COLUMBUS — Two student-athletes from Fayette County made their State wrestling tournament debut Thursday at the 81st annual event at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University Thursday.
Competing at State for the first time were Miami Trace High School junior James Munro (160) and Washington High School senior Zane Nelson (152).
The first of these local competitors to traverse the tunnel and enter the arena was Munro, who entered the fray with a season record of 19-14 to meet junior Brandon Daniels (45-7) of Carrollton on mat No. 5.
Munro battled, but fell in a tough match by a 19-9 major decision.
Just a few minutes later and it was Nelson coming into the arena which was probably filled to two-thirds capacity for the opening of the Division II tournament.
Nelson lost a 13-8 decision.
This gave both Munro and Nelson about 90 minutes or so to rest, re hydrate, regroup and discuss with their respective coaches the plan of action for their next match in the first round of consolation matches.
Nelson’s next opponent would be senior Isaac Yoho (33-9) of Peninsula Woodridge who lost by pin to senior Justin Shaw of Carrollton in 4:36.
Munro’s next match would be against senior Stefan Farian (45-7) of Richfield Revere.
“The first time out there, it was kind of nerve-racking,” Munro said. “I tried to go out there and wrestle hard, I just feel like I couldn’t get off of the bottom very well. That’s what killed me, really.
“I have to put that first match out of the way,” Munro said. “I have to forget about that and be ready to wrestle hard in this next match.”
“I think everybody reacts differently when they get to the State tournament for the first time,” Miami Trace head coach Ben Fondale said. “ Some people go out and wrestle like it’s any other match. For others, it takes them a couple of minutes to realize that, ‘hey, this is the real deal.’
“There’s not a whole lot you can do except to experience it as a wrestler,” Fondale said. “You have to experience it for the first time. After the first minute or so, I think James got the first-match jitters out of the way.
“We ended up taking the kid down and finishing strong at the end,” Fondale said. “That’s already behind him and he’s ready to wrestle again.”
“Once I walked through the tunnel, I was ready to wrestle,” Nelson said. “I thought I did pretty good for my first match.
“He was just fast; he was really fast,” Nelson said of Ramirez. “He caught me off balance and he did a duck-under on me. I thought I did pretty good against him. I just have to bounce back in the consos.”
“We talked about some things this week,” Washington head coach Louis Reid said. “Like, don’t change anything. Don’t change the way you wrestle. We had a good week of practice. Collier Brown, Chris Conger, Will Baughn, Collin George — he had some good practice partners. Practice partners make who you are and they pushed him hard this week.
“It was evident in that first match,” Reid said. “That kid was a returning State-runner up. The kid has been third, second and second (at State). We were right there in the match. At one point, it was 9-6. We took him down, we reversed him.
“(Ramirez) came out and got some quick take-downs on us,” Reid said. “Then Zane got the feel for wrestling him and was able to slow him down.
“In this next match, we have to come out and execute the way we wrestle,” Reid said. “He’s wrestling like he’s been here before and you have to have that mentality.”
It was Nelson who first returned to the floor of the arena for his consolation round match against Yoho.
It was another tough, close match for Nelson. However, in the end, Yoho emerged with a 5-3 decision.
Just a few moments later, Munro came out through the tunnel and prepared for his consolation round match.
Munro fell to Farian by a 12-0 score.
“The kid was just strong,” Nelson said. “I took a shot. I got one take-down. He just held me down the whole match.
“This was a great experience,” Nelson said. “This will just help me get ready for the next level.”
“Zane is an outstanding young man,” Coach Reid said. “He’s done a lot for our program. He’s going to really be missed, he and the other seniors, they’ve done a lot for our program. I’m just proud of how much he’s matured.
“It’s great that he made it to the State tournament,” Reid said. “He finally realized that goal after being a State alternate the last two years. He seized the opportunity and wrestled really well. He lost a hard-fought 5-3 match just now. He was in the match 3-3 in the third period. He wrestled extremely well. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He left everything out there and we’re really going to miss him. He was always a leader in the room by example. I am happy to have had the opportunity to coach a kid like Zane.”
“I just kept giving up wrist control on the bottom,” Munro said. “He turned me there. I just have to get better on my feet.”
Munro stated that he will be playing baseball for the Panthers this upcoming spring season.
“We hate to see his season end like that,” Coach Fondale said. “There were a couple of style match-ups that we ran into. We just couldn’t quite find it up here today.
“James worked very hard all season,” Fondale said. “He works hard in the off-season; he’s a coachable kid. He does everything you ask him to do. He’s disciplined; he comes in and does the extra work in the mornings and after practices.
“The kids look up to him and the good news is, we have him back again next year,” Fondale said. “I know the underclassmen are happy to have him back, too. A lot of kids look up to him. A lot of them called or texted me today, asking how James was doing. They wanted me to let James know they were wishing him good luck, they were thinking of him.”
Munro ends the season with a record of 19-16.
Nelson ends his season with a record of 42-11.