COLUMBUS — Black River wrestlers Mike Hozan and Sebastian Vidika have different resumes, but the goals are the same.
Hozan is out to become the Pirates’ first three-time state placer, while Vidika is eager to eliminate the bitter taste of falling a match short of placing a year ago.
Both opened the Division III state tournament with convincing wins Thursday to set themselves up for a weekend to remember.
“A first-round win is huge,” Black River coach Corey Kline said. “Obviously when you win your first match, you get a little momentum. It gives you some confidence and you get a nice, short day.”
Hozan, who placed fourth as a junior, built an 8-0 lead before pinning Brendan Fitzgerald of Grandview Heights in 5:07. While the win was all about taking care of business, the All-Gazette selection is hoping it turns into a third trip to the podium.
“Sometimes when you’re going hard like that, you feel like you’re going to break a kid,” he said. “Every year, I’ve just tried to come down and try and have fun. After all the hard work, to be a three-time state placer, that would just be awesome.”
Hozan will battle fellow returning state placer Garrett Hancock of Troy Christian today in second-round action.
Vidika opened his match with a takedown and was up 3-0 midway through en route to a 5-0 decision over Upper Sandusky’s Thurston Dyer.
“I just wanted to be smart,” said Vidika, who will wrestle George Clemens of Wayne Trace today in second-round action. “You don’t have to win by a lot of points. I like getting in there right away and getting it done.
“Definitely last year was a disappointment. This time, I have to get redemption for it.”
In Division I, Brunswick’s Josh Heil recorded the match-winning points with 5 seconds left in his opening-round bout with Pickerington North’s Payton Gutierrez.
The 106-pound freshman fell behind 3-2 after getting called for illegal hands to the face, but was able to get an escape and then turn Gutierrez, a two-time state placer, to win 6-3.
“I knew once the kid took the injury that Josh was going to outwork him,” Blue Devils coach Mike Koshar said. “It was just a matter of if we were going to have enough time to get it done. It was close, but it was a real big win for him.”
Heil will face fellow freshman Kyle Jenkins of Stow today, with the winner getting a spot in the semifinals.
Teammate Tyler Hughes opened at 170 with a convincing 16-6 major decision over Jake Stratton of Hilliard Bradley. Hughes, a senior who is making his second trip to Columbus, will face Kyle Schmidt of Miamisburg today.
“It was important to get warmed up for the matches coming up,” he said. “Just to get out there and get some offense going and go over some things with my coaches was good.”
Highland’s Adam Kluk was the other local to win his opening bout, as the 195-pound senior built a seven-point advantage and walked away with a 10-5 decision. He will battle Tinashe Bere of Cincinnati Sycamore today.
“I try not to look ahead at all,” the returning state placer said. “It feels good to have a little bit of experience (from last year), but all in all it’s about how you prepare.
In the consolation bracket, Wadsworth senior Mathias Zollinger bounced back in a big way with a thrilling 2-1 decision over Jordan Branham of Miamisburg.
“You’re always a little worried, you know?” Zollinger said of holding on at the end. “There’s always that thought, but in the moment you don’t really think about that. You just think about how to counter it.”
Zollinger’s teammate, 170-pounder Tim Knipl, also kept his hopes alive with a dominating performance, leading Solon’s Shaq Morehouse 15-2 midway through the third before winning by injury default.
For the sophomore, it was all about getting his head right after a 7-3 setback to Pickerington Central’s Ason Sunkle in the opening round.
“I just had to mentally get myself back together and go out there and just wrestle,” Knipl said. “It was rough losing the first one, but after getting another win in, that brought my confidence back up.”
After falling 11-2 to Ivan McClay of Massillon in the first round, Brunswick’s Brett Taylor lost in his consolation bout against Marysville’s David Sparks 7-1. The 126-pounder finished the season 34-14.
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