ASHLAND — Josh Bever’s patience paid off on the state biggest stage.
The Ashland senior became just the second wrestler in program history to win a state title with a thrilling 7-6 win over Seamus O’Malley of Lakewood St. Edward in the Division I 220-pound championship match Saturday night at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center.
The top-ranked Bever scored the winning takedown of second-ranked O’Malley with just 12 seconds remaining, much to the delight of a large contingent of Ashland fans seated nearby.
For Bever, the state crown was the exclamation point of a career that included state podium finishes during his sophomore and junior years. He was seventh at 195 two years ago and fifth at 220 last March.
“It’s a million pounds off my shoulders,” Bever said after winning his title. “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.” That lesson was reinforced throughout the postseason. Opponents would play defense to stay within striking distance, then try to complete a Hail Mary at the end of the game.
“Kids will keep their distance and block what they can and give up a few stalling calls to keep the match close,” Bever said after a first-round scare against defensive-minded Leon Webb of Garfield Heights. “It’s hard to wrestle a kid who is running the whole time and blocking everything.”
Ashland coach Sean Seder watched the same strategy play out time and again.
“That’s the irony. If you come in and no one knows who you are, they will wrestle you normal,” Seder said after Bever’s opening-round victory. “If they know who you are, then they … hold on for dear life and hope they can win by a point or two.”
It all worked out for Bever, who will play football at Ohio Northern next year.
“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.”
J.R. Carman, Clear Fork: A freshman, Carman was a runner-up at the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference tournament and advanced to the Division II Norwalk district after taking runner-up honors at the Sandusky sectional. He finished the season 27-17.
Colton Campbell, Clear Fork: The sophomore won his second straight Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference championship after placing first at 106 as a freshman. Campbell finished fourth at the Sandusky sectional, then battled to a sixth-pace finish at the Norwalk district. He finished the season with a 30-9 record.
Case George, Ashland: The sophomore was a runner-up at the J.C. Gorman Invitational in early-January and came to life in the postseason. He won a sectional title at Marysville and finished fourth in the rugged Mentor district to advance to the state meet. George was 0-2 in Columbus and finished the season at 36-14.
Dakota Blanton, Crestview: A four-time state qualifier, Blanton capped his career with an eighth-place finish in the Division III state meet. He won the 132-pound weight class at the J.C. Gorman Invitational before dropping to 126 for his run to Columbus. He won a sectional title at Plymouth and was third at the Lakota district. Blanton was 2-3 at state, finishing 43-7.
Jake Visintine, Ashland: A senior, Visintine won Ohio Cardinal Conference and Marysville sectional championships. He was a state alternate, placing fifth at the Mentor district. He finished the season at 44-9.
Jayden Jones, Ashland: Just a sophomore, Jones won championships at the Ohio Cardinal Conference meet and at the Marysville sectional. Like teammate Jake Visintine, Jones was a state alternate after placing fifth at the rugged Mentor district. Jones was 40-12 on the year.
Ethan Turnbaugh, Ontario: The younger brother of two-time state qualifier Colton Turnbaugh, Ethan capped a sensational freshman season with an appearance at the state meet. He was 1-2 in Columbus, finishing the season 43-6. Ethan was a runner-up at the J.C. Gorman Invitational and championships at the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference meet, the Sandusky sectional and the Norwalk district.
Beau Lefever, Mapleton: A two-time state qualifier, Lefever went from 0-2 at state as a junior to state runner-up as a senior. He was a runner-up at the J.C. Gorman Invitational and won championships at the Northwestern sectional and the Garfield Heights district. He was 43-3 on the season.
Gage Adkins, Ashland: A senior, Adkins placed fifth at the J.C. Gorman Invitational and won an Ohio Cardinal Conference championship. He was a runner-up at the Marysville sectional before bowing out at the Mentor district with a record of 30-23.
Michael Bentley, Shelby: A senior, Bentley placed fifth at the J.C. Gorman Invitational and was a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference runner-up. He was second at the Sandusky sectional and finished the season 41-10.
Cody Mies, Ontario: A junior, Mies was a state alternate after finishing fifth at the Norwalk district. He won a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference championship and placed fourth at the Sandusky sectional. He finished with a 31-15 record.
Tristian Pitz, Ashland: A senior, Pitz was another of Ashland’s three state alternates after placing fifth at the Mentor district. Pitz was runner-up at the J.C. Gorman Invitational and won Ohio Cardinal Conference and Marysville sectional titles. He was 34-9 on the season.
Josh Bever, Ashland: The senior won his third consecutive J.C. Gorman Invitational title and his fourth Ohio Cardinal Conference crown. He won a sectional championship at Marysville and a district title at Mentor before becoming Ashland’s second state champ. He was 53-1 on the season.
Jake Bever, Ashland: The sophomore was a runner-up at the J.C. Gorman Invitational and at the Ohio Cardinal Conference meet. He was a sectional champ at Marysville and placed third at the Mentor district, earning a berth in last week’s state meet. Bever was 40-12 on the season.