By Josh Brown
COLUMBUS — Troy senior Alex Dalton didn’t care about the numbers.
“Different districts, you can’t compare them,” he said. “Some districts, everyone’s good. Some districts, the champ won’t see anyone good all year. At this point, though, everyone’s good.”
And even though Dalton came in as a No. 4 seed after finishing fourth in his district — ensuring that he would face a district champion in the opening round of the Division I state wrestling tournament Thursday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus — Troy coach Doug Curnes knew better than to worry.
“Whether you find yourself here as a No. 1 or as a No. 4 going up against a No. 1, all 16 guys here are really good,” Curnes said. “Those ones, twos, threes, fours? They’re all just numbers. They mean nothing.”
The Troy heavyweight showed exactly how much they meant, taking control of Westerville North’s Gage Archer early before turning him to his back and sticking a pin with 40 seconds left in the second period of their first-round match, advancing to today’s championship quarterfinal round.
And even though it was Dalton’s first match as a state qualifier, his experience at last year’s tournament made some difference.
“I came here last year as an alternate with Kevin McGraw when he qualified,” Dalton said. “I came in with some nerves, but last year I got to see the atmosphere, so I was prepared for that. When you first walk out, it’s all shock and awe. But you’ve got to look past the lights and the people.
“We had a great week of practice, and I think we prepared for this just right.”
“We got a good draw,” Curnes said. “When Kevin came here last year, we knew the kid he had in the first round was the returning champ. The kid Alex was going against kind of came out of nowhere to win his district. We knew nothing about him, and he knew nothing about us — and a situation like that, as big and strong and athletic as he is — is always going to favor Alex.”
And Dalton put that strength on display from the start. He scored the match’s first takedown with 1:10 left in the first period, then he prevented a couple of escape attempts to hold a 2-0 lead going into the second. He let Archer up to begin that period and went back to work, taking him down to go up 4-1 with 1:04 on the clock.
“You have to go out and wrestle different matches the way you have to wrestle them. Different guys call for different styles,” Dalton said. “He was a lighter-type heavyweight, so I just overpowered him. I let him up to start the second because I didn’t want to ride him out on top. I’m much stronger on my feet. And when I took him down that second time, I could tell he was giving up. He was getting tired and getting mentally broken.”
So Dalton almost casually flipped him to his back, and seconds later the pin was counted down.
“I went in for that shot in the second and got a clean finish, and that’s when I knew,” Dalton said. “On the ground, I used a move that I typically use if I want to try to finish a guy off quickly — and it worked on him.”
Dalton is the first Troy wrestler to win a match at state since Cole Cochran in 2011, who ended up placing fourth. Dalton has podium aspirations, as well.
“I wanted to come here and wrestle at the highest level,” he said. “I want to get to the top of that podium.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 440-5251 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.