Dakota Blanton

Crestview's Dakota Blanton controls Northmor's Gavin Ramos during the seventh-place match at 126 pounds at the state meet over the weekend at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center.

OLIVESBURG — The way Crestview’s Dakota Blanton sees it, the journey to the top of the state podium in 2019 began early Saturday afternoon.

The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Blanton finished seventh at 126 pounds at the Division III state meet at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center over the weekend. It was the first podium finish in three trips to state for Blanton, who qualified each of the past two years at South Central before transferring to Crestview this season.

The junior was 3-2 in Columbus and capped the weekend with an 8-6 win over Northmor’s Gavin Ramos in the seventh-place match. He finished the season 30-8 after sitting out the first half of the year as per the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s transfer bylaws.

“I knew I had to work harder than I did the last two years. I was looking at rankings too much and didn’t come prepared,” Blanton said. “This boosts my confidence and gets me ready for (next year’s) title run.”

Blanton dropped his opening match to eventual fifth-place finisher Devan Hendricks of Jamestown Greenview on Thursday before bouncing back with a 13-3 major decision over Brooklyn’s Seth Majewski in the consolation bracket later that evening. He secured his spot on the podium with a 19-4 major decision over West Jefferson’s Joey Buckland on Friday morning. He fell to Manchester’s Zach Larue in the consolation quarterfinals before winning the rubber match with Ramos — the two split two earlier meetings this season.

“Dakota is the one who has been here before, and now he has been on the podium, Crestview coach Steve Haverdill said. “He can continue to build off that.

“That was the first step when he came. We wanted to get him on the podium. Now the focus is getting to the top of that podium.”

Blanton’s season didn’t begin until the J.C. Gorman Invitational in early-January, where he finished sixth. He won a Firelands Conference title at 132 before dropping to start the postseason. He pinned his way to a sectional title at Plymouth and finished third at the Defiance district, falling to eventual state champ Cole Mattin of Delta in the district semifinals.

That performance set the stage for last weekend — and beyond.

“We’re going to see an even greater work ethic out of him, not that he doesn’t work hard now,” Haverdill said. “He’s going to be so focused and his mind is going to be on one thing and that is the top of the podium.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.