By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
COLUMBUS — As his senior year in high school winds down, Covington’s Keringten Martin is certain of two things — he wants to wrestle in college and he doesn’t want to get a haircut.
After placing third at 152 pounds in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III state wrestling tournament Saturday while rocking an impressive mullet, there’s a good chance Martin will get his chance to do both.
“I’m going to wrestle in some offseason tournaments, then look at some colleges,” said Martin, who came back and won both of his consolation matches Saturday morning after falling in the semifinals Friday. “I would love to wrestle in college. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Martin began his day with a 3-1 victory in the consolation semifinals over Swanton’s Ryan Marvin, the same wrestler he had defeated in the first round of the tournament. In the match for third place, he defeated Nelsonville-York’s Noah Imboden 4-1. It was quite a different tournament from last year for Martin, who went 0-2 and suffered an early exit at the 2018 state tournament.
“I really worked on attacking after last year,” Martin said. “I really worked on my takedowns. This year, I knew I had a good takedown and I actually wasn’t afraid to use it. Last year, I would hesitate. This year, I had so much more confidence. I was wrestling at a higher level this year.”
After he had won his third-place match, Martin ripped off his headgear in celebration, revealing the mullet he’s been cultivating all season. He said it started as a joke, but at some point it became his trademark — even when coach Eric Vanderhorst had to trim it four times during the season to make it legal for Martin to compete — and he’d like to keep it for awhile.
“It started out as a joke really,” he said. “I usually don’t believe in things like luck, but when I was winning matches, I didn’t want to risk cutting it. My parents hate it. But I think when I was winning matches, they were OK with it. I may keep it for a little while.”
• Vanderhorst fourth
Covington sophomore Cael Vanderhorst (113 pounds) moved up four places on the podium from last year, while keeping alive his bid to become just the second four-time state placer in school history.
After dropping his semifinal match Friday, he rebounded Saturday morning withan 8-0 major decision win over two-time state placer Collin Yinger of Nelsonville-York. In the match for third place, he dropped a 2-1 decision to Rootstown’s Caleb Edwards.
“It was pretty fun,” Vanderhorst said of his sophomore experience at state. “It’s always fun wrestling in a big tournament and to wrestle and do well.”
Vanderhorst said he once again learned from his experience at the state meet and hopes to make it back again next season and use what he learned this year.
“I’ve got to keep my head up,” he said. “I need to work on attacking more. I’ve got to keep working on it.”
• Schroer fifth
Troy Christian junior Caleb Schroer (106 pounds) made the most of his first trip to the state tournament, placing fifth. He was one of five Eagles to place in the morning consolation rounds.
“It was great,” he said of competing at state. “I didn’t get the result I wanted, but it was still a great experience.”
Schroer opened his day Saturday with a 3-1 loss to Cuyahoga Heights’ Nolan Frye in the consolation semifinals. He was able to rebound in the match for fifth place, however, defeating Milan Edison’s Alec Homan, 7-4.
He said being able to finish the tournament with a victory will give him confidence going into his senior season next year.
“It felt really good,” he said. “It will help keep my confidence up, keep my spirits up. I wanted to win my final match here this year.”
• Awan sixth
Troy Christian sophomore Austin Awan (138 pounds) enjoyed every moment of his first trip to the state tournament.
“It’s great,” he said. “This is my first time here, and I’m just having a blast out here wrestling against the best wrestlers around. It’s been so much fun.”
Awan began his day in the consolation semifinals, where he dropped a 5-0 decision to Rootstown’s Niko Chilson. In the match for fifth place, Milan Edison’s Jordan Keegan pinned Awan in 4:39.
Awan said just being at state was a valuable learning experience.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “Anyone here can be a champ, anyone can take it home. Everyone here is a great wrestler.”
• Whitten seventh
Ryan Whitten transferred to Troy Christian for his final year of high school.
It was a good decision on his part.
“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Whitten, who placed seventh at 145 pounds for the Eagles. “I should have come sooner. It’s such a tough (training) room. They make you a better wrestler. They push you to your limit, then they push you a little more.”
In his lone match Saturday, Whitten outlasted Greeneview’s Devan Hendricks by a 3-2 decison to bring home seventh place in his first trip to the state tournament.
“It’s amazing, it’s great, to win the last match of my senior year,” Whitten said. “To go to state for the first time and place as a senior is all I could have asked for.”
• Kennedy seventh
Troy Christian freshman Troy Kennedy said he had a case of the nerves competing on the big stage at the state meet for the first time.
It didn’t show.
The Eagles’ 113-pound wrestler had an admirable showing in his first trip to state, placing seventh. In his only match Saturday, he defeated Coldwater’s Brian Chmielewski by a 7-3 decision.
“I was a little nervous, with it being my first time at state,” he said. “But I had my team backing me up. They believe in me, so I believe in myself. My team is very important. They push me hard in practice every day. If I start to break, they just keep pushing me more and making me better.”
• Baker eighth
It’s been quite the senior year for Troy Christian’s Nick Baker.
In the fall, he was an All-Ohio lineman for the Eagles’ football team, while also being voted homecoming king by his classmates.
And in the final wrestling tournament of his high school career, Baker earned a spot on the podium, placing eighth. In his lone match Saturday, he lost an 8-3 decision to West Jefferson’s Hunter Braithwaite.
“It was pretty good, for the most part, other than the fact I didn’t go as far as I wanted” Baker said of competing at state. “I fell a little short of what I wanted to do, but it was still good just being here. It’s definitely worth the hard work and what it takes to get here.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong