Orange gave its fans something to cheer about early on, but the Liberty wrestling team flexed its muscles after falling into a 15-6 hole to notch a convincing 50-26 win in Thursday’s OCC opener in Powell.
The nationally-ranked Patriots, most recently as high as 10th in the country in the InterMat High School Rankings, won six matches with first-period pins. Mike Ezenekwe (195) picked up a quick six points to open the scoring, forcing the Pioneers’ Adam Kreutzer to the mat in less than a minute. Other Liberty pins belonged to Blake Saito (113), Brakan Mead (120), Ryan Stewart (132), Jake Eberly (145) and defending state champ Kyle Lawson (170).
The Patriots also got wins from Dante Leary (126), who handled the Pioneers’ Matt Hipsher 10-4; and Zach Furnas (138), who won via tech fall.
Orange claimed the early lead thanks to solid showings from Bryce Houston (220) and the duo of Zack Stevenson (285) and Cole Jackson (106). Houston powered past Liberty’s Bryce Kuhl 11-6 while Stevenson and Jackson notched first-period pins to make it 15-6.
Other Pioneer point producers included Connor Evans (152) and Logan Broskie (160). Evans won via tech fall while Broskie earned a first-period pin.
Big Walnut 54, Newark 21
The Golden Eagles notched a solid league win Thursday, rolling past the visiting Wildcats 54-21.
BW winners included Bailey Munday (126), who pinned his Newark opponent in 56 seconds; Cole Foster (132), who nabbed a 6-1 win; Josh Halbakken (145), who outlasted his opponent 10-8 in OT; Carson Dearth (152), who ended his match with a pin less than a minute in; and Apple (220), who powered his way to a first-period pin.
Hilliard Darby 43, Hayes 28
The Pacers dropped their league opener Thursday night, falling to the visiting Panthers 43-28.
Hayes standouts included Zach Raquepaw (120), who pinned his opponent in 3:40; Zach Williams (126), who earned an 8-3 win; Mason Sutander (145), who won via tech fall; Zane Hypes (170), who won 15-3; and Tyler David (195), who notched a 9-1 win.
Buckeye Valley lost the turnover battle and was outrebounded 44-29 en route to a 68-41 MOAC setback Thursday at North Union.
The Wildcats made the Barons pay in both respects, pouring in 14 second-chance points and 13 points off turnovers.
North Union led 17-12 after one quarter and, after a competitive second kept Buckeye Valley in striking distance at the half, the Wildcats won the third 20-10 and the fourth 16-6 to smooth out the scoring summary.
Morgan Scowden led the Barons with 13 points to go with two rebounds, two assists and a steal. Alaina Radcliffe was also steady, finishing with 10 points and four rebounds, while Logan Hatcher chipped in eight points, six rebounds and three steals.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.