COLUMBUS -- With a last-second takedown on Saturday night, Ashland senior Josh Bever earned a state title -- and forever lifted the mantle of great expectations off his broad shoulders.
A two-time placer at the state wrestling tournament, Bever (53-1) was ranked No. 1 in the Division I, 220-pound weight class all season.
When he scored the two-point takedown of No. 2-rated Seamus O'Malley of Lakewood St. Edward with 12 seconds left in the title match at the Schottenstein Center, Bever earned a 7-6 victory and silenced any lingering doubts.
"It's a million pounds off my shoulders," said Bever, who was fifth at 220 pounds last year in Columbus after finishing seventh at 195 pounds as a sophomore. "You try not to think about it during the season and try to keep it off your mind, but it's always there.
"Being ranked first is a blessing and a curse. It's letting people know you're good, but it's also putting a target on your back and its gonna make people wrestle you differently than they would," Bever said.
It's the third time Bever has beaten O'Malley (26-5), fourth last year at 220. But each match between the two was closer and the title match was in jeopardy when O'Malley took a 6-5 lead with an escape with just one minute left in the third and final period.
With about 20 seconds left, Bever grabbed a single leg and as O'Malley tried to pull away. The Arrow hung on grimly and finally earned the winning takedown as his family and fans erupted in the stands just a few feet away.
Bever started fast in the match, taking a 2-0 lead less than 30 seconds into the title bout.
“All we’ve been reiterating all weekend is tempo, tempo, tempo,” Bever said. “You can’t sit. If I don’t wrestle my match, then I’m not the best at the end of the day.
"At the end of the day, it just came down to me controlling the match (and) pushing the tempo. I'm freaking gassed. That's probably the fastest tempo I have pushed all year. It wears on you. You just have to push through the pain in the third.
"It really comes down to how bad you want it. At the end of the day, I wanted it worse than he did," Bever said.
"I'm just happy to end on a win. That's the last match I will ever wrestle," said Bever, who plans to play football at Ohio Northern University this fall.
Bever's title is also the first state title for his coach, Sean Seder, who has guided the Arrows to four straight Ohio Cardinal Conference titles and three straight J.C. Gorman Invitational crowns.
It's only the second wrestling title in Ashland history, the first one by Crestview transfer Wyatt Music in 2013 for former AHS coach Ted Tonn.
"It's an awesome feeling," Seder said. "Obviously, Josh is an amazing kid. Any time you get the opportunity and privilege to coach someone like him, it's pretty special.
Seder said he couldn't pick anyone better to become his first state champ.
"Josh is a phenomenal athlete, great student, great overall person. He's gonna be successful in life in whatever it is he does. He just models the right behavior. You couldn't ask for a better kid to kick off the state titles," Seder said.
0-2 TO RUNNER-UP: Mapleton senior Beau Lefever, 0-2 at the state tournament last year, showed a huge improvement this season.
He advanced to the state title match at 152 pounds before losing to Genoa Area's Kevin Contos in Divison III on Saturday night.
Contos, sixth last year as a sophomore in the same weight class, earned the championship with a 9-2 win, never allowing Lefever to get untracked.
″(Contos) was just hard to take down and he was really, really good on defense,” said Lefever, who also said he plans to wrestle in college, though he is undecided where he will attend. “He was hard to hold down on bottom. He had a solid base and he was good.”
Mapleton coach Corey Kline, who won two state titles as a high school wrestler, said the one-year improvement shown by Lefever is rare.
“Normally, they qualify and then they might place, then they might take a chance at winning it,” he said.
“To come in here and go 0-2 and then jump right to the title match ... we started talking earlier in the season as a coaching staff that the work he did over the summer raised his level quite a bit.
“About four weeks ago, I told our staff, ‘He might be able to do some serious damage at the end of the year.’ and he’s just solid.”
Lefever said he would always remember the title match.
“I thought it was really cool and I’m blessed to have had this opportunity,” he said. “I’ll probably reflect on that match a lot and think about it for the rest of my life. I’m just really proud that I was able to get there and I thank my coaches for helping me get there.”
REPEAT PLACER: Crestview senior Dakota Blanton finished eighth in the Division III, 126-pound weight class, falling to North Lima South Range's Kyle Keenan, 4-2, in his final match.
Blanton was the only Richland County wrestler to earn a podium finish in Columbus this season.
Cougars' coach Steve Haverdill said Blanton (43-7) had a great career, including a seventh-place state tournament finish last year.
"He'll look back later and realize the career he had," Haverdill said. "He just ran into some tough, lanky kids who hovered over him. (Eighth place) is not what he wanted, but there's a lot of kids who would love to be in his place."
Blanton transferred into Crestview after earning state tournament slots while wrestling for South Central. Haverdill said Blanton helped set the tone for the Cougars.
"He showed what needed to be done, some of the mentality that we were preaching all along. Sometimes with coaches telling you, it's in one ear and out the other. But when it's someone who has been there before, it's 'OK, let's follow in his footsteps.' That's going to help us build for the future."