The Chargers knew they had to navigate what normally is a tricky Nos. 4-5 matchup first, and then likely defeat top-seeded Mechanicsburg. If they were successful, a possible meeting with Sandusky Bay Conference league-foe Oak Harbor or undefeated Massillon Tuslaw could be waiting.
Edison match-by-match, methodically made its way through, defeating Tuslaw, 29-25, to win the Division III dual team state tournament championship at St. John Arena on the campus of Ohio State University.
"We have been saying since Day 1 that this was the year," Edison coach David Hermes said. "We started this a couple of years ago with the seniors we have. They have fought."
A decision win by Dalton Burns put the Chargers ahead 20-9 after 160 pounds. The Mustangs (36-1 duals) scored a 13-4 major decision at 170 to cut the lead to seven points.
But as they did throughout the day, Joey Kasper and Sam Stoll came through in the clutch. Kasper picked up his third pin of the day when he took down Rylee Knox at 182 in 2:34.
"I could not be prouder of a kid like Joey than I am," said Hermes of the senior. "He is a kid that, as a freshman, he won three or four matches. As a sophomore, he was below average. As a junior and senior, he has put in all the time in the gym he could. Joey does everything we tell him to, and now, he is out there winning big matches for us."
After the Chargers forfeited the 195-pound match, Edison turned to the junior Stoll. He scored two takedowns to take a 4-2 lead after one period and maintained that edge into the third period. He added a takedown for good measure in the third period, giving Edison enough points to clinch a state championship in just its second appearance at the state level.
"It is great and I have been waiting for this my whole life," said Stoll, the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year in Division VI at running back this past fall for the Chargers football team that made the state semifinals for the second straight year, but came up short of a state title. "It has been a dream and to have it, it feels really good. We put a lot of work in, not just this season, but the last couple of seasons."
Ray Adams took a 12-4 major decision at 106 before Gabe Mina-Vazquez registered a 15-3 major decision win for the Chargers. Dylan Burns made the score 11-0 when he took a 7-3 win at 120. Each of the three went 3-0 on the day.
"Tuslaw is a great team and we got the wins down low that we needed to," Hermes said. "There were a couple of times where I thought we had the pin and it didn’t get called. We lost some matches that I do not think we should have, but we gutted it out."
Brady Barnett — the Chargers’ lone projected state champion in the individual tournament in March — picked up a 13-2 major decision at 138 for a 14-6 lead. Edison then got a big lift when Collin Mancuso scored a 10-8 win over Elvis Konkle at 152 for a 17-9 lead. Konkle led 5-3 midway through the match only for Mancuso to score a reversal and near fall for the lead.
"Nobody thought we could beat Mechanicsburg," Hermes said. "Then we come into the finals against Tuslaw and we battled."
Edison slugged past Mechanicsburg in the semifinals, 32-31. Kasper came up with a huge pin for the Chargers at 195. Kasper scored a takedown and near fall against Alex Walton in the first period for a 5-0 lead. In the second, Kasper grabbed another takedown before pinning Walton in 2:19.
Looking for an insurmountable lead, Stoll took the match at 220. Stoll used six takedowns for a 12-4 lead after two periods. He added another takedown and a near fall in the third for a 16-4 major decision win, four points for his team, and a victory for Edison.
"Each team won seven matches, but we got the bonus points we needed," Hermes said. "We knew we were going to move our lineup coming in and thank God, we made the right decisions. All you can hope going in is that you make the right decisions."
Adams (pin, 0:37), Mina-Vazquez (16-4 major decision), and Dylan Burns (13-2 major decision) each picked up big wins for the Chargers early against the Indians. Max Wolfe bumped up to 138 and scored a pinfall in 2:30 for a 20-9 lead.
Barnett and Alex Neuberger each bumped up a weight class, and both lost, but to two of Mechanicburg's best wrestlers. That stood out to Hermes, who noted there was only one bonus point surrendered in those two matches.
"I thought we needed 16 or 18 points after the first three matches and we did not get there with 14 points," Hermes said. "I was worried, but then we held their big guns to less bonus that I thought they would get. I think more credit goes to our kids that lost than maybe some that won."
Dylan Burns got Edison back on track when he took a 5-2 decision win at 160. The Indians opened a 25-22 lead after a forfeit at 182 by Edison, but Kasper and Stoll saved the day for the Chargers.
In Edison's quarterfinal, the Chargers topped Swanton, 42-22. Adams picked up a pin in 3:51 at 106 and a forfeit win put Edison up 12-0. Dylan Burns grinded out a 5-2 decision over returning state qualifier Trevor Schaller at 120.
Wolfe scored a 5-3 decision over 2015 state qualifier Gage Pachlhofer at 132 while two-time state finalist Barnett pinned Noah Saunders in 2:15 at 138.
The marquee match of the dual came at 145 pounds where Neuberger took a 4-2 decision over 2015 state-placer Chase Moore for the Bulldogs. Neuberger scored a takedown in the first and an escape in the third for a 3-0 lead. Moore got a takedown with about 15 seconds left, but had to let Neuberger go for a escape to end the match. Neuberger defeated Moore by the same score earlier in the season.
"We wrestled well. We knew Swanton was a good team and we had seen them earlier in the year," said Hermes of a 45-30 win on December 16th in Archbold. "We knew there would be some close matches in there, that if we won, we could get a lead. We stepped up and won the matches we needed to."
Dalton Burns registered a 8-3 decision over Zack Leahy at 160, Kasper pinned Mitchell Reisinger in 2:34 at 182, and Stoll picked up a pin over Crew Oberheim in 1:45 at 195 for Edison.
"We appreciate and thank the community and the fans," Hermes said. "I know some people drove down from Milan just for the finals. Wrestling does not get a good following all the time, but our school does a great job promoting wrestling."