By Garth Shanklin
After winning their opening-round matches in the consolation bracket on Thursday, March 9, Williamsburg’s Brian Stears and Wyatt Lefker returned to the mat on Saturday morning looking to clinch a spot on the state podium.
In order to do so, all they had to do was win one match. For Lefker, that meant taking down Galion Northmor’s Matthew Ross. Ross, a senior, entered the match 32-15 overall, having defeated Orwell Grand Valley’s Nathan Rasmussen 7-5 in his first match before falling to Oak Harbor’s Jake Huston via tech fall (20-5).
Lefker fell behind 2-0 early, but rallied quickly in the second period, pinning Ross in 1:32 to guarantee a spot on the state podium.
Stears, meanwhile, had a familiar foe to battle. Mechanicsburg senior Dylan Hartley dropped to the consolation bracket after falling to Chillicothe Zane Trace’s Tanner Kunz in a 3-1 sudden victory. Hartley defeated Stears 3-2 in the third-place match at the district tournament in Troy earlier this month.
Much like that match, the contest between Stears and Hartley in the consolation bracket was a close one. Hartley escaped for a 1-0 lead in the second period, Stears matched him with an escape in the third to tie the match at one. Stears successfully took Hartley down in the one-minute overtime period, earning a 3-1 sudden victory and a spot on the podium.
Both wrestlers returned to the mat later Saturday night. Lefker hit the mat first against Smithville’s Riley Smucker.
Smucker led throughout the match, dropping Lefker to the seventh-place match with a 10-3 victory. He will face Defiance Tenora’s Bailey Slattman in the seventh-place match on Saturday, March 11.
Stears followed shortly after against Troy Christian’s Seth Douglas. It was another rematch for Stears, as Douglas knocked him off 2-1 in the district championship quarterfinals at Troy.
Stears took an early 1-0 lead with an escape and built on that margin with a takedown. Leading 3-0 with 1:28 left on the clock in the third period, Stears pinned Douglas to advance to the consolation semifinals.
He next prepares to take on New Lebanon Dixie’s Cameron Coffman, who fell to Derek Smith in the semifinals. Coffman entered that match undefeated on the season.