COLUMBUS — All Nicky Kiussis could do after his semifinal win Friday night was smile.
Who could blame the Brunswick freshman? He had just grinded out a one-point win to secure a bid to tonight’s 132-pound finals of the Division I state tournament.
Kiussis headlined a banner day for MedinaCounty athletes at Value City Arena.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said with a grin. “One match to go. I’m so excited. I just want to go out there and win the next one.”
That’s been the Kiussis’ mindset the entire tourney. It has resulted in three victories, with the latest a 1-0 decision over Hilliard Davidson’s Bobby Smith.
Kiussis will join three other countians — Black River’s Sebastian Vidika, Wadsworth’s Noah Baughman and CVCA’s Tyler Maclellan — that will be battling for the top of the podium.
“As a ninth-grader, he’s relaxed and doesn’t feel any pressure. He’s just going out there and enjoying himself,” Brunswick coach Mike Koshar said. “That’s one of his assets. He doesn’t get caught up in the moment. He’s been on the big stage and doesn’t flustered. He just goes out there and does what he does — just like going out to the playground and playing.”
Kiussis wasn’t fazed by the fact Smith wrestled for the 126-pound state crown a year ago, as he picked up a crucial escape in the second period to become the first Blue Devil freshman to reach the finals since Richie Spicel in 2005.
It almost was gone in a blink of an eye, however, as Smith nearly turned Kiussis late in the second, but Kiussis found a way to get out of the situation unscathed against Smith’s low-to-the-ground antics.
It was Kiussis’ second one-point victory of the day, as he defeated Jason Spencer of Massillon Perry by the same score in the quarterfinals.
“I just tried to match his level and stay in front of him,” said Kiussis, who will face Richie Screptock of Oregon Clay tonight. “I tried to work my offense and push the pace. My coaches got me some tape of wrestling (last year in the state finals), so I knew what he could do and I just tried to stay as inside as possible.”
Baughman advanced to his D-I title match with a 14-6 major decision of Mason’s Zack Donathan. The sophomore controlled every second of the bout, jumping to an early five-point lead and never looking back.
The efficient performance has been a trend for Baughman, who matches up with Massillon Perry’s Tommy Genetin tonight.
“I’ve just been working my setups and my ties and getting my takedowns,” said Baughman, who won by major decision over Aurora’s Jarrod Brezovec in the quarterfinals. “My stuff’s been working, so I’m just going to continue to do what I do on the next level.
“I like to do that against everyone I wrestle. I like to get in on the legs. I like to work my takedowns and set the pace to where I want it to be.”
Now it’s on to where Baughman has wanted to be all season — the elevated mat in front of thousands of fans for a state championship.
“I’m excited to wrestle underneath the lights on a big stage, and I felt great tonight,” he said. “I have to do the same thing I’ve done all season: Trust the system, trust the coaches and just prepare the same way I would for every other single match.”
Macellan moved on in D-II action by beating Josh Couchman of St. Paris Graham in the 195-pound semifinals, while the 106-pound Vidika was all over Northridge’s Jake Adkins en route to a 6-2 victory.
A pair of countians are alive in the consolation bracket, as Brunswick’s Josh Heil (120 pounds) and Wadsworth’s Tim Knipl (170) will look to improve their placement.
Heil bounced back from a 17-1 loss to returning state placer Alex Mackall of Walsh Jesuit and picked up a 4-2 decision over Moises Guillen of Perrysburg.
The sophomore will square off with Jon Furnas of Olentangy Liberty for a chance at the third-place match.
“Obviously you can’t go back in time and fix it, so it’s about taking what you can get. No regrets.” Heil said. “Some people say if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter. It does matter. You just have to go out and have fun.”
Knipl dropped a 3-0 decision to St. Xavier’s Joe Heyob in his semifinal and will attempt to wrestle back into higher placement against Isaac Bast of Massillon Perry.
“That was just a tough match,” Grizzlies coach John Gramuglia said of Knipl’s loss. “(Tim) wrestled a good match and was in position to score, but that kid’s really strong and doesn’t get out of position.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.