Olentangy Liberty’s Dylan Russo holds up three fingers after winning his third straight Division I state championship Sunday at OSU.

Photos by Ben Stroup | The Gazette

Delaware Hayes’ Molly Wells competes in the 115-pound championship final Sunday at OSU.

Photos by Ben Stroup | The Gazette

When asked what makes Olentangy Liberty senior Dylan Russo great, coach Mark Marinelli, who has coached more than a few great grapplers in his day, needed just one word.

“Persistence,” he said.

Sunday night at OSU’s Schottenstein Center, Russo made sure that persistence paid off, dominating Brecksville senior Max Vanadia 7-0 in the Division I 215-pound championship final to claim his third straight state championship and become the first wrestler in program history to do so.

“It means everything,” Russo said of capping his high school career with yet another title. “This one probably meant the most to me. I just wanted to make a statement and leave no doubt.”

Russo, who was dominant all tournament long, saved his best match for last. He scored takedowns in all three periods, racked up tons of ride time and prevented Vanadia from scoring a single offensive point.

“He’s gotten better and better and better,” Marinelli said of Russo. “He never stops, keeps coming at ya and isn’t afraid to wrestle anyone, either. A lot of good wrestlers don’t want to get beat. He doesn’t care. He wants to wrestle everyone that’s good … and that was his best match in the finals.”

Russo said he wanted to win for Marinelli as much as anyone.

“Coach Marinelli says it best: You can’t really do it for yourself, you gotta do it for someone else,” he said. “Obviously, I love being a three-time state champ, but every year I try and do it for someone new. First year was for my mom and dad, who put so much into me and I love them so much. Last year, my grandpa, who was a state champ in 1950 … and this year was Coach Marinelli, who never had a three-time state champ at DeSales or Liberty.”

Russo cruised into the final, pinning Edgewood’s Wyatt Walker in 2:42 to open his title defense before taking care of Riverside’s Antonio Bottiggi and Moeller’s Will Adkins by identical 9-2 decisions to punch his ticket to the title match.

Russo stole the show, but the girls were a huge part of the story as well. Competing on the same stage as the boys for the first time since the OHSAA sanctioned girls wrestling after last season, they didn’t disappoint.

Delaware Hayes’ Molly Wells left her mark on the program, battling her way into the 115-pound championship final before getting pinned by Miami East’s Kira Cole, who capped an undefeated season, early in the second period.

Wells was on fire heading into the final, pinning three straight opponents and raising the bar for a program that already has stratospheric standards.

Kelcey Dew (130), another key cog in the Pacer program, finished fourth to cap a career which included four straight trips to the podium on the state’s biggest stage.

Dew won each of her first two matches — pinning Warren’s Nevaeh Rockhold in 2:53 and taking down Alliance’s Abigail Mozden 9-4 — before falling to Miamisburg’s Cassia Zammit, the eventual state champ, in the championship semifinals.

Olentangy Orange also made plenty of noise, scoring 69 points to nab runner-up honors as a team. Only Harrison, which finished with 97, scored more. Alicia Coleman (fourth at 135), Lydia Heinrich (fifth at 155), Kascidy Garren (fifth at 170), Talia Mitchell (fifth at 190) and Surraiya Mahmud (eighth at 145) led the charge for the Pioneers.

Other state placers on the girls’ side included Olentangy’s Cori Young, who closed fourth at 120 to become the first state placer in program history.

As for the boys, standouts included Liberty’s Huggy Williams (fourth at 106), Jaxson Rosselli (sixth at 113), Brady Quillin (sixth at 190) and Broc Fitzpatrick (eighth at 157).

Finally, in Division II, Buckeye Valley’s Ripley Szanati won a pair of consolation matches to close eighth at 150.