Norwalk sending five to state

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Mar 3, 2019 at 2:14 AM

NORWALK — Respectfully, Ethan Hernandez has seen enough of Bellevue’s Justin Mayes.

The feeling is likely quite mutual.

In the 160-pound Division II district championship match on Saturday, the Norwalk junior faced Bellevue sophomore for the 11th time in their careers.

And similar to all of their past meetings, it again went right down to the final seconds. And also like each past meeting, Hernandez also won.

He used a knee pick to score a takedown in the final seconds of overtime to top Mayes, 3-1, to improve to 50-3 this season and finish as the top wrestler in his weight class inside his home gym at Norwalk High School.

“Yes, I am very tired of seeing him and I never want to see him ever again,” Hernandez said of Mayes (42-5). “After 11 times of wrestling, we know everything about each other, no if it’s matter neutral, down, bottom or top. There is nothing we don’t know about each other.”

Hernandez is one of two district champions and five state qualifiers for the Truckers, who finished third with 124 points behind Perkins (149) and Wauseon (140.5) in the 45-team field.

Gabe Phillips (182) also had a thrilling district title win, while Alec Maloney (220) was second, and both Ethan Phillips (152) and Tche Leroux (285) were both third to also advance to state, beginning Thursday at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Last season, Hernandez beat Mayes by scores of 1-0, 3-1 and 3-1. This season, it’s been 6-5 (at the SBC championships) and another 3-1 decision on Saturday. They were at different sectional sites last weekend.

“On bottom, we just let each other out,” Hernandez said. “At neutral we can’t do anything except hand fight — because I know his shots and he knows mine.

“It’s just whoever decides to put it out at the last second, and so far it’s been me, I guess,” he added. “Very fortunate, and very happy about today and how it went.”

The match was scoreless after one period, and Mayes earned the early escape in the second period, and held it through the next two minutes to take a 1-0 lead into the third period.

Starting from bottom to begin the period, Hernandez got out in seven seconds to tie it at 1-1. From there it was a stalemate, forcing the extra session.

About 18 seconds into the OT, Hernandez just missed on a knee pick attempt — but almost immediately went back to it and landed it. The state placer (third) from last season was then able to secure the two points with his feet still inbounds, and Mayes just on the edge of the circle.

Bellevue’s coaching staff protested the call, but it was upheld.

“He shot and I had an undertook,” Hernandez said of the final sequence. “I tried to make him react with a knee pick and a high crotch, but he didn’t react to anything —so I just went for it again and it worked out. The knee pick worked and got me the two.”

Hernandez pinned Napoleon’s Austin Valdez (1:21) and Fairview’s Ian McClintock (:35), then won a 10-3 decision over Columbian’s Kaeden Hatlay to reach the final.


Phillips wins thriller

There was more familiarity to go around in the 182-pound final between Gabe Phillips and Perkins’ Tai Carter.

On Feb. 16 at the SBC championships, it was Carter coming away with a 7-2 decision in the title match over Phillips. Last week, Phillips came away with a 5-2 decision — setting up Saturday’s rubber match between the two.

Carter (41-12) led throughout, including a 3-0 lead with 1:48 left in the second period. But Phillips started to turn things around in the final minute of the second, as a takedown at the 44-second mark — and just before the buzzer — gave him a 4-3 lead into the third.

Carter got his escape point to even things up at 4-4, as Phillips had just missed an opportunity for two more points.

He didn’t miss the next time.

Phillips improved to 40-6 by grabbing Carter with a single-leg, then following through with a takedown with 15 seconds left in the 6-4 win.

“I’ve been taking my time a little more, not pushing things,” Phillips said. “At SBCs, I pushed a lot. I’ve been taking my time. We’re really good friends. Even though we wrestle each other a lot, we’re still friends, because he’s just a great guy.

“Tai and I go after each other on the mat, but off the mat, we’re friends,” he added. “Now, we just hug it out, it’s good. It’s just a fun little rivalry we have against each other.”

Phillips pinned Mason Saeler (St. Marys Memorial) in 2:33, had a 14-4 major decision over Toledo Central Catholic’s Mason Schmoekel — then pinned Ontario’s Cody Mies in 2:31 to reach the title match.


Maloney just misses title

Right idea, wrong time.

Norwalk junior Alec Maloney had rallied his way into a 7-6 lead in the closing seconds of the 220-pound district title match against Bowling Green’s Max Fausnaugh.

But in looking to turn his opponent further on his back to secure the win, Fausnaugh (41-4) was given an opening — and rolled through to put Maloney on his back in the final 17 seconds of the match.

That allowed him to get four points total in the move — and a 10-7 decision over Maloney (45-6).

“I feel like this is just going to build me up more for state (this week),” Maloney said. “It will light a fire under me. I’ve been battling with a cold lately, but I hate making excuses. I could definitely tell I just wasn’t at my best today.”

Maloney opened with a 33-second pin of Clyde’s Ben Seavers, then need just 1:33 to pin Defiance’s Adalberto Vega. He then scored a 13-5 major decision over Kenton’s Noah Eikenbary to reach the finals.


Ethan Phillips fights through

A nagging shoulder injury midseason briefly derailed Norwalk sophomore Ethan Phillips.

Phillips lost a heartbreaking 4-3 tiebreaker semifinal match to Clyde’s Derick Coleman, after the two had split the matchups at the SBCs and sectional.

That sent the younger Phillips down to the consolation semifinal, where he needed a win to assure a spot in the top four and become the third member of his household to reach the state championships for Norwalk.

Facing Port Clinton’s Mason Elson, Phillips took charge early, and controlled a 9-4 decision to advance. He finished third with an injury default win over Ontario’s Colton Turnbaugh.

“I fell short last year, so it feels good to go with them last year,” Ethan said. “I just had to forget about the loss, it was in the past. It was a matter of focusing on wrestling hard for the next one.”

Phillips (29-7) opened with a pair of pins over Benedictine’s Joe Marrone (2:45) and Maumee’s Tyler Wilson (4:30) before falling to Coleman in the semis.


Leroux battles back

Giving up roughly 60 pounds in nearly every heavyweight match, things are always a bit uphill for Norwalk senior Tche Leroux.

But after a tough 5-4 loss in the quarterfinals on Friday vs. Toledo Central Catholic’s Jacob Jackson, it was an even taller task to have a chance to advance to state.

“After I lost to him, I decided I wanted to walk home and really think about what had happened and what I could change,” Leroux said.

The change certainly worked.

Leroux tore his way through he consolation bracket, pinning Bellevue’s Colton Ray in 2:27, Holy Name’s Josh Tait in just 22 seconds — and then in the winner-to-state-match — pinning Defiance’s Jonah Schlegel in 54 seconds.

That led Leroux (39-8) back to a rematch with Jackson in the third-place match. It was scoreless after one period, but Jackson took a 4-2 lead at the 1:09 mark of the second.

Leroux quickly got an escape in seven seconds to cut the margin to 4-3 entering the final period, and he instantly got out from his grasp again to start the third and tie it up at 4-4.

The two hand fought for the better part of the next minute, until finally Leroux earned another escape with 57 seconds left — then held off Jackson at every turn to flip the 5-4 decision in his favor this time.

“Coming into today, I just wanted to get revenge on everyone,” Leroux said. “I had to have that attitude the whole time.”


Bellevue sends three

Mayes, who placed at state as a freshman, was one of three to make it out for the Redmen. Gabe Alda (42-5), a sophomore and sophomore Collin Corapi (170, 32-10) will join him.

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