Olentangy Liberty High School wrestling coach Mark Marinelli said senior Jake Ryan has developed into one of the best 145-pound takedown artists in the state.
He believes Ryan will continue to score well even though he might have to change up his game while competing in the Division I state tournament Thursday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 2, at Ohio State.
"I'm confident that Jake can compete with anyone in the state on his feet," Marinelli said. "But in the state tournament, just getting a two-point takedown and cutting people loose isn't going to be good enough. Jake needs to take people down to their backs and turn them to score additional points after takedowns, instead of just riding them. Jake has the ability to do those things, so it's just a matter of getting it done."
In last year's state tournament, Ryan went 3-2 and placed seventh at 138. He lost to eventual state champion Mitch Newhouse of Massillon Perry 5-4 in his opening match.
"I lost my first-round match in the last 10 seconds last year and I'm still thinking about that match and how I could have done things differently," Ryan said. "My goal is to win a state title, so I need to be smart with my diet this week. If I can keep my weight down, I should have plenty of energy in the tournament. I've been working on doing well from the top position, too."
Ryan went 4-0 to improve to 40-3 overall and place first in the district tournament held Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Darby.
He pinned his first opponent and won his final three matches by technical fall, including 18-3 over Upper Arlington's Vito DiBenedetto in the final.
"I feel good about the way I wrestled here," Ryan said. "This sets me up for state."
Liberty scored 81 points to place sixth behind champion Marysville (163) as 35 squads scored.
The top four placers in each weight class qualified for state. Sophomore Jonathan Furnas (second at 106) and junior Giuseppe Penzone (third at 120) also advanced for the Patriots.
Furnas went 3-1 to improve to 29-7. He beat Pickerington North's Payton Gutierrez 4-2 in a semifinal and lost to Groveport's Shakur Laney 6-2 in the final.
"My win over Gutierrez was one of the best wins of my life," he said. "It was a pretty big upset and I don't think many people expected me to beat him. I wrestled well and caught him with a single-leg takedown in the second period for two points that were the difference.
"This is my first time going to state, but I would like to win a couple matches to represent my team well."
Penzone went 4-1 to improve to 32-8 while twice beating Marysville's Taleb Rahmani -- 8-2 in the second round and 4-2 in the consolation final.
Rahmani was fourth at 106 at state last year.
"I knew that Taleb's a really good wrestler, so I tried to wrestle smart against him," Penzone said. "I caught him with a five-point move by throwing him to his back in the second period of our first match, and I beat him in a brawl in the second match."
Last year at state, Penzone went 0-2 at 120.
"State has a big atmosphere, so I need to do a better job of not letting the setting distract me," he said.
Connor Thomas went 4-2 and placed fifth at 113 to serve as a state alternate.
Also competing at district but failing to advance were Nick Thrasher (0-2 at 132), Matt Snyder (0-2 at 138), Andrew Eschleman (1-2 at 152), Zeke Aziz (0-2 at 160), Kyle Arcaro (0-2 at 170) and Mitch Deruy (1-2 at 220).
Kamba, Timchenko advance for Orange
Orange finished 16th (49.5) at district as senior Artem Timchenko (first at 120) and junior Lenn's Kamba (fourth at 195) qualified for state.
Timchenko went 4-0 to win his first district title, defeating Central Crossing's Josh Wimer 3-2 in the final.
"(Wimer) was lanky and not very comfortable to wrestle, but you need to win these kinds of matches to win district and state," Timchenko said. "I got an early takedown and controlled the match from there."
Timchenko, who is 33-0, placed seventh at 112 at state as a freshman at Orange and fifth at 112 as a sophomore at Massillon Perry. He started 5-0 at 120 as a junior at Orange before being ruled ineligible for transferring for a second time in two years.
"My goal is to win state," Timchenko said. "I just need to keep my head right. I need to continue to wrestle well in the neutral position because I haven't had anyone score on me all year when I'm on my feet."
Kamba, who is 28-8, went 3-2 at district, beating Rey-noldsburg's Jordan Reed 7-4 in a consolation semifinal and losing to Mount Vernon's Matthew Lybarger 2-1 in the consolation final.
"It feels amazing to make it to state," he said. "I worked really hard and wrestled more than 50 matches in the offseason to get better.
"At state, I just need to manage my matches better and make sure I don't go for shots when they aren't there."
Also competing at district but failing to advance were Michael Hines (1-2 at 113), Ben Dodson (0-2 at 152), Ben Heilman (1-2 at 170), Nick Lee (0-2 at 220) and Alec Hertz (1-2 at heavyweight).
"You always wish you could do better, but we had our first district champion and are sending two to state for the first time, so we did pretty well," coach Brian Nicola said.
Hall wins district title for Olentangy
Olentangy finished 13th (58) at district as sophomore Nate Hall placed first at 182 to become the Braves' lone state qualifier.
Hall went 4-0 to improve to 41-8 and advance to state for the first time. He beat Thomas Worthington's Andrew Shackelford 3-1 in the final.
"I was a lot more aggressive than normal," Hall said. "I took my shots and dominated my first three matches. This was my third time facing (Shackelford). All three matches have been close, but I'm now 3-0 against him.
"My goal is to finish top eight in the state. I need to stay aggressive and my shot defense needs to be good."
Cody Pollitt went 4-2 and placed fifth at 145 and Chris Crumb went 3-2 and placed fifth at 220 to become state alternates.
Also competing at district but failing to advance were Kyler Slade (1-2 at 126) and Ahmed Hussein (1-2 at 160).