By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Kyle Conel is one victory away from realizing the dream – the very dream he fell a single victory shy of almost exactly a year ago.
The Lakeside senior has reached the 195-pound Division I championship match at the 77th Ohio State Wrestling Tournament.
“(I can enjoy it) for a second,” he said. “But then I’ve got to come back (today) and be ready. I have to be even more ready than I was today.”
Conel remained unbeaten at 52-0 in beating Jonathan Jones of Cincinnati St. Xavier, 8-5, Friday to reach the championship.
He will face TeGray Scales (41-1) of Cincinnati Colerain, who he beat last year in the state quarterfinals, for the title.
The Parade of Champions will begin at 5:30 p.m.
In a 20-second flurry to end the second period, Conel scored a takedown and a pair of back points but allowed an escape at the end of it to take a 6-3 lead with 2 minutes left.
Lakeside coach Jim Brady saw Conel had an opening and made it clear he needed to score.
“I did see it coming,” Brady said. “He had the kid bent over backward. Any time you can end a period with a 4-point move, let’s face it, that’s the end game right there.”
“I definitely knew I did have to score,” Conel said. “Coach was correct that I had an opportunity to get a takedown at the end of the period. It would give him less chance at an escape, which he did get.”
Through the final period, Conel had set himself up to just have to avoid a mistake.
“I just had to make sure I was wrestling smart and I wasn’t going to give up any big-point moves,” he said.”
Nick Boggs of Riverside reached the consolation semifinals at 132 with a 3-2 victory over Jason Spencer of Massillon Perry.
“I had wrestled him in the district finals,” Boggs said. “I knew he would defend the whole time and try to get 1 shot off then defend it. I had to take a shot when I got the opportunity. I got (the takedown) and it felt good.
“It was frustrating. All of Massillon Perry’s guys have good stamina. You’re not going to break them handfighting. I’ve faced a lot of guys who are defensive down here, so I had good practice. I knew what I had to do to win.”
Knowing what had to be done and doing are what made it possible for Boggs to advance.
“That’s why he’s still alive,” Riverside coach Dan Kazmerek said. “He executed the gameplan and it worked out.”
Boggs (44-4) will battle Nolan Whitely (40-5) of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit. He can finish no worse than 6th.
Bo Ransom (42-4) of Madison will also be wrestling for no worse than 6th. He beat Mario Graziani of Boardman, 1-0, to reach the consolation semis at 145.
His next bout will be with Zac Carson (46-1) of Uniontown Lake.
Following 3-1 a loss to Gavin Nelson of Oregon Clay, Ryan Montgomery (27-7) of Madison will wrestle for 7th place at 138. He will face Adam Salti (41-13) of Olmsted Falls.
Conel began his day with an exhausting 11-9 victory over Kadin Llewellyn of Perrysburg in the championship quarterfinals.
“You’re going to have tough matches,” Brady said. “They’re not all going to be beaters. I don’t think Kyle came in expecting to pin everybody. He knew there would be tough matches.
“It’s good for him. You saw how loose he was and we talked about it. Maybe he was a little looser than he needed to be.”
At one point, Conel had led, 9-4, and seemed to be in complete control of the action. But Llewellyn’s style wore him down a bit. After giving up a pair of takedowns and being kicked free twice, Conel’s advantage stood at 11-9 with 5 seconds left in the final period.
“That’s what you’ve got down here,” Brady said. “It’s all about styles.
“That kid was a smart wrestler. Kyle couldn’t sucker him into turning that hip. He was hoping (Llewellyn) got his hips too high so he could land on top for the points.”
Brady made sure Conel knew exactly what to do in the waning moments.
“Run,” Brady shouted. “Run from him. Stay away from him!”
The instructions were perfect strategy.
“At the end, with 5 seconds left, I made sure to tell him to run. He had no stalling calls (against him). He could give up a point and still win.”
Also in the quarterfinals, Boggs fell, 6-3, to Bobby Smith of Hilliard Davidson and Ransom lost, 7-1, to Kade Kowalski of Dresden Tri-Valley.
Both rebounded with victories in the second round of consolation wrestling.
Boggs pinned Trey Grenier of Powell Olentangy Liberty in 5:36.
“It was really important (rebound fast),” Boggs said. “I know I can’t accomplish my main goal, but I can still get 3rd. It’s a big improvement from last year. It shows how much I still care that (the loss) doesn’t affect me.
“I’m still in it.”
Kazmerek liked Boggs’ approach.
“He was intense,” Kazmerek said. “He was very intense. It was nice to see. Now, he needs to finish with that intensity.
“There’s no reason he can’t finish 3rd.”
Ransom beat Zach Defrane of Medina, 3-1.
“It’s tough to lose a match,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking. But you have to refocus and set your goals back in place.”
Though it wasn’t artful, Ransom was happy.
“When it comes to the state tournament, it doesn’t matter if it’s pretty,” he said. What matters is that you advance.”
Getting the win is exactly what Wirtzberger expected of Ransom.
“Bo gets better the more matches he wrestles,” the coach said. “He gets better as the day goes on.
“A lot of seniors would have put it in the bag. I had no doubt Bo wouldn’t.”
Ryan Montgomery continued his long schlep back toward 3rd place following an opening-round loss at 138 pounds with a 7-4 victory over D.J. Campos of Trenton Edgewood in the second round of consolations.
“After each win, I’m a little more motivated,” he said. “Seeing my brother come here for 4 years, it made me want to be where he is and be successful.”
Wirtzberger echoed what Ransom had to say about winning ugly after Montgomery gave up a late takedown.
“It doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win,” he said. “We like to finish on top, but that was smart. That kid likes to throw people and put them to their back and (Ryan) bailed giving up just two points. That was smart wrestling there.”
Montgomery talked about what it would take to wrestle all the way back to take 3rd.
“You’ve got to stay mentally focused,” he said. “You can’t let 1 match ruin the rest of the weekend. I said it earlier. It’s not about how you start, what’s important is how you finish.
“What people look at is if you keep winning and how high you get on the podium.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.