Second chances aren’t guaranteed. They’re earned.
Olentangy Liberty’s Brakan Mead got his by earning a spot in the 113-pound championship at Saturday’s OHSAA Division I Individual State Wrestling Tournament at OSU … and he took advantage of it.
The senior, who finished the year with a 53-4 record, scored two points with a first-period takedown and held on to top Lakewood St. Edward freshman Bryce Hepner 2-0 to win his first state championship.
“I hit an inside cradle, he kind of kicked his leg back and I rolled into what we call a cow catcher,” Mead said. “If I would have swung him on his back, he would’ve been done, but he got out of it somehow.”
Hepner battled the rest of the way, but Mead, who finished third last year and nabbed state runner-up honors as a sophomore, both at 106, had an answer for every attack.
“It feels awesome to be a state champ,” Mead said. “You know, I’ve been here a couple times and it hasn’t worked out in my favor, but every year I learned a little more. I felt comfortable on the stage.
“Being a state champ, it’s something that you dream about since you’re eight, nine years old coming to the state tourney with your dad, holding his hand so you don’t get lost. This place feels huge when you’re eight, then you get here, get on the mat with 20,000 people … this is home.”
Liberty coach Mark Marinelli said Mead just did what he does best on the big stage: compete.
“He likes to wrestle and he’s not afraid of anyone,” Marinelli said. “He wanted this one bad and did what he had to do to get it.”
Mead was one of two Patriots to reach the finals. The other, senior Trey Grenier, outlasted three tough opponents on his way to Saturday’s championship showdown with Dublin Coffman’s Dom Demas — a match he dropped via a second-period pin to settle for state runner-up honors.
The top-three finish was Grenier’s second in as many seasons while Demas, also a senior, took home his second state championship with the win.
Other area state placers included Hayes senior Max Wright (third at 195), Orange junior Bryce Houston (seventh at 220) and Liberty freshman Blake Saito (seventh at 106), junior Jordan Rosselli (fourth at 120), sophomore Connor Brady (third at 152), senior Kyle Lawson (sixth at 160), junior Trevor Lawson (third at 170) and senior Mike Ezenekwe (fourth at 220).
Wright, whose only loss of the tournament came in the championship semifinals by a slim 5-3 margin to eventual state champ Anthony Perrine, a senior from Macedonia Nordonia, beat Springfield’s Joe Cochran by default in the third-place match.
“Max’s third-place performance is bittersweet to him,” Hayes coach Josh Heffernan said. “He had something to prove after last year’s state performance; so coming out with a first-round pin and finishing third was an amazing accomplishment, but his eyes were set on the title.
“That semifinal loss was crushing. He felt he was the best wrestler there, but came up short against Perrine, who he beat 3-2 earlier in the year. I was very proud of how he responded to it and finished strong. After the loss we talked about how such things can lead to future success.”
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.