COLUMBUS, Ohio — Historic … on a lot of different levels.
The River Valley wrestling team added yet another chapter to its current 4-year run at states this past weekend during the 2022 OHSAA Division III Championships held at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of the Ohio State University.
The Raiders — who matched a program record with four individual qualifiers for a second straight postseason — again came away with a single podium placer, as well as at least one victory by all but one of the competitors en route to a second consecutive year with a final placement in the team standings.
The Silver and Black recorded a 5-9 overall mark in head-to-head matches and ultimately placed tied for 47th place with both Adena and Reading with 11 points apiece.
Legacy Christian repeated as D-3 champs with 136 points, while Milan Edison was, again, the overall runner-up out of 83 scoring teams with 78 points.
Last year’s Raider squad eventually placed in a 4-way tie for 45th overall with 12 points, all while recording a 5-8 mark … the first five wins at the state level for RVHS.
This year’s group added another five wins and one fewer point, as well as one more loss. That extra loss, however, ultimately happened as RVHS was setting a new mark for highest finish in program history.
Senior Will Hash — who owns the program’s first-ever state victory — dropped a 3-1 sudden victory decision to Mechanicsburg junior Zane Hitchcock in the 5th place match.
Hash — who placed seventh with a 3-2 mark at 182 pounds last winter — completed his final weekend in the Silver and Black with a 3-3 record at 190 pounds … good enough for sixth place overall.
Hash — who ends his career with 176 victories — is the program’s only district champion, a feat accomplished twice in his junior and senior campaigns. Hash was also a 3-time Tri-Valley Conference champion and didn’t have a chance at a fourth as the 2021 tournament was postponed.
Hash is only one of two 3-time state qualifiers in school history, joining classmate Nathan Cadle (2019-21) in that feat. Hash completes his RVHS career with a 6-7 alltime record at the state tournament.
With the 2021 Division III tournament being held at Marion Harding High School due to coronavirus protocols, Hash also became the first grappler at River Valley to win a state match at the Schottenstein Center.
Hash — who ends his senior campaign with a 48-7 mark — leaves as the winningest grappler in school history, and easily the most accomplished in a lot of historical categories.
Yet, despite all of his personal accomplishments … which he does enjoy, Hash is more thankful for being part of the last four years of wrestling at River Valley High School.
“It’s a lot like winning that first match last year, but it’s really a lot more than last year. This is what I’ve been looking forward to my whole life, coming up here to the Schott and having success,” Hash said. “It’s still nerve-wracking competing here, and I’ve wrestled here before, but there is nothing that matches competing here at this place with the best of the best in the state. It’s a great way to finish my career as a Raider.
“It’s been a really awesome run for us, these last four years. We’ve had some great teams and some great individual wrestlers, and we’ve made a lot of good memories and set the bar really high for those future programs. I know I’m leaving as the standard-bearer for the program, but I owe a lot of that to my coaches and my teammates. I’m also hoping that someone will come along and break my records some day at River Valley. It would be nice to see what we’ve started continue on at River Valley.”
Fellow senior Aiden Greene — who made his state debut while going 1-2 overall at 215 pounds — agreed that finishing up his River Valley career at state was something worth cherishing.
Greene finished his year with a 42-10 overall mark and scored a 5-3 decision over Middletown Madison senior Preston Brown in the consolation opener, allowing him to become one of only five RVHS grapplers to win a match at the state level.
“It’s a great day, knowing that I’m going to finish my wrestling career here at the state tournament. I’ve worked really for four years for this moment, and it was worth every bit of everything that I’ve put in,” Greene said. “The thing that keeps circling through my mind is that I started this sport my eighth grade year. I knew nothing about this sports six years ago, but Coach Huck told my dad back then I could get to state in wrestling. To be here now, with Coach Huck five years later, it’s pretty gratifying. It’s also been an awesome journey with these guys over the last four years. It’s the perfect ending, if you ask me.”
Greene is the only wrestler in River Valley history to win a tournament match in his first year of qualifying for states. Greene also won a TVC title individually this winter.
Justin Stump was more successful in his second consecutive appearance at state as the junior notched his first career win at the state tournament in the 157-pound division.
Stump recorded a 4-3 decision over Tinora junior Dalton Wolfrum in the consolation opener and ultimately ended the weekend with a 1-2 mark.
Stump not only joined Zach Davis (2003-04) and current classmate Andrew Huck (2020-21) as 2-time state qualifiers in program history, but he also joined Hash, Cadle, Huck and Greene as the only RVHS grapplers to record a victory at the state tournament.
And with a year to work on improving, Stump — who went 42-10 this season — is leaving the Schottenstein Center with even more motivation than what he perhaps came in with.
“There was a much different atmosphere here than there was last year at Marion Harding, and it was noticeable. I’m definitely focused on making a trip back here next year, because this is something I want to do again,” Stump said. “The experience of last year did help in some ways, but nothing prepares you for the size of that place. All those fans and all those matches going on at the same time. I’m glad to have an experience like this.
“I’m also really proud of my teammates and this group of guys this year, and over the years. We’ve done some really great things on the mat, and I feel like we just keep elevating the program. That is something those seniors should take pride in, and it will be up to us underclassmen to keep this thing going.”
Michael Conkle ultimately ended his first state tournament winless in two bouts at 165 pounds, but the junior is just the eighth grappler in RVHS history to appear at the state tournament. Eric Weber also appeared at the state tournament in 2019 as a senior.
Conkle completes the 2022 campaign with a final record of 39-9 and will be one of three state qualifiers returning to the River Valley lineup next year.
Conkle — who didn’t wrestle as a sophomore — was completely blown away by the vastness of the event, but he was very humble in simply getting to be a part of it.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that before, competing in front of that many people. That was something that honestly messed with me a little bit there at the start,” Conkle said. “This is something that I’ve worked so hard for, that my teammates have worked so hard for, so getting to be part of all of this with everyone has made it a pretty amazing experience. Moving forward, I know what I need to do to make something like this happen again.”
A pair of former state qualifiers didn’t make it back this year, with Cadle losing his postseason to an injury and with Huck ending up fifth in his district weight class.
Those things did rattle RVHS coach Matthew Huck a bit headed into the tournament. But, as the venerable 23-year frontman noted, sometimes things have a way of working themselves out in the long run.
After all, it might not technically be the best weekend in program history — but nobody has ever done it better at the Schott than this quartet. And that’s something to build on moving forward.
“It’s a weekend that brings a lot of pride to our community here at River Valley. When we were heading out, the local fire department and the sheriff’s department gave us a nice little escort out of the school for about ten miles. It’s pretty cool stuff for our kids to take in before we even get started on what we are going to do,” Huck said. “This weekend just allows us to keep elevating the bar for what we are doing as a program at River Valley. Two new qualifiers and two new winners at the state tournament, a new highest finish on the podium and our first five wins at the Schott.
“I feel like we could have had eight kids here this weekend, honestly. We ended up with four, but it’s a sign of where we are going as a program. Two years ago I was thrilled to have three qualifiers before it all got cancelled, now we’ve had four in each of the last two years. We’ve had a great season and we will lose some quality seniors, but we have some quality guys coming back too. We have a really good junior high program and our youth numbers have never been higher than they are right now. The program is in really good shape moving forward, and this team has played a large role in making all of it a possibility. That’s what those seniors and this team has meant to River Valley this year.”
Visit baumspage.com for complete results of the 85th annual OHSAA Division III championships held last weekend at the Schottenstein Center.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.