The second day of the OHSAA's 82nd annual Individual Wrestling State Tournament featured mixed results for the Wildcats.
On the positive side, Johnny Novak advanced to the seventh-place match on Saturday morning.
On the negative side, the wrestling careers of two Saint Ignatius seniors ended with losses.
Friday's events started at 11:30 am at 126 pounds in the championship quarterfinals. Matthew Whipkey did battle with top-seeded Dylan Shawver of Elyria. Whipkey worked his tail off in the match, but it was not to be. Shawver captured a 24-9 victory via tech fall, advancing to the semifinal and sending Whipkey to the consolation bracket. In consolation second round, Whipkey came up against Fairfield's Jabari Thomas. Whipkey again battled hard, but Thomas won the day. Thomas walked away with a 20-5 tech fall victory to end Whipkey's 4-year career.
DJ Huff took the mat for the Wildcats at 145. In the second round of consolations, Huff took on a familiar foe – Daniel Patten of Stow-Munroe Falls. Patten and Huff faced off in Districts in a close contest. Patten emerged with a narrow 5-2 win to steal third at Districts. The result, unfortunately, repeated itself at States. The two fought to a 1-1 tie after regulation, only scoring off escapes. In overtime, Patten managed to tally two points, ending Huff's Saint Ignatius career in heartbreaking fashion.
Novak next took the mat at 106. In a rousing contest, Novak matched up with Mason's Pacey Najdusak. Novak and Najdusak traded points and positioning, with the score low and close the whole way. At the end, Novak enjoyed a slight 4-3 advantage, enough to move on in the consolations and guarantee a placement.
Novak rolled into the consolation quarterfinal on Friday night. The battle-worn junior took on Copley's Zane Van Voorhis. The score stood at 0-0 after one period, with the two jockeying for positioning. Van Voorhis opened the scoring at the 1:26 mark of the second stanza with an escape after plenty of work. The freshman managed to tally two more points in the second period on a takedown, taking a 3-0 lead into the third. Novak looked to gain the upper hand for all of the third, but Van Voorhis gave him no room to work with. At the end of the match, Novak stood on the wrong side of a 5-0 decision, sending him to the seventh place match on Saturday.
Before looking ahead to tomorrow, we need to recognize two incredible Saint Ignatius seniors.
Huff finishes his senior season at 20-6. As someone who has covered hundreds of student-athletes, few are as special as DJ Huff. Injury issues have plagued Huff throughout his time at Saint Ignatius. But you never saw Huff moping. Instead, Huff always went out of his way to help his teammates, acting almost as another coach. Huff endured pain in recovering from every injury. Huff worked incredibly hard to earn each victory on the mat, both in and out of season. With a full academic ride to Northwestern, Huff's ceiling is limitless.
Similarly, Whipkey has demonstrated great skill and work ethic this season. Whipkey overcame the odds to make it to States, and performed well during his time in Columbus. Just like Huff, Whipkey will be missed.
As for tomorrow, Novak will battle for seventh place against Avon's Cael Saxton. The contest offers plenty of intrigue – the bout is a rematch of the first round. That match took three overtimes to be settled, on a late reversal by Saxton. Novak will be looking to avenge the loss at 11 am on mat 3.
Good luck to Johnny tomorrow!