For a high school wrestler in Ohio, this weekend is their Super Bowl, as the top 16 wrestlers in each weight class across the state of Ohio compete for the title of "State Champion". For the Bulldogs, Connor McMahon will start his quest Thursday evening in the opening round of the state tournament held at the The Ohio State University's Shottenstein Center.
McMahon (160 pounds) qualified for the state tournament with a 3rd place finish at the district tournament held at Mentor High School this past weekend.
It is McMahon's second trip to Columbus as he qualified and placed in the 2011 state tournament as well. Ranked in January as the top wrestler in Division I (160 pounds) by the Brakeman Report, Ohio's key barometer of high school wrestling talent that is published annually, McMahon has had a target on his chest from the opposition across Northeast Ohio.
The result has been three close losses by decision in the NOC Tournament, the sectional and the district. Two losses have been to a Solon opponent and one loss was to a wrestler from Boardman. McMahon will have the opportunity to avenge two of those losses as he may meet his Solon foe again if he advances in this years state tournament.
If he meets the Boardman opponent, it could be for the state title.
(For bracket information refer to this link: http://www.baumspage.com/ohsaa/brackets/2012/bracket1.pdf)
McMahon qualified for the state tournament when he placed at the Mentor district Tournament last weekend. He advanced to the semi finals as he scored pins in the first two rounds displaying a "taking care of business" style. In the semi final round he lost a tough decision, though, to the Solon opponent.
He then bounced back in the consolation round with a technical fall to advance to the finals for third place. In the finals, he won the match by decision to take 3rd place. McMahon has led the Bulldogs all the way in 2012 and has brought others in the program up to his level of commitment. He has had an outstanding season and will look to add to that this weekend.
Stow had four other qualifiers compete at the district tournament. Known to local wrestlers past and present as the "Mentor Meatgrinder", it again lived up to its reputation.
Senior Dan Garner (220 pounds) had a good tournament showing by placing 6th. Garner advanced to the semi finals with 2 pins, but lost a hard fought decision to a Madison opponent ranked 3rd in the state.
He then wrestled in the consolation round, but lost on a terrible official's call when he was called pinned at the moment he broke out of a cradle hold and only one shoulder had momentarily touched the mat. Even the opposing coach recognized later that the pin had been called like "a college pin" or something other than high school wrestling. Regardless of the instant shock and the lost opportunity to advance to the state, Garner showed great class and represented his school well, as he maintained his composure and he shook hands with both the referee and his opponent. He then dropped a tough 4-3 decision to an opponent ranked 10th in the state to finish 6th.
Senior JJ McCaffrey(132 pounds) wrestled with toughness and heart as always. After dropping his first round match, JJ came back Saturday morning and got a win by decision. He then had a tough match with an opponent from Painsville, which he kept close going into the third period, but he eventually lost by decision fighting for a takedown right to the end of the match as is JJ's style.
Junior Gage Finegan (190 pounds) also had a win in the tournament. Finegan had a tough draw with a Maple Heights opponent in the first round and he lost by decision. He also bounced back with a win to start the day Saturday. But in the next match he had to face a challenging opponent from Kenston.
Finegan wrestled hard and aggressively by scoring early, but eventually dropped a decision to end his day.
Sophomore Hunter Massey (152 pounds) also participated. It was tough going as he dropped two decisions, but wrestled hard.
All indications are that the Sophomore Massey and the Junior Finegan will be back at Mentor next year leading the Bulldogs along with Junior Dylan Hartwig, and several other younger Bulldogs as the team talent is on the rise.
Congratulations go out to ALL of the Bulldog wrestlers for an outstanding season. Whether they advanced in the tournaments as those mentioned above as a Varsity wrestler, or they just came and practiced everyday helping others get better - they all completed a season in what this writer considers to be high school's hardest sport.
You can follow the action with Connor McMahon over the weekend by going to: http://www.baumspage.com/ohsaa/wr/2012/index.htm