COLUMBUS — The field at the State Individual Wrestling Championships is full of guys who were projected to be there.
Then there are the guys no one expected — an underclassman who got on a roll at the right time or a senior that refused to let his final season end.
Count Brunswick’s Zack Taylor in the latter.
After losing his second match at 126 pounds on the opening day at the Cleveland Division I District, the senior ran off three straight wins — a pin and two decisions — to earn a trip to Columbus.
Taylor is one of three Blue Devils to make the journey, joining Josh Heil and Tyler Hughes and fellow D-I Medina Countians Adam Kluk of Highland and Wadsworth’s Tim Knipl and Mathias Zollinger. Black River’s Sebastian Vidika and Mike Hozan will compete in D-III.
Despite Taylor’s loss to Amherst’s Bryan DeRuchie in his third-place bout at districts, coach Mike Koshar couldn’t be happier.
“He’s one of those kids that you cheer for so much because there’s not many guys that work harder,” Koshar said. “He puts in the time, so it’s really good to see him make the trip to the state tournament.”
Taylor will have his hands full today, as he squares off with Massillon’s Ivan McClay in his opening match. McClay, projected by many to make a run at the title, comes in with a 39-2 record. The senior placed third at 120 last season and at 112 in 2011.
Here’s a look at the other first-round matches for area wrestlers:
Josh Heil (Brunswick, 106): If the freshman can get by two-time state placer Payton Gutierrez (34-10) of Pickerington North, the path looks pretty good to the semifinals. Heil would need to defeat Perry’s Jose Rodriguez, however, to set up a potential meeting with Brecksville’s Austin Assad for the fourth time this season — this time for the state crown. Heil has lost three close matches to Assad, which includes a 1-0 heart-breaker at the Medina Sectional.
Mathias Zollinger (Wadsworth, 138): The senior will need to be on his toes from the start in this competitive bracket, as he squares off with Noah Forrider of Marysville. Forrider, a three-time state placer, was the projected state runner-up according to intermatwrestle.com at the season’s midway point and is 45-0. If Zollinger gets by that match, it doesn’t get easier. He’s on the same side of the bracket as St. Edward’s Colin Heffernan.
Tyler Hughes (Brunswick, 170): The returning state qualifier opens against Jake Stratton (33-12) of Hilliard Bradley and will most likely see Miamisburg’s Kyle Schmidt in the next round. Hughes’ draw looks good, as two of the weight classes’ top names — Richard Robertson of Maple Heights and Nick Corba of Beavercreek — will likely face one another in the semifinals on the opposite side of the bracket.
Tim Knipl (Wadsworth, 170): The runner-up at the Medina Sectional and Cleveland District will meet fellow 40-match winner Ason Sunkle of Pickerington Center on Friday. Corba (33-2) awaits, with Robertson (45-1) likely on tap in the final.
Adam Kluk (Highland, 195): If any wrestler is peaking at the right time, it’s Kluk. Outside of the rare three-period match in the final of the Cleveland District, the four-time state qualifier has been dominant this postseason and is flying under the radar. Kluk opens against Cuyahoga Falls’ Joey Repasky (36-8). Undefeated Kyle Conel of Ashtabula Lakeside looms as a potential semifinal foe, while Massillon Perry’s JoJo Tayse is the favorite on the other side of the bracket.
Sebastian Vidika (Black River, 106): After not placing at last year’s state meet by one match, the junior is ready to make a run at it all. Vidika opens against freshman Thurston Dyer of Upper Sandusky with a potential semifinal against Delta standout Jake Spiess looming. The other side of the bracket features 51-match winner Alex Smith (Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic) and Evan Ulinski (Elmore Woodmore) — a fourth-place finisher at 106 last winter.
Mike Hozan (Black River, 120): Hozan’s quarter segment of the bracket features three state placers from last season, including himself. A victory over Grandview Heights freshman Brendan Fitzgerald in the first round could set up a meeting with returning placers Garrett Hancock of Troy Christian or Francisco Alvarado of Defiance Ayersville. Beachwood’s Sammy Gross, the reigning state champ at 113, is on the other side of the bracket.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.