By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Sunday’s final day of the OHSAA wrestling state championships will be a special one for Portage County.
Five standout wrestlers will vie for a state title, including an all Portage County final in Division III at 165 pounds between Garfield senior Hunter Andel and Rootstown senior Cody Coontz.
Joining them are:
• Streetsboro senior Donovan Paes, wrestling at 132 pounds in Division II. He will face St. Paris Graham’s Brogan Tucker.
• Garfield junior Keegan Sell, wrestling at 190 pounds in Division III. He will square off against Archbold’s Wyatt Ripke.
• Mogadore’s Tyler Shellenbarger, wrestling at 215 pounds in Division III. His opponent will be Harrison Central’s Lucas Thomas.
Andel defeated Lakota senior Braxton Quaintance in the semifinal round by the score of a 5-1 decision.
Andel will meet Rootstown’s Cody Coontz, a familiar face and friend off the mat, in the state finals on Sunday.
The two have met twice before this season.
The first came at a dual meet back in December, with Andel winning a double-overtime classic in a 3-2 decision.
The second showdown came just last week at the Perry Division III district tournament, with Andel once again edging Coontz in a 4-2 decision.
Andel has clinched at least becoming a three-time state-placer.
Like his teammate, Sell, Andel has the chance to become the school’s first-ever state champion.
Coontz punched his ticket into the state final by pinning Oak Harbor senior Hayden Burro at the 5:53 mark of the second period.
Coontz is guaranteed to be a state-placer for the first time in his career.
He lost in the second round last year to Northmor’s Niko Christo. Coontz had a 10-5 lead, but was pinned in the final 20 seconds. It was only the third time in Coontz’s career he had been pinned.
The loss has fueled him for months, including a historic high school football season.
“From that point on, I told myself that I was going to do everything I could to help my teams have the best seasons they could have this year,” Coontz said back in September during his Bonsky Heating and Cooling Athlete of the Week story that published on Portage Sports. “I don’t ever want to feel like I did after that wrestling loss again.”
Paes pushed his way into the state final at 132 pounds by defeating Jefferson’s Brogan Fielding, scoring a 9-3 decision.
In Saturday’s final, Paes took a 3-0 lead in the first period, extended it to 5-0 after the end of the second period before closing in on the well-earned victory.
As mentioned above, Sell and Andel have been motivated by the absence of a state champion in school history.
Also like Andel, Sell advanced all the way to the state semifinal last year before bowing out of the tournament.
On Saturday, Sell was able to score a 4-1 decision over Abe Delano of Ayersville to advance to Sunday’s state-championship match.
Sell’s record now stands at 44-5 on the season.
Shellenbarger won his semifinal match with a bit of last-second heroics.
Trailing Beachwood senior Uzonna Nzekwe as the third period ticked its closing seconds away, Shellenbarger scored a point on an escape, then was able to get leverage on Nzekwe for a takedown that catapulted him to an 8-4 victory by decision.
Shellenbarger advanced to the state championship last year and earned one win before being eliminated in the second round.