History was made Feb. 22 and 23 at Hilliard Davidson as 234 high school girls competed in the inaugural state girls wrestling tournament.
Passion and energy filled the gym throughout the weekend as hundreds of family members, friends and teammates cheered and supported the competitors. Hugs were exchanged and screams of joy reverberated throughout the crowd in celebration of rousing victories, while some tears were shed in response to defeats.
For former Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association president and tournament director Dominic DiSabato, the event was further proof of the rise of girls wrestling throughout the state — a trend he sees continuing for years to come.
“It’s just going to continue to grow, especially after seeing this tournament,” said DiSabato, the former coach of the Davidson boys team.
Olentangy Orange assistant coach Vanessa Oswalt has been around the sport for a while. In 2004, she qualified for the Over-15 Olympic Team Trials and in 2005, as a senior at Mount Vernon, won the Junior National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota. In 2009, Oswalt was a member of the U.S. Senior Freestyle Women’s National team.
Oswalt said she was impressed with the technique and conditioning displayed by the competitors throughout the tournament — many of whom just started wrestling recently.
“From all the girls, it’s close matches,” she said. “They are just out there grinding, all the girls. I am impressed with every single match. They’re going toe-to-toe, head-to-head.”
Orange had 18 girls participate in the state tournament, including six who placed in the top six. Taryn Martin won the championship at 137 pounds, while Anna Grabau placed third at 143, Noel Frye finished fourth at 160 and Lexi Simmons (106), Alayna Smith (160) and Aida Walters (150) each placed sixth.
Martin was nearly at a loss for words after pinning Big Walnut’s Aliya Martin for the state title.
“I’m overwhelmed. It’s a great experience and I never thought I would actually be here,” she said. “I never thought it would be a reality.”
Grove City’s Francesca Lanese defeated Hilliard Bradley’s Sol Franco 4-0 to win the title at 160.
“I don’t think it’s going to hit me until I get home tonight,” Lanese said.
Also winning a state title was Dublin Coffman’s Ayala Wolak, who defeated Olentangy Berlin’s Maia Crumb in the final at 150. Wolak is the sister of Lennox Wolak, a 2019 Coffman graduate who was a three-time state qualifier.
Also placing in the top six from the area were Big Walnut’s Cali Lang (third, 106), Delaware’s Kelcey Dew (third, 121), Upper Arlington’s Isabella DiBenedetto (third, 116), Reynoldsburg’s Peighton Irish-Arnett (fourth, 111), Delaware’s Ari Avant (sixth, 137) and DeSales’ Rebekah Oladokun (sixth, 143).
Orange finished second (122.5 points) as Casstown Miami East (149.5) captured the inaugural championship. Delaware was ninth (51), followed by Big Walnut (10th, 50), Bradley (21st, 33), Coffman (25th, 33) and Grove City (29th, 28).