Wrestling: Bradley Weaver wins first state title for Hilliard Darby Panthers' program

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Darby's Bradley Weaver beat Aidan Fockler of Massillon Perry at heavyweight March 14 at the Division I state tournament to finish the season 32-0 and capture the program's first state championship.

Bradley Weaver knew what he wanted from the start of his freshman season with the Hilliard Darby wrestling team.

The heavyweight walked into the practice room and saw that one of the walls was adorned with the exploits of past Panthers’ wrestlers. The only thing missing was a state champion, and Weaver made up his mind to fill that void.

The dream became a reality when the senior capped an unbeaten season with a 7-1 victory over Massillon Perry’s Aidan Fockler in the Division I state tournament in his home gym March 13 and 14.

“That’s awesome, and it’s been my goal since my freshman year,” said Weaver, who finished 32-0. “I walked in, looked up at the board upstairs (in the practice room) and we didn’t have a state champion. The closest we got was second. So I was like, ‘Let’s make some history.’

“I tried to do it last year but we didn’t have state (because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic). So it was my last year – and in my home gym – so I had nothing to lose.”

The best previous performance at state came from Phil Hettlinger, who was runner-up at 189 in 2005. Jared Ball was third three times – 2016 (160), 2017 (182) and 2018 (195).

“It takes a lot of talent and a lot of hard work (to win state), but you have to have some lucky breaks,” coach Brendan Moody said. “Bradley made a lot of those breaks for himself, and even though he’s had a great season, he’s taken things to another level these last few weeks.

“He didn’t give up an offensive point all season and he only had three matches that weren’t either major decisions, tech falls or pins. He was about as dominant as it gets.”

Weaver had some butterflies before his final high school match, but then put things in perspective.

“I was a little nervous coming in (for the final), but I told myself that I can’t be nervous,” said Weaver, an Ohio University football recruit. “(Fockler) is nervous and stiff, too, so I have to go out there and have fun. That’s how I came to wrestle. I didn’t join because I was forced to, I came out here because I love the sport. I shouldn’t be nervous and scared about something that I love and do every single day.”

Weaver was the lone Darby representative, scoring 26 points as the Panthers tied for 14th behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (184.5).

He entered state after pinning Marysville’s Zach McMinn in 3 minutes, 19 seconds to win a district title.

Also at the district tournament March 6 and 7 at Darby, sophomore 106-pounder Carter Slubowski was sixth and junior Nathan Morris (145 pounds) and sophomore Matthew Taphorn (170) competed as well.

In the sectional Feb. 27 at Newark, Weaver was first, Morris finished as runner-up and Slubowski and Taphorn both placed third. 

Seniors Joshua DiGoia (152) and Frank Donnelly (195) finished fifth, and senior Isaiah Beneker (182), sophomore Landry Lee (132) and freshman Trent VandenEynden (126) were sixth.

“We had a couple of sophomores make it to district in Carter Slubowski and Matthew Taphorn and Nathan Morris made it and he was a junior,” Moody said. “They’re inheriting the team now and they’ll be put in some leadership roles next season.”

• Lee Wilson’s first season as coach at Davidson was highlighted by sophomore Richard Lawrence advancing to state, going 0-2 at 170 to finish 22-6. 

Lawrence lost by technical fall (15-0) to eventual state champion Logan Messer of Wadsworth in the opening round and 4-3 to Cleveland St. Ignatius’ Jarrell Young in a consolation match. 

“Richard is a great young man,” Wilson said. “He works hard and is still working towards his peak. Reaching state this year for Richard was only part of the goal. He and a couple of our other guys have the potential to get onto the podium. That is what we’ll be working towards for next March.” 

Joining Lawrence at the district meet was sophomore Wyatt Moore, who reached the semifinals at 126 before taking fifth. He went 3-2 at district and finished the season 25-3. 

Other key wrestlers eligible to return include juniors Quin Hopping (138, 11-15) and Nik Monroe (220, 11-11), sophomore Josh Henderson (152, 12-16) and freshmen Hawkins Marihugh (120, 12-6) and Lucas Sparkman (195, 17-11). 

Davidson went 0-5 in the OCC-Central to finish sixth behind champion Dublin Coffman (5-0). 

“This season was filled with excitement and heart-crushing blows,” Wilson said. “Especially with a team as young and as green as we had this year, we definitely fell behind with all of the COVID restrictions. Even through all of that, our guys pushed through a lot of setbacks. 

“As a first-year coach, I now feel like I’m much more comfortable when it comes to the behind-the-scenes aspects of coaching, the statistics, practice planning and the strategies.”

–Frank DiRenna

Bradley did not have a Division I state qualifier but sent three wrestlers to district led by heavyweight Robert Snyder.

The sophomore placed sixth after losing 3-1 to Mount Vernon’s Nate Stradley in the fifth-place match to finish 24-10.

"Robert wrestled a great tournament and really elevated his game in the postseason,” coach John Riggs said. “He came into the season with the goal to place at district. This tournament leaves everyone wanting more except for the kid at the top of the podium.”

Senior Ryan Brattina (160) and sophomore Caden Ellison (126) also competed at district.

Brattina, Ellison and Snyder all placed fourth in a sectional Feb. 27 at Watkins Memorial, while seniors Matthew Sailor (220) and Jeremy Uting (170), junior Julien Kleiv (106), sophomore Tristen Carlson-Inks (132) and freshman Ian Wagner (182) were fifth.

“This season brought its share of challenges and the kids up and down the lineup endured a lot of obstacles to be here,” Riggs said. “Hats off to the wrestling community to get through the season, and we’re proud of what the kids were able to accomplish this year.”

–Scott Hennen

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

BRADLEY

•OCC-Central standings: Dublin Coffman (5-0), Olentangy Liberty (4-1), Upper Arlington (3-2), Olentangy Orange (2-3), Bradley (1-4), Davidson (0-5)

•Seniors lost: Ryan Brattina, Matt Sailor and Jeremy Uting

•Key returnees: Tristan Carlson-Inks, Caden Ellison, Julien Kleiv, Robert Snyder and Ian Wagner

•Postseason: Sixth (103) at sectional behind champion Westerville North (275), 32nd (10) at district behind champion Coffman (228.5)

DARBY

•OCC-Cardinal standings: Marysville (5-0), Darby (4-1), Olentangy Berlin (3-2), Dublin Jerome (2-3), Thomas Worthington (1-4), Olentangy (0-5)

•Seniors lost: Yaseen Ahmad, Ibrahim Alajlouni, Blayne Barnes, Isaiah Beneker, Eric Cathala, Joshua DiGoia, Frank Donnelly, Kole Kendall, Zach Lithiluxa, Jacob Neri, Woody Saadeh, and Bradley Weaver

•Key returnees: Landry Lee, Nathan Morris, Carter Slubowski, Matthew Taphorn and Trent VandenEynden

•Postseason: Fourth (130.5) at sectional behind champion Coffman (277), 14th (41) at district behind champion Coffman (228.5), tied for 14th (26) at state behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (184.5)

DAVIDSON 

•Senior lost: Alex Ontiveros 

•Key returnees: Richard Lawrence and Wyatt Moore 

•Postseason: Fifth (115) at sectional behind champion UA (241); 20th (30) at district behind champion Coffman (228.5); did not score at state