“I definitely feel pressure,” said the Edison freshman and younger brother of defending Division III 138-pound champion Brady Barnett. “I just want to do better than he did as a freshman.”
Brady Barnett finished his Chargers’ career with 212 victories — second in school history behind Evan Cheek’s 214 — which included a 59-5 mark as a senior where he reached his third consecutive state final, finally earning his elusive state title in his third try. He was sixth at state as a freshman prior to finishing as a state runner-up both as a sophomore and junior.
Many have Casey Barnett — a Sandusky Bay Conference, sectional and district champion — is among the favorites to contend for the Division III, 106-pound title as the state individual tournament starts today at Ohio State University’s Jerome Schottenstein Center.
The younger of the Barnett brothers enters the tournament at 55-2. He placed fourth at last year’s junior high state championships at 102 pounds.
Barnett will open up with West Salem Northwestern’s Dylan Martin (32-6). A win in his first match could match him up with Nelsonville-York’s Collin Yinger — a fourth-place finisher at last year’s state tournament — in the quarterfinals.
“I beat him (Yinger) twice this year, but he’s tough,” Casey Barnett said.
Older brother won’t be far away, though, if advice is needed.
“Brady will be there,” Casey Barnett said. “He’s the first to critique my matches and give me pointers.”
One thing his coach isn’t concerned about are his nerves.
Unfortunately in Ray Adams’ or Sam Stoll’s cases, state has been far from a typical tournament. Both had high expectations a year ago, and fell short of those goals, placing seventh at 113 and 195 respectively. This year, they’re among the title favorites again at 113 and 182.
“I don’t think the nerves really play that big of a factor,” Stoll said. “If you just go out and wrestle your match, that’s all you can ask for. You just got to take it match by match, not worry about the bracket or the rankings. You just need to get the job done.”
Stoll was fourth as sophomore at 170, putting him high in the state rankings throughout his junior season.
“Last year I was big in looking at the rankings and who I might be wrestling, which I think came back to bite me in the butt a bit,” he said. “This year, I’ve just tried to wrestle, and have fun with it.
“Lesson learned,” he added.
Stoll was 52-3 this year, winning SBC, sectional and district titles, mostly with ease. His confidence is at an all-time high.
“I have a lot more confidence going into state this year than any year in the past,” Stoll said. “Last year was a wake up call and it really hurt me not to place higher than I did.”
Adams, a junior, is 49-8 this year, but admittedly struggled at districts, taking third.
“I know what other people expect of me. You just have to try and push your limitations and place as high as you can,” Adams said.
The other newcomer to the state-qualifying group is junior transfer Jordan Keegan (30-3) — a cousin of Adams — at 138 pounds. With Brady Barnett graduating to Cleveland State, a spot opened up that the former Elyria wrestler was able to take advantage of.
Keegan’s only losses were to the No. 2 and No. 3-ranked wrestlers at his weight class. An SBC champ, he was third at districts.
“My offense has gotten so much better with the work Coach (Davey) Hermes and my past coaches from Elyria had me work on,” Keegan said. “I’m ready to wrestle this week. I’m looking forward to it.”
Leroux seeks more surprise
Monroeville heavyweight Trey Leroux (34-2) entered the state tournament schedule largely unknown to the pundits and rankings.
They know who he is now.
The sophomore for the Eagles finished third at the Div. III Defiance district last weekend, earning his spot in the 16-man heavyweight field beginning today at the state championships.
Leroux never appeared on many of the rankings, but has surged his way into a fairly wide open bracket. There are just two returning state placers in the field, and Leroux has the second-best record of the 16 wrestlers.
He begins his quest for the podium today by facing Belmont Union Local senior Kade Clark (35-11) in his first-round match.