MARENGO — Alex Griffith made Galion High School sports history just by stepping on the mat Saturday.
But he definitely left his mark by establishing a solid foundation for the future with his good performance this season.
Griffith, who finished the season with a 40-12 record, became the first Galion freshman to compete in an OHSAA state wrestling tournament, putting a cap on an outstanding inaugural varsity season for the Tigers.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to pull it off,” Griffith said on Friday prior to the tournament. “It means a lot because a lot of great wrestlers have come through this program.”
Griffith faced three of InterMat Ohio Wrestling’s top 10 ranked wrestlers in the 285-pound weight class during the Division II state championships at Highland High School in Marengo. He finished with a 1-2 record at the tournament, eliminated from contention by a loss in the third round of the consolation bracket.
“I’m very proud of this young man,” Galion wrestling coach Brent Tyrrell said. “He’s a very smart kid, a hard-working kid. Winning 40 matches as a freshman is an incredible thing. We had two of them do it this year. His ceiling is very high. He’s only a freshman, so he’s got three more years of this. He should competing for a title here very soon.”
Galion classmate Landon Campbell finished his season with a 46-7 record wrestling in the 152-pound weight class. He reached the district tournament this season.
In the opening round of the state tournament, Griffith faced Graham Local’s Nolan Neves, the top-rated 285-pounder in Division II. Neves earned a hard-fought pin fall at 5:03 to advance. A second win by Neves, still undefeated at 24-0, earned him a spot in the weight class semifinals on Sunday.
After dropping into the consolation bracket, Griffith faced Gage Gibson of Howland, who is ranked ninth in Division II by InterMat Ohio Wrestling. Griffith built an 8-1 lead before the match was called at the 4:43 mark due to Gibson not being able to continue because of injury. It was an impressive bounce-back performance by Griffith.
“It was key that he stuck to the game plan and accomplished what he went out there to do,” Tyrrell said following the win over Gibson. “In the first match, (Neves) took him out of his game plan and he did some things that it’s not normal for him to do and got beat. The kid was tough, though. That second match, he wrestled really well. He did everything we asked him to do and stayed in position. He scored (points) when (Gibson) took some bad shots and it worked out really well. He wrestled well on the bottom and wrestled well on the top. It was nice for a freshman to get a win.”
Griffith’s run at the state tournament ended in the third round of the consolation bracket when he lost to Louisville’s Cameron Brazek via pin fall at the 4:14 mark. Brazek is ranked 10th in the Division II 285-pound weight class by InterMat Ohio Wrestling.
Tyrrell said he appreciated and admired Griffith’s toughness as a young wrestler going up against veteran competitors.
“He’s a tough kid and doesn’t back down from anybody. He doesn’t care who he wrestles, he’s going to wrestle hard. I love that about him,” Tyrrell said. “I look forward to three more years with him.”
Tyrrell said Griffith’s appearance at the state tournament was a good experience for the young man.
“He needs to get better in different situations that he’s going to be in,” he said. “That comes wth experience. He’s a pretty young wrestler. He’s only been wrestling for four years. He’s going to put a lot of time in in the offseason. He’s going to learn a lot and come back better next year.”
Graham Local leads the team standings with 80.5 points heading into the final day on Sunday. The rest of the top five teams includes Louisville (44 points), Lake Catholic (40.5 points), Copley (40 points), with Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and Aurora tied for fifth place with 33 points each.
For complete information about the OHSAA Division II state wrestling tournament, go to baumspage.com.
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