Blanchester headed to Columbus for 3rd time


Reprinted from Wilmington News Journal

For the first time five years, Blanchester will return to Columbus for the OHSAA Team Duals wrestling championship.

The Wildcats put on a dominating performance Saturday in winning the Division III Region 23 tournament at BHS. Blanchester defeated Dayton Northridge 63-6, Brookville 43-31 and Bethel-Tate 58-15 in the all-SBAAC title match. Brookville was the No. 4 seed and Bethel-Tate was the No. 3 seed and an upset winner over No. 2 seed Greenon in the semifinals.

The trip to Columbus for the Team Duals and the Elite Eight is the third in BHS wrestling history. The Wildcats were defeated by eventual team champion Delta 70-8 in the 2014 Team Duals quarterfinal round and by eventual runnerup Tuslaw in the quarterfinals of the 2013 tournament.

Blanchester will be seeded No. 5 and face No. 4 Rootstown in the opening match at 11 a.m. Sunday at Ohio State’s St. John Arena. The winner gets either No. 1 Genoa Area or No. 8 Marion Pleasant in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

“It’s the highest we’ve been seeded going up there,” Nicely said.

On Saturday, the Wildcats were the No. 1 seed and dispatched Dayton Northridge in the first match. Then came a rematch with Brookville, the team Blanchester went to criteria to defeat in last year’s regional tournament.

This time around the match wasn’t so close. The Wildcats held off the Blue Devils in the semifinal round. Up next was was fellow SBAAC rival Bethel-Tate in the championship match.

The Tigers opened with a decision at 106 pounds but then it was all Wildcats.

“They did bump some guys around but I had planned on being down 18-0 going into 126,” Nicely said. “Instead of being 18-0 we were up and I was like whew.”

Levi St. John started a string of seven wins with a 10-3 decision at 113. Clayton Schirmer capped the run with a pin in 2:48.

“The fact we were wrestling Bethel-Tate in the first place tells you how good a coach Tom Donahue is,” said Nicely. “I wasn’t counting my chickens. I was still a little apprehensive.”

One of the big turnaround matches for the Wildcats came at 138 pounds. Bryan Bandow, a reserve kid up to varsity for the duals, was getting blasted 14-0. Then the scrappy freshman rallied for a pinfall victory with 51 seconds remaining in the match. Any though of the Tigers coming back to win the title were dashed.

“That was a spark,” Nicely admitted.