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Norwalk wrestlers go 4-1 in opening round at state

By KEVIN SHIELDS • Updated Mar 7, 2019 at 11:44 PM

COLUMBUS — Macaroni and cheese won’t be on Norwalk’s Gabe Phillips’ pregame menu any time soon.

“Wasn’t the best decision,” said Phillips, who was soon losing his stomach contents after his 19-7 major decision win over Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas’ Ryan Gear at 182 pounds. “So I didn’t wrestle my best, but it’s the final results that matter this time of year.”

For the second-straight year, Phillips got off to a 1-0 start on Day 1 of the Division II individual state championships. Leading only 8-6 through the second period, the junior finally got his offense going in the final period to pull away for the easy win.

“Winning that first one almost makes you feel like you belong here,” Phillips said. “Right now, I like where I’m at. I was in a little bit of a slump in the middle of the season.”

Phillips was one of four Truckers advancing to today’s quarterfinals as things kicked off at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center. Ethan Hernandez won by pin at 160, as did Tche Leroux 285. Alec Maloney won 6-1 over Lisbon Beaver’s Garrett Givens at 220.

As a group, Norwalk sits seventh overall at 14 points.

“First match is the most important one,” Hernandez said. “Third time is the charm for me, I guess. Hopefully, I can keep it rolling (today), along with the rest of my teammates.

“Getting everyone to Day 2 is a great accomplishment for a team as a whole,” he added.

Hernandez dropped his previous two opening matches in state, including last year’s 11-3 major decision loss to Akron St.Vincent-St.Mary’s David Johnson. He got revenge four wins later, topping Johnson 5-3 in a tiebreaker for third place.

Thursday, Hernandez (51-3) didn’t give up a single point, pinning opponent James Munro (Washington Court House Miami Trace) in three minutes.

“This time, I really didn’t want to toy with anyone or take them down and let them up,” Hernandez said. “This is the match that I’ve always been looking forward to — the first match at state. It sets the tempo for the rest of the tournament.”

Up next for the Norwalk junior is Caledonia River Valley’s Hadyn Danals (48-3), who Hernandez beat 7-3 in the state duals. Phillips (41-6) will match up with Mentor Lake Catholic’s Dorian Gridiron (33-11), while Leroux (40-8) — a state newcomer — gets Hamilton Ross’ Alex Coleman (46-3). Coleman is one of the favorites in the 285 class to wrestle Saturday night.

“Honestly, I didn’t get butterflies today, I think more so it pushed me to do better,” said Leroux, who pinned Akron SVSM’s David Hook’s in 2:25. “This environment is just awesome. I love being in this kind of situation.”

Maloney (46-6), making his second state appearance, will grapple with Kettering Archbishop Alter’s Nathaniel Armstrong (21-3) in the 220 quarterfinals.

Sophomore Ethan Phillips (30-8) battled back from a 12-1 major decision defeat at the hands of Louisville’s Jax Leonard (39-6) to beat Jacob Mikesell (Greenville), 13-6, in the consolations to stay alive for a spot in Saturday’s placement matches.

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