By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Billy Miller once again has the chance to be the biggest of big men. The Perry heavyweight will defend his Division II state championship at the 77th Ohio State Wrestling Tournament at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
“I was worried I would get hip-tossed, pinned (before getting there) or caught,” Miller said. “Thank God I didn’t. The top 2 is great for me. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. It’s my last match.”
Miller remained unbeaten at 43-0 in toppling Evan Loughman of Thornville Sheridan, 7-1, in the semifinal Friday.
“I wasn’t really taking a lot of shots,” Miller said. “All (Loughman) does is hip-tosses and lateral drops. He wasn’t as strong as he looked. I had to take it to him.”
Miller will battle Logan Sharp (34-3) of Beloit West Branch for the title. The Parade of Champions begins at 5:30 p.m.
Three other Pirates fell in the championship semifinals.
Aaran Gessic (43-6) was toppled, 3-1, by Nate Hagan of Toldeo Central Catholic at 132. He will face Conner Nemec (37-9) of Mantua Crestwood in the consolation semifinals.
Alec Schenk (40-7) will battle Jacob Worthington (43-3) of LaGrange Keystone in a consolation semi at 182 after being pinned by Jack Harris of Urbana with 1 second left in the second period in his smiefinal matchup.
Kyle Kremiller (37-11) also fell in a semifinal, dropping a 5-3 decision to Kenny Jackson of Crestwood. He will face Bailey Faust (52-2) of Lexington.
“To make it simple, I’ve got to win,” Kremiller said. “This is my first time at state and I want people to know my name. I don’t want to end with a loss. I still have wrestling to do.”
The worst Gessic, Schenk and Kremiller can do is 6th place.
Jefferson senior Joey Baitt had his stellar career end in a 7-4 loss to Garrett Carter of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the second round of consolation wrestling at 132 pounds.
The final horn sounded with Baitt fighting tooth and nail for one last takedown. Afterward, he sat alone in a corner of the arena.
“I was just thinking that high school was over,” he said. “I’ll look at this the rest of my life.
“That last loss will push me to make myself better in anything I face in the future.”
Miller, Gessic, Schenk and Kremiller all scored quarterfinal victories.
For Kremiller, the win 9-3 victory over Clayton Bullard of Johnstown-Monroe signaled a vast improvement over what he did a year ago.
“The state semifinal is such an achievement,” he said. “I’m trying to take in the moment and keep going. I’m so jacked right now and being up here with my drill partner (Schenk) is such a great feeling.”
Schenk was more concerned about the team aspect of the Pirates’ day than he was about reaching a semifinal after a 9-3 win of Drew Kasper of Lexington.
“It’s really just 1 more step,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is state champs and the more people we get through the semis just shows how hard we work.”
Miller worked just more than a minute to pin Nate Temple of Lexington in his quarterfinal.
The Pirates’ Collin Dees lost a 2-0 heartbreaker to Mario Kastl of St. Paris Graham in the quarterfinal before his career ended with a another heartbreaker in the second round of consolations. This time he fell, 13-11, to Dominic Vaugnier of Circleville Logan Elm.
The match ended with Dees trying to turn Vaugnier for back points. He was inches and seconds from succeeding.
“I know I gave everything I had,” he said. “Maybe this happened for a reason, though I don’t know why right now. I can’t say I didin’t give it everything I had.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.