TROY — One slam into the mat during his first round match at the 2022 OHSAA state wrestling tournament put an early end to Ethan Cooper’s title aspirations.
Trailing 4-3 in the third period facing Niko Christo of Northmor, he suffered a fractured elbow with under 30 seconds remaining as he attempted to escape a standing hold Christo applied from behind. His tournament was immediately over while three of his teammates went on win individual state titles and the team secured its second straight Division III championship.
A year later and a renewed attitude, Cooper earned another chance for himself in Columbus after winning the D-III District Championship in the 157-pound division on Saturday at Troy’s Hobart Arena.
“This feels great,” Cooper said. “It’s been a lot of hard work in the offseason and during this season. And it’s been a grind, but it feels good.”
He pinned his first three opponents at districts to ensure his spot before prevailing in a 5-4 decision against Brayden Doran of Preble Shawnee in the finals.
The nearly year-long road to get back was worth the grind for Cooper, but it wasn’t a simple journey.
Cooper said he went into recovery mode for more than two months after his injury. When his elbow was healthier, he received sparring assistance over the summer from teammates Brayden Brown and Boede Campbell to get back the feeling and build up confidence.
The work only increased as the season began with extra practice time and lifting needed to keep recovering strength. Some tutelage from new head coach Michael Sizemore also helped.
Sizemore said he felt he connected with Cooper quicker than anyone else on the team after diving into his new role leading the team, believing Cooper sought some structure to help with his recovery efforts.
After working to get his stamina rebuilt, there was one other thing Sizemore was curious if he could help with.
“I asked him what’s the biggest deficit you feel you have, he said my confidence,” Sizemore said. “I said these two things go hand-in-hand. If you feel you can push the pace, you will feel confident in your training and that will come pretty quick.”
The schedule Legacy Christian builds doesn’t lend itself to easing into a season as it travels the country to face other schools with strong teams. That meant Cooper would be constantly pushed as he tested his elbow in matches, and Sizemore said he felt right before the GMVWA Holiday Tournament in late December was the turning point for how comfortable he became and the growth in confidence began to show.
Cooper faced Duran for third-place during that tournament and lost by a 6-1 decision. Sizemore said when he came off the mat that day, he was told by Cooper he wouldn’t let that type of performance happen again.
“And he was right. It hasn’t happened yet. He got to wrestle [Duran] two more times since and it hasn’t been close,” Sizemore said prior to their district finals matchup.
“His confidence right now, I don’t see the ceiling,” Sizemore said. “It’s crazy as for a lot of guys, you can see it so well. He’s got a bit more and I think as far as figuring out how hard you want to push him, I think he’s gonna respond.”
A 36-7 overall record with a sectional title before claiming the same at districts is quite the response from anyone.
Sometimes the elbow still bothers Cooper when he’s wrestling, but nothing he said applying some cooling cream can’t help.
He’ll be joined by five of his teammates when the state tournament begins on Friday. Together they could potentially defend their team title and make it three straight for LCA.
On his own, Cooper has some unfinished business to take care of by getting an unhindered chance at an individual title.
“It’s my goal,” Cooper said. “I’m gonna put it all out there. There’s only [four] more matches, so that’s all there is to do.”
Hendricks, Hickman get to Columbus
There’s been hundreds of victories in the careers of Ashtan Hendricks and Cohen “Hawkeye” Hickman at Greeneview, but the pair of seniors picked up wins at districts in Troy to get a first-time experience in their last opportunities.
The duo respectively got third-place finishes, Hendricks at 138 pounds and Hickman in the heavyweight division, to secure advancement to Columbus and the state tournament.
“It’s a great joy to see them get the opportunity after the amount of work they put in over the last few years,” head coach Mark Matt said. “And being senior year to cap it with a trip to Columbus, I couldn’t be happier for these two.”
It’s been two different paths for Hendricks and Hickman over their four-year careers.
Hendricks was also the last Rams wrestler to qualify for state. He did so while competing at 106 in the 2020 season, but the COVID-19 related cancellation of the tournament denied him the chance to gain the experience as a freshman.
“Sophomore year didn’t go my way and same thing last year,” Hendricks said. “This year I finally got it and I’m excited. I’m ready to go.”
Hickman has traversed through four different weight classes (195, 215, 220) on his run. He has made it to district in all four of his seasons, but bowed out each time needing a win or two more to reach a round which determines qualification.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Hickman said. “It’s been rough, but I feel like I had a good shot this year. It finally feels really good to get that off my chest.”
Both thus far have only suffered one loss in this year’s postseason tournaments and they came against the state’s top-ranked wrestler in their respective divisions. Neither will be lined up to face those individuals again until a potential state title tilt, but a final rematch is an opportunity both would relish getting.
They’re only four matches away from a potential championship now.
“We’re that close, but we’re that far,” Hickman said.
And while they two are separated quite a bit in weight and would struggle competing against one another, both Hendricks and Hickman said they’re happy to be heading to state having accomplished their goals together.
“As seniors, these are the things 10 or 20 years from now they’ll think back on and remember,” Matt said. “Now let’s make sure they’re good memories.”
Division II, III full results
Eight grapplers from Greene County advanced out of districts in D-III and three more did so in D-II.
LCA had five district champions and six total state qualifiers. Two-time individual state champion Dillon Campbell headline the list for the Knights. After winning titles at 113 and 120, he will get a chance at a third straight after being the district champ at 126 pounds.
Also winning district titles were Eli Campbell at 113, Brayden Brown at 138, Boede Campbell at 144 and Cooper at 157. Nathan Attisano was the runner-up at 120. Boede Campbell came in eighth a year ago at state at 144, and Eli Campbell will be making his third trip having come in second at 106 in 2021 and fourth at 113 last year.
Also competing for LCA was Taven Norris at 106, who won a consolation round match. Matthew Smith lost both of his matches at 215.
The Knights, which won the district title as a team by 37.5 points over Versailles, will have the second most wrestlers of any D-III school compete at state as they look to win their third straight state championship.
Greeneview as a team came in 10th with three placers. In addition to Asthan Hendricks and Hickman, Kyan Hendricks got sixth at 126.
Jett Daniels made the quarterfinals at 190 before dropping two straight to end his season. Logan Kibble at 120 won a consolation round match, as did T. J. Pierce at 144.
The D-II tournament at Wilmington High School had two wrestlers from Bellbrook and one from Carroll move on to state.
Landen Weiss got runner-up at 157 pounds for the Golden Eagles, while Vincent Hummel pulled out three straight wins after a quarterfinal defeat to advance with a fourth-place finish at 165.
Devin Caito got a consolation win at 138, as did Nick Devol at 144. Minh Le lost twice at 120.
Carroll’s Jimmy Bechter pinned all four of his opponents to win the district title at 215.
Vince Sefic made the semifinals but came up one win short of advancement at 175 as he finished in sixth. Jackson Overturf got two wins in the consolation round at 190, while Trenton Yahna got one at 132. Dylan King lost both his matches at 157.
SIX GIRLS MAKE STATE
Xenia’s Vanessa Rechterman, along with Karlie Harlow, Gwen Matt and Eve Matt of Greeneview and June Pyles-Treser and Brooklyn Newton of Carroll all qualified out of regionals on Sunday for the first ever OHSAA sponsored girls state wrestling tournament. Check out Friday’s edition for a preview of the event.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.