The first day of the 2019 OHSAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament went well for the Wildcats.
All three wrestlers survived to battle another day.
Matthew Whipkey took care of business in his first match, while his teammates experienced tough losses. However, Johnny Novak and DJ Huff each earned victories in the consolation bracket to move on to day two.
The trio combined for a 3-2 mark, a very solid record against some of the best competition in the state.
Johnny Novak found himself in a gritty nailbiter of a first round contest at 106. The junior matched up with Avon's Cael Saxton, who entered with a 45-4 record. The competitors battled to a 2-2 draw after regulation. Following a scoreless first overtime, Novak and Saxton exchanged escapes in the second and third overtimes. The two seemed destined for a fourth overtime before Saxton landed a late reversal with just seconds remaining in extra time. Novak couldn't react to the late move, suffering a 7-4 loss to drop to the consolation bracket.
Matthew Whipkey's match at 126 followed Novak's almost immediately. Whipkey started off with a bang, tallying a takedown in the first period. The senior kept working in the second, notching another takedown near the start. Whipkey ended the second stanza with a 3-point reversal after nearly pinning his foe, Jacob Reed of Lancaster, the second seed out of the Hilliard Darby district. Whipkey allowed a takedown to Reed in the third, but followed the "Viking" rule of not doing anything silly. Whipkey walked away with a 9-2 win to advance to the quarterfinals tomorrow.
The Wildcats' third match proved to be the quickest. DJ Huff, the fourth qualifier out of North Canton Hoover, drew a near impossible test in the first round – top-seeded Bryce Andonian out of St. Edward. Andonian, the champ at 138 pounds last year, showed off his lightning speed in his shots. The senior built a 14-3 by the end of the first period. Andonian finished off Huff midway through the second with a pin to send the Wildcats' senior into the consis.
Novak took the mat at about 8:30 p.m. in the first round of the consolation bracket. Novak wrestled loose against his foe, Jake Thomas of Upper Arlington. Novak took care of business in impressive fashion, rambling to a 9-1 major decision.
Huff also wrestled smart. Huff allowed only one escape point in his match against Brady Pethtel of Lewis Center Olentangy. Wrestling through an injury, Huff gritted his way to a 4-1 conquest. Huff advanced his record to 20-6 on the season.
Tomorrow, the festivities will kick off for the Wildcats at 11:20 am. Whipkey will wrestle in the championship quarterfinals against the favorite at 126 – Elyria's Dylan Shawver. The junior won his first round contest, 20-5, upping his record to 45-4 this year. Should Whipkey win, he would advance to the semifinals on Friday at 6:30 pm. With a loss, Whipkey would drop to the consolation second round against Jabari Thomas of Fairfield.
Johnny Novak and DJ Huff will be wrestling in win or go home consolation matches. Novak will do battle with the loser of Mason's Pacey Najdusak and St. Edward's Sean Seefeldt at about 1:35 p.m. Novak lost a close match to Seefeldt, 9-5, earlier this season, though Seefeldt is the favorite to beat Najdusak. At 145, Huff will face the loser of Daniel Patten (Stow-Munroe Falls) vs. Christopher Donathan (Mason) in the consolation second round.
Should Novak and/or Huff win, the next challenge would come on Friday evening. The consolation quarterfinals, starting on mat 3 at 6:30 and continuing on mats 1-3 at 8:40 pm.
Follow us on Twitter @SIHSSports for updates from the Schottenstein Center tomorrow.