By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
The first loss is always the hardest to take. In the case of Lakeside junior Kyle Conel, the first loss was devastating.
After 46 straight victories and a run to the 195-pound state championship match in Division I, Conel tasted defeat for the first time this season at the Ohio State Wrestling Championships at Ohio State’s Value City Arena on Saturday.
“It hurt a lot,” Conel, who was still caught up in the post tournament happenings, said.
“I don’t think it’s hit him yet,” Lakeside coach Jerry Brady said. “The match ended only an hour so ago. Tomorrow, he’ll reflect on it. I usually try and give the guys some space to collect their thoughts.
JoJo Tayse of Massillon Perry, who claimed his second consecutive state championship beat Conel, 13-5, for the title.
“There were two guys who wrestled today and one was the state champ coming in,” Brady said. “Last week, we had his number. This week, we were a little short.”
It was the second time in as many weeks Conel had tangled with Tayse. Conel won the district championship when Tayse was injured a minute into the match.
Conel ends the season with a stellar 46-1 record, which may be the best season an Ashtabula Area City Schools grappler has ever compiled. As it is, in the short history of Lakeside, no one has ever finished as the state runner-up.
“It feels great,” Conel said. “I didn’t end up where I wanted to, but I did the best I could.”
Brady had two All-Ohioans with heavyweight Chuck Morgan also placing seventh.
“Having two guys on the podium is huge for Lakeside and huge for Ashtabula,” he said. “We’ll keep working until we’re on the top.”
Heavyweight Billy Miller (45-2) became the first state champion in Perry history.
“It was very fulfilling,” a still emotional assistant coach Chris Bezzeg, filling in for coach Dave Rowan, said. “It was a culminating event, not just for Billy, but for the whole team. Almost the whole team came down to watch, even the guys who didn’t qualify. There were 50 or 60 fans who came down to watch.
“It was a symbolic season of striving for the top and pushing through adversity.”
“Being the first state champ means a lot to me,” Miller said. “But there are more to come. The whole junior class is coming back and we all placed down here.”
He beat Alex Farrow of Whitehall-Yearling, 3-1, with a takedown in the waning seconds of the third period of the title match.
“I knew the third period was when I wanted to score,” Miller said. “I shot in the first period and I felt my shoulder pop a little, so I was a little afraid to shoot. I knew in the third period, I had to do something. I took my outside single and scored.
“There was something like 15 seconds left. I got the takedown and then went to celebrate with my coach.”
Miller lived up to the advance billing. He was predicted to be the state champion by Sean Lowe, better know as the Bucksman.
“Being predicted to be state champ doesn’t mean anything to me,” Miller said. “I just wanted to go down, do my best and have some fun. I was pressured into it, but I did go and have fun and I ended up coming out on top.”
Nick Montgomery (18-2) fell short in his bid to become to become Madison’s first state champion, dropping a heartbreaker, 5-4, to Noah Forrider of Marysville in the 138-pound final in Division I.
Miller led Perry to second place in Division II with 87.5 points. St. Paris Graham was the team champion with 155.5 points.
“I’m so happy for Dave Rowan, Cliff Brewster and Dave Sarosy,” Bezzeg said. “All three of them have been in the program for so long. I’m so excited for them.
“Second in the state says something about the kids and the program. It’s a good thing for the community.”
“We’ve never done that,” Miller said. “We’ve been making history all season. Our goal was to have a champ and we ended up second as a team. We didn’t expect to make a run up there with five guys.
“But we all stepped up. I’m happy with my team.”
All told, 11 of the area’s 15 competitors in Columbus earn All-Ohio honors by virtue of placing the top eight in the respective weight classes. Seven of those young men were victorious in their last match of the season.
In Division I, Evan Rosborough (43-3) of Riverside dominated Alex Woicehovich of Macedonia, 11-1, to claim third place at 220 pounds.
Alec Schenk and Evan Nichols, both of Perry, claimed bronze medals at 160 and 195, respectively, in Division II.
Schenk (47-6) toppled L.J. Henderson of Lewistown Indian Lake, 7-3.
Nichols (32-9) got the better of Sam Harris of Urbana, winning 13-4.
The Pirates’ Collin Dees (41-8) claimed fourth place after falling to Dustin Warner of Urichsville Claymont, 9-2, in the consolation final at 113.
Riverside’s Nick Boggs and Perry’s Aaran Gessic both claimed fifth-place awards.
Boggs (46-7) beat Andrew Mendel of Moeller, 4-2, at 132 pounds in Division I.
Gessic (27-3) slid past Stewart Oehlers of Lancaster Fairfield Union, 3-1, at 132 in Division II.
Morgan overcame a broken hand to claim seventh place.
“From our standpoint, Chuck is a really talented kid,” Brady said. “He has a good future ahead of him, I think, as a Division I college wrestler. He showed a lot of guts. The first goal was to be on top of the podium. The second is to be on the podium and the third was to make it to Columbus.
“He was a little short of the top, but he made it here and he was on the podium.”
Morgan (48-4) beat Perrysburg heavyweight Cal Bonner, 4-1, in the final match of his career.
Billy Post of Conneaut experienced a number of highs and lows weekend after losing his opener Thursday and battling through the consolation bracket.
“It was a roller coaster,” Conneaut coach Matt Bidwell said. “The kid he lost to in the first round took second and he lost (the championship match) in overtime. I had confidence he’d battle back to make the final podium.”
“It was an honor to represent Ashtabula County and the city of Conneaut well,” Post said. “I’d say that it was up and down. That first match was tough, but I wasn’t going to let it get in the way of going out and giving it my all. I had to move on and give my all in that second match and again the third match.
“After I lost the second time, I just said that seventh was better than eighth and went out to try and win.”
Post (48-5) topped Brandon Davis of Greenfield McClain, 9-2, winning with a style he’d become accustomed to over the course of the year.
“He wrestled very well,” Bidwell said. “He hit a nice high crotch and was switching off to a double.”
“It was nice (to go out having wrestled the way I had all season),” Post said. “That’s the best way I wrestle and to have him wrestle my style of match instead of his was the best way to go out.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.