COLUMBUS — Josh Bever dodged an opening-round bullet Thursday at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
Ashland’s projected state champ at 220 pounds, Bever twice found himself looking up at the lights atop Value City Arena before working off his back and pinning Garfield Heights’ Leon Webb in the third period.
Webb put Bever on his back in the second period and again in the third period before Bever quickly turned the tables.
“He caught me the first time. I was rolling through on a cradle but I just got a little sloppy on my technique and he caught my leg,” Bever said. “I just got lucky on that one. I shot myself in the foot a little that time.
“Some things didn’t go my way, I guess, and I got a little sloppy. If I would have lost that match it would have been on me.”
A senior and two-time state placer, Bever (50-1) will wrestle Clayton Northmont’s Bryan Heyward in the championship quarterfinals Friday morning. Heyward (40-7) advanced with an 8-5 win over Dublin Coffman’s Riley Ucker.
Not surprisingly, opponents tend to play it safe against Bever.
“The irony is if you come in and nobody knows who you are, they’ll wrestle you,” Ashland coach Sean Seder said. “If they know who you are, they hold on for dear life and hope they can win by a point.”
The cautious approach can be frustrating.
“It’s hard to wrestle a kid who is running the whole time and blocking everything,” Bever said.
Bever was one of three area wrestlers to pick up opening-round wins. In Division III, Crestview’s Dakota Blanton picked up a 6-4 win over Marion Pleasant’s Carter Chase at 126 pounds while Mapleton’s Beau Lefever pinned Coshocton’s Jackson Unger at 152.
A four-time state qualifier, Blanton (42-4) will wrestle Legacy Christian Academy’s Gavin Brown in the quarterfinals. Brown beat Kirtland’s Konnor Duncan 15-5.
“I’ve been down here before and I’ve wrestled in tight matches,” Blanton said. “I’m wrestling a freshman or sophomore and they’ve still got the nerves.”
Lefever (41-2) will meet Blanchester’s Clayton Schirmer in the championship quarterfinals. Schirmer (51-4) beat Rossford’s Carlton Roberts 4-2.
“If I keep wrestling solid and keep the pace high, I should be good for the rest of the tournament,” said Lefever, who was 0-2 at 145 pounds at last year’s state meet. “I just feel more confident in myself and I’m not scared anymore.”
Lefever’s teammate, Jeremy Tracy, dropped his first match at 145 but stayed alive with a consolation win Thursday night.
All three of the area’s Division II qualifiers, Mansfield Senior’s Josh Lyons and Ontario’s Colton and Ethan Turnbaugh, were 1-1 Friday and are still alive.
“We’re going about our business the same way, no matter if we win or lose,” Mansfield Senior coach Zach Brumfield said. “(Lyons) is no stranger to adversity.”
Ashland 120-pounder Case George and 285-pounder Jake Bever dropped both of their matches Thursday.