MARION, Ohio — It wasn’t at The Schott … but it didn’t stop the Raiders from giving it their best shot.
The River Valley wrestling team rewrote all of its history books over the weekend at the 2021 Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III championships held at Marion Harding High School in Marion County.
The Raiders entered the tournament with an alltime mark of 0-8 in state tournament matches, and the Silver and Black ultimately added another eight losses to that total by the end of this 2-day event.
RVHS, however, also picked up a combined five victories from three of its four state competitors — allowing the Raiders to turn half of their six alltime state qualifiers into grapplers with at least one win at the state level.
More importantly, besides the first state tournament wins, the Raiders also managed to land their first podium placer in junior Will Hash. Hash — who technically became the first RVHS grappler to win a state match with an opening round pinfall — ultimately went 3-2 overall and placed seventh at 182 pounds.
Hash, classmate Nathan Cadle and sophomore Andrew Huck were all state qualifiers a year ago, although none of them were able to compete due to the 2020 tournament being cancelled due to the first wave of coronavirus outbreaks.
The trio did manage to salvage some of what they lost out on a year ago as each grappler picked up at least one victory. Both Huck (126) and Cadle (145) lost their opening round bouts in the morning session, but each went on to win their next matches in the first round of consolation competition.
Hash, on the other hand, had to wait until the afternoon session started before he could compete. Hash landed a pinfall win over Triad senior Isiah Leasure at the 2:58 mark of his opening match, technically making him the first RVHS grappler to win a state level match even though he was actually the last of the three on Saturday.
Under traditional and otherwise normal tournament conditions, all opening round matches between the 14 weight classes would be conducted before starting any type of consolation rounds.
Hash — who became River Valley’s first-ever district champion the week before — dropped a 7-3 decision Edison junior Logan Lloyd in the championship quarterfinals, but secured a podium spot just about an hour later with a 6-5 win Kirtland junior Brennon Braud in the second consolation round.
Hash dropped a 5-3 decision to Mount Gilead senior Andy Williamson in the third round consolation, but picked up an 18-4 major decision win over Crestview junior Brier Godsey in the seventh place match — allowing the 2-time state qualifier to secure another first for the RVHS program on Sunday.
Hash, like his teammates, was disappointed in not being able to compete at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus this year, but he was very thrilled to at least be able to compete in a state tournament for the first time in two years.
Given how Hash’s weekend went, it was even more impressive to hear his thoughts on how things turned out.
“I think this is the beginning of something great. To be part of what we’ve done this weekend is pretty remarkable in itself, especially when you look at how many firsts and and how many barriers we’ve knocked down. A lot of hard work has gone into making this weekend what it was,” Hash said. “I’m not going to lie, I really hope to have the chance to compete at the Schott next year for the state tournament. At the same time, if it’s held in some random parking lot … the same top 16 wrestlers in the state will be there competing. It’s a cool experience either way, and it’s not easy to get there. I’m just glad we got to have this experience this year.”
Cadle — the program’s only 3-time state qualifier — dropped a 12-0 major decision to Garfield sophomore Hunter Andel in the opener, but rebounded nicely with a 9-7 decision over Edison sophomore Duke Hermes in the first round consolation.
Cadle followed his first-ever state win with an 11-8 setback to Mechanicsburg junior Westyn Moyer.
Cadle spoke about the difference between competing at the Schott and at Marion Harding High School afterwards, but he also noted that the top 16 wrestlers would still be competing wherever the event was held. So, in a certain regard, nothing really changes except the scenery.
“The Schottenstein Center is just immaculate. Everybody is there watching all of the divisions, literally thousands of people watching wrestling on 10 different mats at the same time. It is something special to be part of,” Cadle said. “Even here, we only had four mats going … but it still had that feel because it was still the top 16 in the state competing. I hope we can compete again at the Schott next year, but there was no change in the mind set as far as not competing there this year. This was still the best of the best. That part never changes at this level, regardless of where it is held.
“Not getting to compete at state last year was tough, but I think we all made the most of the opportunity this time around. We won some matches and made some history, and hopefully we’ll all have a chance to do this again next year.”
Huck dropped a 6-3 decision to Fairview senior Jack Elmore in the opening round, but followed with a pinfall win over Otsego sophomore Joseph Manley in the first round consolation. Huck followed his first-ever state win with a 7-2 setback to Crestview sophomore Hayden Kuhn.
Regardless of the location, the sophomore was just thankful to get to fulfill a lifelong dream of competing at the highest level.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always dreamed of this moment … to wrestle at state. I’d love to one day wrestle in the Schott, but this counts just as much as anything to me. I’m just thankful to finally have the chance to get to compete at the state tournament,” Huck said. “Getting that first win was important to me, and seeing us win several matches was important as well. It feels good to be part of a historic weekend for River Valley wrestling. We’ve also set the standards for what future groups in this program will be aiming for.”
The actual newcomer to the state tournament for RVHS, qualifying wise, was sophomore Justin Stump. Stump fell 7-0 to Crestview sophomore A.J. Coppersmith in the opening round and was pinned by Delta senior Gabe Meyer in the first round consolation bout.
Stump hopes to join the rest of his teammates in the state win column in the near future. As he noted, the bar has been raised … and now is the time to start preparing for the next set of goals.
“Ohio is one of the best states in the country for wrestling, so to get to be part of the ‘cream of the crop’ this weekend was something truly meaningful for me. I wasn’t one of the top 16 ranked wrestlers headed into districts, so just getting here was a big accomplishment in my book,” Stump said. “I think we’ve all enjoyed the weekend, but I also think we are all leaving here hungrier for even more next year. It’s been a good run this year, something to remember for sure. We don’t plan on stopping here though.”
Stump joins his current trio of teammates, 2-time qualifier Zach Davis (2003-04) and Eric Weber (2019) as the only River Valley grapplers to compete at the state tournament.
For RVHS coach Matthew Huck, the weekend served as a reminder that hard work truly does pay off in the end. In completing his 22nd season as the Raiders’ frontman, he couldn’t help but realize just how far the program has come during his tenure — particularly in the past few years.
With momentum building and primarily everyone expected to be back next winter, the venerable mentor believes even better things are coming.
“I definitely have a lot of emotions about how this weekend has gone for us. We set a lot of school records at the district tournament last weekend and we’ve had four underclassmen come up here to Marion Harding High School and accomplish some really significant stuff,” the elder Huck said. “Anytime you start talking about school history, it’s just an awesome thing to discuss. We’ve got some hard-working kids who all had goals of getting here and doing well here.
“As a coach and as a dad, this is an extra special moment for me this weekend because all four of these guys are like my children. I couldn’t be any prouder for any of them than I am right now. And, in all fairness, some of the kids that just missed the cut at districts will be back next year too. This could very well be the start of something even bigger for our program at River Valley. Our future does seem to look very bright right now as we move forward.”
The Raiders ended up joining Benjamin Logan, Chalker and Elmwood in a 4-way tie for 45th place as each program produced 12 points.
Hash ended the year with a 40-5 overall mark, while Cadle and Huck respectively posted records of 38-6 and 40-10. Stump ended the 2021 campaign with a 36-10 mark.
A total of 87 different teams scored at least one point at the D-3 championships. Legacy Christian won the Division III title with 128 points, while Milan Edison was the overall runner-up with 117.5 points.
Visit baumspage.com for complete results of the 2021 OHSAA Division III championships held Saturday and Sunday at Marion Harding High School.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.