Washington County well represented on wrestling’s biggest stage

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Warren wrestlers Kylee Tait (center) and Nevaeh Rockhold (second from right) qualified for this weekend’s state tournament at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
(Courtesy photo)

VINCENT — Five Washington County wrestlers have advanced to this weekend’s state tournament at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.

Four Warren Warriors — two boys and two girls — and one Waterford Wildcats will be representing the area on the state’s biggest stage.

For the Warriors, Kylee Tait is looking to repeat as a state champion while Nevaeh Rockhold and Aden Strahler are looking to improve on their seventh-place finishes a year ago. While seventh place netted both grapplers All-Ohio honors, both are aiming higher this time around.

“Nevaeh, she’s stepping it up at the right time,” said Warren head coach Jeff Parsons. “I fully expect her to place and improve from seventh place last year.”

Rockhold was the 130-pound runner-up at last week’s regional, falling to champion Sienna Sanborn of Hamilton Township via pin (3 minutes, 59 seconds).

Waterford’s Judson Cooper has his arm raised after winning a match during a wrestling tournament earlier this season. Cooper qualified for this weekend’s state tournament at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
(Courtesy photo)

Rockhold carries a 39-11 record this season. She’ll match up with Lakota West’s Kelsey King (17-3) in the first round Friday.

Strahler fell to Minerva’s Hunter Dietrich, 4-3, in the 175-pound district championship last week. It was just Strahler’s third loss of the season, compared to 50 wins.

“Aden’s training really hard,” Parsons said. “He’s got his sights set to place a lot higher than last year. He’s expecting to be top four and I can fully see him doing that. He’s got a tough draw.”

Strahler’s path begins against Benedictine’s Christopher Maloney (39-7). He could potentially meet DeSales’ Andrew Barford (31-9), the projected state champ, in the semis.

Strahler, a junior, will be joined at state by teammate Kartyr Armstrong, a first-time qualifier as a senior. At 215 pounds, Armstrong was the district runner-up to Indian Valley’s Jaxob Burcher, who won an 8-2 decision. Looking ahead to state, Armstrong (39-15) will take on Wapakoneta’s Jace Knous (31-3) in the first round.

“For Kartyr, it really depends how well he handles heading into the Schott for the first time,” Parsons said. “Your first time there, it’s a big, scary place. You walk out of that tunnel with thousands of people looking at you. Hopefully he can handle that pressure.”

Armstrong can lean on Strahler, Tait and Rockhold, who all have competed at the Schott and know what to expect.

For Tait, a top eight finish would make her a four-time All-Ohioan. She placed sixth as a freshman at 137, runner-up her sophomore year at 140, and won the 155-pound state title last year. Tait is undefeated this season at 51-0, and has a 70-match win streak dating back to last season. She is to repeat atop the podium.

“She’s wrestling lights out,” Parsons said. “I fully expect to see her in the state finals and win her second state championship.”

Tait opens up against Indian Lake’s Kiylee Haude (22-13) in the first round.

Warren will miss sophomore Devon Legleitner at the state meet. Legleitner had a good shot at placing in the top four at districts, but an injury in the semifinals set him back and he ended up finishing sixth.

“He tried to finish the tournament out,” Parsons said. He was in too much pain to make a run for it. He’s just a sophomore, so he’ll be back. He’ll have plenty of motivation going forward.”

Tuesday, the Warriors practiced with Waterford senior Judson Cooper, a state qualifier in Division III. Cooper was a state alternate each of the last two years, but finally got over the hump.

“It’s great,” said Waterford wrestling coach Greg Offenberger. “I’ve known Jud since he was born and coached him since he was a seventh grader. This is a big deal for him.”

Cooper was the 215-pound district runner-up last week, falling to Harrison Central’s Lucas Thomas, the top-ranked wrestler in the state, in the championship match. It was just the second loss of the season for Cooper, who heads into state with a 45-2 record.

“He went against (Malvern’s Zach Babiczuk) in the quarterfinals,” Offenberger said. “That’s the kid who put him out last year. Jud actually faced him in a tournament earlier this year and beat him, so we felt good about it.”

Cooper defeated Babiczuk via a 3-1 decision before taking down Elgin’s Tyler Pasma in the semis, 3-2. During districts, Cooper also picked up his 150th career win. He’ll square off against Keystone’s Jordan Folmer (37-8) in the first round at state.

“I really like the draw he got,” Offenberger said. “I look for him to win in the first round, and then he’s got a shot to get to the semifinals. If you make the semifinals, you can’t do any worse than sixth.

“Jud’s biggest strength is his conditioning. If he can keep a match close, he’s good enough to outlast anybody in the third period.

“He’s been such a special part of my coaching career. Getting him to this point is a really big deal. He’s come a long way since he was a seventh grader.”

The Warriors had a surprise guest at practice Wednesday night, as alum Peyten Kellar stopped by to practice with his former teammates in preparation for the Mid-American Conference Championships.

Kellar will look to make his return to the NCAA Championships as the top-seeded 157-pounder in the MAC. He has proven to be one of the top wrestlers in the country at his division, ranked 16th in the Coaches’ Poll and ninth in the RPI. Kellar has a record of 18-2 over the season and is undefeated in the conference this season.

“To have kids like Peyten and Hayley (Snyder), now Kylee, Nevaeh, they’re all leading the way,” Parsons said. “All of our kids look up to them as role models. They set the pace in the room. It really means a lot to see this program build. We’ve hade a state qualifier and placer every year since I took over, and I fully expect to continue that tradition going forward.”



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