Wrestling: Groveport Madison Cruisers' Nelson Jake places fourth in state tourney

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Groveport Madison senior Jake Nelson placed fourth in the Division I state tournament, which was held March 13 and 14 at Hilliard Darby. He finished his high school career with a 138-38 record, including 62-5 over the last two seasons.

Groveport Madison senior wrestler Jake Nelson finally got to compete in the Division I state tournament March 13 and 14, and although he had to wait a year for the experience, he felt at home.

Unlike in previous years, state was held at Hilliard Darby instead of Ohio State because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. But that was fine with Nelson, who qualified as a junior only to see the tournament canceled.

Nelson won the 220-pound district championship March 7 at Darby and went 3-2 at state to finish fourth, losing 14-2 to Massillon Perry’s Logan Shephard in the third-place match.

“It was pretty cool to come here and wrestle at state even though (being at Darby) is a little bit different,” Nelson said. “I wrestled here more than I wrestled in any other gym in high school, so it was cool to have the state tournament here. I’m comfortable with the place. I’ve been here a lot.”

A four-time district qualifier, Nelson entered state at 14-0. He pinned Stow-Munroe Falls’ Teddy Gregory in 5 minutes, 41 seconds and Perrysburg’s Brayden Butzin in 3:54 before losing 5-2 to Fairfield’s Brandon Smith in a semifinal. 

Nelson edged Lakewood St. Edward’s Jonny Slaper 4-3 in a consolation semifinal before losing to Shephard.

“To place, it’s a lot of hard work. The bracket was loaded up but I came in, dug deep and did what I could,” Nelson said. “I said just to myself, ‘Are you kidding me?’ (after losing the semifinal). I couldn’t quit now. I just had to go and wrestle for third.”

Nelson finished his high school career with a 138-38 record, including 62-5 over the last two seasons.

“He’s phenomenal,” coach Kwan Bailey said. “He controls the controllables. He’s done something that’s never been done with the whole COVID thing and with less than 15 matches, to be a district champion and going to state, we’re extremely proud.”

Nelson scored 16 points, putting Groveport in 29th place behind champion St. Edward (184.5) as 78 teams scored. The Eagles won their sixth consecutive title and 34th overall.

“No match you go in and wrestle will be easy. You have to go in off the first match hitting hard. If you don’t, somebody will get you,” said Nelson, adding he does not plan to wrestle in college. “My takeaway is that I’m happy I was able to compete with everything happening in the world. It was awesome to have a state tournament and not be stripped of a season.”

While Nelson is one of two wrestlers lost to graduation along with Dylan Blackburn (132), seven of Groveport’s eight postseason competitors are eligible to return.

That group consists of juniors Cohen Hartner (126), Jacob Johnston (160) and Cameron Ross (152), sophomores C.J. Barnett (138), David Sells (195) and Derrick Sells (182) and freshman Jace Nincehelser (145).

Barnett finished 8-4, Ross was 7-3 and Nincehelser went 6-3 as the Cruisers wrestled only seven regular-season matches.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

OCC-Buckeye standings: Lancaster (5-0), Newark (4-1), Central Crossing (3-2), Reynoldsburg (2-3), Pickerington Central (1-4), Groveport (0-5)

Seniors lost: Dylan Blackburn and Jake Nelson

Key returnees: C.J. Barnett, Jace Nincehelser and Cameron Ross

Postseason: 10th (48.5) at sectional behind champion Westerville North (275), 21st (26) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (228.5), 29th (16) at state behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (184.5)