COLUMBUS — There was a ton of emotion Saturday for the Aurora wrestling team on the final day of the Division II state tournament at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
How did Greenmen head coach Johnny Papesh feel, having spent his last day coaching Aurora’s Class of 2019?
"Sad," Papesh said. "I love these kids. I’ve put these guys through a lot over the last four years and we’ve really developed a bond. It’s one of the best classes in Aurora wrestling history."
That bond helped the Greenmen score their best performance at the state tournament in 24 years.
Aurora claimed the Division II state runner-up trophy Saturday with 87.5 points, just 2.5 points ahead of Louisville. It is the Greenmen’s best finish since winning the Division III state title in 1995.
St. Paris Graham won its 19th straight Division II state title with 126.5 points.
"We got second at the state duals and second at the state tournament," said Papesh. "That’s a pretty good season. I know we wanted more, but it’s better than not being second."
However, Aurora’s Saturday evening was bittersweet, as the Greenmen saw freshman Dylan Fishback and senior Colin McNamara lose in their state title matches at 152 and 195 pounds, respectively.
Despite the losses, Fishback and McNamara highlighted a tournament where all seven Aurora state qualifiers came home with All-Ohio honors.
Fishback lost the 152-pound final to Graham’s Jeffrey Thomas 6-4 in the sudden victory period.
It was a match marred by numerous blood timeouts, which both Papesh and Fishback said chopped up the momentum of the match.
"Dylan is a momentum wrestler and every time he got any momentum … blood time," Papesh said. "I’m frustrated because I love that kid and really wanted to help him achieve his goals. His goal was not second."
"Last time, I beat him with my pace," Fishback said. "We kept getting interrupted, so he didn’t get tired."
"They told me he used up 4:23 [of the allotted five minutes] of blood time," Fishback said.
After a scoreless first period, Fishback escaped in the second period to lead 1-0. In the third period, though, Thomas reversed Fishback onto his back before Fishback escaped.
Fishback shot on Thomas twice in the last 30 seconds and got a takedown his second shot to tie the match at 4-4 and send it to overtime.
Then, there was another blood timeout.
"I was getting frustrated," Fishback said.
In the sudden victory period, Thomas was able to get behind Fishback for the decisive takedown and win 6-4.
Meanwhile, McNamara faced a familiar foe in his title match: Canfield’s Nick Crawford, who had beaten McNamara the previous week in a tight match in a district final.
This time, Crawford attacked in the first period, as he got an early takedown and locked McNamara in the cradle. McNamara was able to avoid the pin, but trailed 7-1 after one period and was never able to recover.
Crawford went on to win an 8-3 decision.
"He was the more aggressive wrestler [Saturday]," McNamara said. "He got to his offense and I didn’t."
McNamara finishes his career as an All-Ohioan in wrestling and football.
"It’s awesome," McNamara said. "I had a lot of people pushing me every day. It’s great to be in Aurora."
Earlier on Saturday, senior Andy Garr finished his high school career with a third-place finish at 145 pounds after taking fifth place last season.
Garr pinned Lisbon Beaver’s Skyler Lasure in the consolation semifinals in 2:40.
Garr was tested by Tiffin Columbian freshman Brody Conley, as he hung on for a 7-5 win to take third. Garr had praise for Conley after the match.
"He better go win three state titles or I’m going to get get mad," Garr said. "He’s a tough freshman. I would have like to hit that assassin in the second period. It probably wasn’t the best move."
Aurora junior Ethan Anderson ended his season by taking sixth place at 170 pounds.
After losing 8-2 in his consolation semifinal to Mentor Lake Catholic’s Cole Hivnor, Anderson was involved in an all-Portage County affair in the 170-pound fifth-place match vs. Streetsboro’s Hank Carey.
Carey was hit for stalling again late, but he scored a 7-3 win over Anderson to take fifth place.
The Greenmen also had senior Will McGhee (160) take seventh place with 6-0 win over River Valley’s Hadyn Daniels.
Aurora also got eighth-place finishes from seniors Jack Gorman (126) and Kyle Petersen (138).
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC.