Thursday, September 18, 2014

Columbus Bound
February 27, 2014 by Jason Baxter | No Comments

A wrestler each from Berkshire, Cardinal and Kenston advance for the state championships in Columbus.

Three area wrestlers will be making the trip down to Columbus, and they all head to the state capital having accomplished similar goals — making it to state tournament after near misses last season.

Seniors TJ Malkus from Berkshire and Nolan Kondik from Kenston will be joined by junior Ian Mast of Cardinal.

All three will make their first trips to the tournament; Mast and Kondik missed out on opportunities last year at districts, while Malkus was unable to start his postseason after failing a skin check prior to the Beachwood Sectional.

As the Beachwood Sectional champion the past two seasons, Mast missed making it to the state tournament the last two seasons, finishing in fifth place in 2012 and sixth place in 2013.

The junior has wrestled his way to a 39-8 record this season. He also surpassed the 100 career wins mark. Mast is now 112-25 in his career.

Mast cruised to a semifinal match with Charles Davis of Fairless; he won that match by decision, 5-0, thus clinching a spot in the state tournament. He then faced Jett Heidenbrand of Hillsdale, who entered with 38-3 record. Hillsdale was a state qualifier after finishing second at Garfield Heights in 2013. Heidenbrand would get the best of Mast with a pin at 3:42.

“I was a little nervous about the prospects of wrestling in the championship round last year, but this year I’m going to go out and do what I can,” Mast said following his wins on Friday.

Mast becomes the third Husky in the past two seasons to qualify for state tournament, joining Casey Johns and Caleb Fry, who qualified last season.

“I went down to state last year to see how the wrestling was,” he said. “After getting shot down twice, being down at state last year fueled me to win this year.

“Casey (Johns) returned to the wrestling room this past week, and even after a year off he was still getting the best of me,” Mast said with a smile.

“I’m really pleased with Ian,” his coach Jeff Zeigler said. “I thought he had a great shot.”

The sigh of relief heard over the Berkshire camp on Saturday was due to the fact that TJ Malkus had made it through to the state tournament. But in true TJ fashion, he had everyone on the edge of their seats. He advanced to the championship semifinals before losing to Colton Ullman of Loudonville, 2-0. He then had to wrestle back to have a chance at third or fourth place.

He won his first match over Ian Maund of Black River. Malkus then defeated Tim Mecklenburg of Lutheran West by decision, 5-4, to clinch his spot in the tournament.

Malkus improved his record to 34-5 on the season. He also surpassed the 100-win plateau. Malkus advanced to the state tournament in 2012, but was unable to compete due to an elbow injury.

The last Badger to wrestle at the state tournament was TJ’s brother David, who finished in third place in 2009.

Malkus said, “Advancing to the championship round on Friday felt like I had finally accomplished something, though I started to feel some doubt after last season, just because it happened twice (missing out on state tournament).”

The Badgers have had a successful season as a team. They advanced to the quarter finals of the OHSAA Dual Tournament and won the CVC Valley title and the Beachwood Sectional championship last weekend. The Badgers finished 16th as a team this weekend in a field of 50 teams.

Kenston failed to qualify a wrestler for the state tournament in 2013; the last Bomber to qualify was Matt Olson in 2012. Kondik advanced to the district tournament with a second-place finish at the Austintown Fitch Sectional, losing to Carman Rezapourian of Fitch.

Kondik had a long road ahead on the weekend, having lost in his first round to Dale Welsh of Louisville. He would go on to impressively win four matches in the consolation bracket to advance to the third/fourth place match.

It just so happened that awaiting him in that match was Rezapourian of Fitch. Kondik would drop the match, but the fourth-place finish qualified him for the state tournament.

On the weekend, Kondik improved his record to 37-10 on the season. Last season he finished in fourth place at the Sectional tournament and qualified for the district tournament.

The pairing for the state tournament were announced Sunday for the state tournament that begins Thursday. Mast will wrestle junior Garrett Hancok of Troy Christian (39-4). Malkus and Kondik will wrestle a pair of district champions — Malkus will wrestle Bowling Green district champion Devon Dunbar of Northwood (36-8), and Kondik will wrestle Hilliard Darby district champion Jake Stratton of Hilliard Bradley (43-5).

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