Wrestling: Dylan Russo's title highlights Olentangy Liberty Patriots' state performance

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Liberty's Dylan Russo celebrates March 14 after beating Brandon Smith of Fairfield 3-2 in the 220-pound final at the Division I state tournament at Hilliard Darby. Russo finished the season 34-4.

Dylan Russo got the payoff he was waiting for when he got to the Division I state tournament March 13 and 14 at Hilliard Darby. 

Entering state as a No. 2 seed at 220 pounds after finishing second at district, Russo earned a 5-3 overtime win in a state semifinal over Massillon Perry’s Logan Shephard to reach the title match.

In the final, Russo – a sophomore who qualified for state last season before the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – found himself facing a No. 3 seed in Fairfield’s Brandon Smith. 

Brecksville-Broadview Heights’ Ben Vanadia, who had won the district title at North Canton Hoover and was 27-0, withdrew the night before the state tournament, and the other three district champions lost in quarterfinal or semifinal rounds. 

Russo beat Smith 3-2 to finish 34-4 to win the program's seventh state title. 

“He’s just a nice young man who you want to root for,” coach Mark Marinelli said. “He’s gracious when he wins and when he loses. We were prepared.” 

Russo won a sectional title but lost 5-2 to Groveport’s Jake Nelson in the district final. 

Also among his victories at state was a 5-1 quarterfinal win over Oregon Clay’s Ty Cobb 5-1, who was undefeated heading into state. 

“This is what I’ve been working for my whole life,” Russo said. “I was really hungry from last year because we couldn’t really wrestle (much in the offseason) and school’s been weird, but it feels really good.” 

Also competing at state were seniors Jayce Fitzpatrick (170) and Lucas Uliano (152) and freshman Jaxson Rosselli (106). 

Rosselli lost to eventual champion Ryan Bennett from Lakewood St. Edward 10-8 in overtime in a quarterfinal but won his next three before falling to Perry’s Austin McBurney 9-1 in the third-place match to finish 30-9. 

“It’s been awesome,” Rosselli said. “I’m really enjoying that competitive wrestling, and I’ve got three more years left so hopefully I can get to that state title.” 

Uliano – who placed third in the Iowa state tournament as a freshman, was seventh for Liberty as a sophomore and also qualified for state last winter – finished fifth at 152 and 37-4 overall. 

He is committed to wrestle for The Citadel, a Division I program in Charleston, South Carolina.

“My only goal was to get better and try to score as much as I can on my feet,” Uliano said. “One thing that really made wrestling fun for me this year was that we didn’t know what this year was going to look like. 

“We assumed that maybe we’d get four or five matches in and we’d be happy with it, but I came into the sectional tournament (having wrestled) 24 matches. Everybody was focused on having fun and getting better.” 

The Patriots’ other district placers were senior Hunter Ford, who was sixth at 132 and finished 26-10, and freshman Broc Fitzpatrick, who was sixth at 138 and finished 22-13. 

Other key seniors included Mark Ceddia (145), Adam Gintert (126) and Josh Slingsby (195), who also were district qualifiers, and senior Stephen Dirksmeier (160) who competed at the sectional. 

Others eligible to return after advancing to district are junior Charlie Cole (heavyweight) and freshmen Prestyn Parks (113) and Brady Quillen (182) while junior John Crought (120) wrestled at the sectional. 

Orange's Keegan Knapp (right) battles Olmsted Falls' Nate Urry compete in a 160-pound match at the Division I state tournament March 13. Knapp finished seventh, finishing the season at 31-7.

Orange junior Keegan Knapp reached his goal of placing at the Division I state tournament, but the 160-pounder wants more.

Knapp finished seventh at state by defeating Brecksville’s Nick Campbell 7-3 in the seventh-place match to finish 31-7. The last Orange wrestler to place was Bryce Houston, who was seventh at 220 in 2017.

“Right now the adrenaline is still pumping. You always want to finish the day with a win,” Knapp said. “I got to experience state on the first and second day, and I placed. That will help push me toward my goal of winning it next year.”

Knapp captured a district title by defeating Coffman’s Dez Gartrell 5-2 in the final.

Orange had three fifth-place finishers at district – seniors Dylan Dempsey (182, 24-6) and Zack Miller (152, 24-7) and junior Connor Svantner (170, 23-5).

Also competing at district were senior Geoffrey Kaminski (220), sophomores Logan Butler (145), Cole Chevalier (heavyweight) and Connor Garren (195) and freshmen Dominic Lee (113) and Ben Tong (106).

“Other than our three primarily scoring seniors, we expect to have everyone coming back,” coach Scott Tressler said. “I think we have the opportunity to put a lot of good work in and next year, hopefully, we can take another step.”

–Scott Hennen

Olentangy graduates one of its two Division I district qualifiers and expects to return four of seven postseason competitors.

Junior Vaughn Fowler should be back after going a team-best 17-4 overall at 120 pounds and 1-2 at district. Senior Jackson Moses finished 17-6 after going 2-2 at district, where the Braves finished 33rd with eight points.

Senior Ben Hall finished 16-7 at 145.

Others eligible to return include junior Gabe Bulugaris (126), sophomore Zach Smith (152) and freshman Alex Lawrence (138). The Braves fielded seven competitors in their sectional Feb. 27 at Upper Arlington.

Bulugaris finished 11-13 and Lawrence went 10-7.

–Dave Purpura

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

LIBERTY 

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

•Seniors lost: Andrew Brown, Mark Ceddia, Stephen Dirksmeier, Zach Dunbar, Jayce Fitzpatrick, Hunter Ford, Jack Freitag, Adam Gintert, Luke Reidel, Josh Slingsby and Lucas Uliano 

•Key returnees: Charlie Cole, John Crought, Broc Fitzpatrick, Prestyn Parks, Brady Quillen, Jaxson Rosselli and Dylan Russo 

•Postseason: Second (240) at sectional behind Marysville (247), third (136) at district behind champion Coffman (228.5), ninth (49.5) at state behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (184.5) 

OLENTANGY

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

•Seniors lost: Steve Adkins, Ben Hall, Jackson Moses and Max Nanda

•Key returnees: Gabe Bulugaris, Vaughn Fowler and Alex Lawrence

•Postseason: 12th (43.5) at sectional behind champion Upper Arlington (241), 33rd (8) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (224.5)

ORANGE

•Seniors lost: Dylan Dempsey, Geoffrey Kaminski, Zack Miller and Antonio Mitchell

•Key returnees: Logan Butler, Cole Chevalier, Connor Garren, Keegan Knapp, Dominic Lee, Connor Svantner and Ben Tong

•Postseason: Second (223) at sectional behind Upper Arlington (241), eighth (73) at district behind champion Coffman (228.5), tied for 53rd (4) at state behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (184.5)