolation bracket, Garr clinched his podium spot with a 3-1 win over Springfield Northwestern’s Jacob Lees and then beat Steubenville’s Anthony Rice 6-1.
In the consolation semifinals, Garr was a bit overmatched by defending state champion J.D. Stickley of Graham, as he lost 9-3. Garr claimed fifth place with a 3-1 win over Bellbrook’s Ben Sherrill.
Gorman claimed his second All-Ohio spot by reaching the semifinals with two close wins. Gorman opened with a 6-4 win in the sudden-victory period over Lisbon Beaver’s Skyler Lasure, followed by a 3-2 win in the ultimate tiebreaker round over Columbian’s Caden Blust.
However, in the semifinals, Gorman lost an 8-4 decision to Eaton’s Wade Monebrake, despite being the aggressor throughout the match. It was a result that had Aurora assistant coach Mark Bugara fuming.
"Mad is an understatement," Bugara said. "It’s very troubling when we’re the aggressor for the entire match and referees reward the guy who is defensive the entire time. We gave him most of the points."
Interestingly, both of Gorman’s matches on Saturday were rematches. In the consolation semifinals, Gorman lost 3-1 to Lasure in sudden victory. In the fifth-place match, Blust pinned Gorman in 1:16, forcing him to settle for sixth place.
Wrestling at 120 pounds, Petersen upset a No. 1 seed in his first match, beating Wauseon’s Alex Slattman 5-2. However, he was then beaten 12-1 by Graham’s Alek Martin in the quarterfinals.
Needing a win to secure an All-Ohio spot, Petersen did his best Will McGhee impression vs. Millersburg West Holmes’ Thane Kaufman, hitting three tilts to score an 8-3 win. Petersen then lost 3-0 in the tiebreaker round to Gnadenhutten Indian Valley’s Brady O’Connor to drop into the seventh-place match.
After taking an early lead, Petersen was beaten 7-4 by Louisville’s Davin Rhodes and finished eighth.
Junior Colin McNamara finished one win shy of All-Ohio honors at 195 pounds. After opening with a 7-2 win over Caledonia River Valley’s Bowan McConahay, McNamara lost 7-0 to Bay Village Bay’s Matthew Cover in the quarterfinals.
In the consolation bracket, McNamara lost a close 6-4 decision to LaGrange Keystone’s Justin Ocheltree and was eliminated.
"He wasn’t even supposed to be down here and Colin won a match," Papesh said. "QB1 did just fine."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC.