They were from his sophomore and junior wrestling season when he finished as the state runner-up both times. He hated those brackets.
So on Saturday, Barnett decided he would add to his bracket collection. Only this time, it would be with a state championship bracket. Barnett blew through the competition at the 80th annual OHSAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament finally claiming the 138-pound Division III state championship on Saturday in his third time competing at the state championship level. He might love those brackets now.
“It feels awesome,” Barnett said. “It is something I have been working on every day for the past two years. I would wake up in the middle of summer and think about a state championship. I have two runner-up brackets in my room and I cannot stand looking at them. Now I have a big one and I am just really pumped up. I cannot describe it. It hasn’t sunk in yet. I have wanted this so bad for so long.”
The desire to win put Barnett in the perfect position to start the state tournament with an automatic edge on Thursday. He started his week off collecting pins like it was his job. His opening round win came via a pin on Nick Burgard of Ashtabula St. John in 1:02 to advance him to Day 2. There, he pinned Kamron Paulus of W. Milton Milton-Union in 2:42 during the quarterfinal match to help him advance to the semifinals against Gavin Stika of Creston Norwayne.
Barnett pinned him in 1:15 to punch his ticket to his third consecutive state final match. Barnett would face a very familiar opponent in Noah Mattin of Archbold who Barnett beat in the district final a week ago.
“I knew last week when I wrestled him that I was able to get three takedowns,” Barnett said. “I started working on my feet and I was able to build a big enough lead that I was able to hold off and get that state title. Once I got up 5-0, I didn’t want to shut down and start wrestling defensive. A lot of times, bad things can happen when you are not trying to score. At the same time, I didn’t want to take stupid shots and keep good position. I scored two off of reattacks which is huge in a big match like this.”
Barnett started off with a takedown taking a 2-0 lead after the first period. After choosing the down position to begin the second, Barnett picked up another point with an escape making it 3-0 and seconds later added another takedown to open up a 5-0 lead heading into the final two minutes. After being hit with a 1-point fleeing penalty, Barnett added another takedown to take the match 7-1 for his first state championship.
The state title comes after Barnett won a Sandusky Bay, sectional and district championship while being a part of Edison’s state dual team title. He is going to have to make some space in that bedroom among all of those brackets for his medals.
“It is just icing on the cake,” Barnett said. “We have been pushing each other as a team for so long and I had a feeling if I just gave everything I had that I would be where I am now. I figured the team would be right behind me and we had such a great year. The dual team state title, five placers and three more coming back, we will have a tough team next year.”
To top it off, Edison assistant coach, and Barnett’s father, Tom Barnett was the one to place the state championship medal around his son’s neck.
“It is a great experience and as much relief as anything,” Tom Barnett said. “It sounds bad, but when you have been second twice, there is only one thing that would make it a good weekend and that is being on top. As a father it was heart wrenching. He went out and took care of business and has been focused all week. I could see the confidence in him.”
Tom didn’t notice much of a difference from the last two seasons when Barnett took runner up compared to this season’s state title run.
“I don’t think there was anything really different,” Tom Barnett said. “I just saw a more confident wrestler. He was relaxed since he had been here twice before and lost to some incredible opponents who were both 3-time state champs. I think he felt that it was his time to go get it. He has been super focused all season long on this goal. He put so much into this season. He wanted to lead the team to that team dual title.”
Tom was especially happy with Barnett’s approach to the state title match.
“He wrestled a smart match,” Tom Barnett said. “I think he really wanted to get that pin since he came in with three already. I told him before we got here today that pins are nice, but we cannot take any unnecessary chances to go for a pin. We are after a state title, we don’t need a pin to win that.”
Barnett finishes his career with 212 wins, second most in school history behind best friend Evan Cheek who had 214-career wins at Edison and one state title, just like Barnett.
“Just to know I was neck-and-neck with the best to ever come out of the Edison program is a very good feeling,” Barnett said. “I will give up any record for this state title. I will have this for the rest of my life.”
So, after finishing the season with a 59-5 record, an SBC championship, a sectional championship, a district championship, a state dual team title and a state championship, Barnett admits there is only one thing left to do.
“I am going to take some time off,” Barnett said. “I have wrestled 64 matches this year and it starts to take a toll. I am going to rest up, put some weight on and start lifting again and get ready for Division I college wrestling.”
Maybe he can take those runner-up brackets down too. After all, he is a state champion now.