The Truckers scored 140 points to finish behind champion Ashland (252.5), runners-up Bellevue (144) and Tiffin Columbian (142). St. Paul (52) was 24th in the 37-team field.
Winning their respective weight classes for Norwalk included Ethan Hernandez (170 pounds), Gabe Phillips (182) and Tche Leroux (285).
“We had a pretty good tournament,” Norwalk head coach Frank Staley said. “We finished four points out of second place and we’re without two starters. We’re real close to having our best team on the mat.”
Hernandez (17-2) was awarded tournament MVP honors after a last-second win over Galion Northmor’s Conor Becker in the title match with a single-leg takedown to win, 4-3.
Both Hernandez and Becker placed third at last year’s state championships in Division II and Div. III, respectively. Hernandez is the first Norwalk wrestler to earn the prestigious award in the tournament’s 57 years.
“Down by one, I could hear my coaches in my head telling me ‘Don’t stop, keep going, keep pushing,’” Hernandez told the OH Report. “I got that single leg, and I know a few different ways to take him down. The first two didn’t work, but the third one time was a charm.
“My coaches just keep pushing me, telling me not to quit even if I’m up 12 and about to tech fall someone,” he added. “That’s my style and why I wrestle the way I do.”
To reach the final, Hernandez won four matches. He had three straight pins in 2:49, :45 and :43, then edged Ashland’s Jakob Beverly with a 3-2 decision to reach the finals. Hernandez’s first match of the season on Dec. 11 was also a narrow win over Beverly.
Leroux (14-2) dominated his competition en route to the title at heavyweight. He opened with a pin in just 20 seconds, then pinned Bellevue’s Colton Ray in 3:32 to reach the semifinal round.
Once there, he again won by pin over Crestview’s Caden Hill in 3:54. Things went even quicker in the title match against Ashland’s Jake Bever, as he was able to quickly put him on his back for a pin in 50 seconds.
Meanwhile, Phillips (14-3) won by technical fall (17-2), pin (1:16) and technical fall (18-3) to reach his title match at 182. Facing Columbian’s Joey Simcoe, he then posted a 12-7 decision to finish atop the podium.
Also placing for Norwalk was Alec Maloney, who was third at 220, and Darion Smith, who took eighth at 160. Maloney’s lone loss was to Div. I state qualifier Caleb Wood (Fremont Ross) by decision, 10-5.
“The coaching staff is working hard to make sure we’re at our best heading into the conference and postseason,” Staley said. “Chris Estep, Jeff Phillips, Tracy Hivnor, Chris Phillips, Pete Hernandez, Jason Camp and Matt Goostree are all on the same page.
“They’re here to train winners, get to Columbus and be on the podium,” he added. “I believe Norwalk wrestling is about to do some special things.”
For St. Paul, Cam Caizzo (11-3) was fourth at 182. Aiden Naseman was fifth at 106.
Bellevue’s Gabe Alda won the title at 106. He edged St. Mary Central Catholic’s Will Blevins (11-9) in the semifinals, then shutout Bay’s Stephen Tepper in the finals, 6-0.
Also for the Redmen, Justin Mayes was second at 160 and Aiden Nunez was third at 195. Ray was fifth (285), Dylan Adkins sixth (220) and Caiden Walters eighth (126).
Plymouth wins host Invite
PLYMOUTH — The host Big Red won their own Plymouth Invitational for the first time since 2009 on Saturday.
Plymouth scored 220 points, followed by Willard 165.5, and Port Clinton with 147. The Big Red had 12 of 13 wrestlers place at the meet. Placing for the Big Red included runners-up finishers Keith Tuttle (120), Noah Trimmer (138), Zach Oney (152), Adler Horne (195) and Dylan Van Fleet (220).
Finishing third for the Big Red included Nick Roberts (106), Jacob Robinson (145) and Camden Welch (160). Fourth-place finishers included Gabe Cox (145), Jacob Echelbarger (132), and Peyton Young (170), while Breydan Allen was fifth (285).
For Edison, Casey Barnett finished in first place, while Jared Fantuzzi was second, and Cole Weilnau, Logan Lloyd and Jackson Berardi were third. Korie McKillips was fourth, and the trio of Hunter Conley, Gayvn Klima and Jacob Thompson each placed fifth.