By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
March 12, 2023.
What a day to be a G-Man.
In the matter of minutes, senior Hunter Andel and junior Keegan Sell became the school’s first-ever wrestling state champions.
Andel captured the honors first, winning his 165-pound showdown with Rootstown senior Cody Coontz by a 3-0 decision.
Sell’s moment was not long after, taking the crown at 190 pounds with a 6-4 decision victory over Archbold junior Wyat Ripke.
On Sunday night, hours after their historic wins, both admitted that their accomplishments had not fully hit them.
However, what was clear, was that the friendship Andel and Sell share together allowed them to show more excitement for their friend than for themselves.
“Hunter works super hard at every practice and all summer long,” Sell said. “I am so happy for him. Being in the tunnel with him before his match, I was very excited for him and his moment and then to watch him win it, I think it motivated me even more. We are such good friends, we hang out, we go fishing, that it meant a lot to make history with him.”
Similarly, Andel was not short on the praise for his friend and expanded with on the idea of how the school’s state-title drought strengthened their bond and sparked their motivation.
“A lot of great wrestlers (at Garfield) have come very close to winning it all and actually winning the first state title became the bar that so many people were reaching for,” Andel said. “It was a huge part to what drove us to be better. We were not only wrestling for ourselves and each other, we were wrestling for the school, the program and the entire community. For Keegan and I to win it together, as close as we are, that was our dream and our dream came true.”
But not without the required hard work and determination.
Two things that were reinforced in the off-season following last year’s losses at the state championships.
“At the state tournament, anything can happen,” Andel said. “Last year, we thought we had a chance, and we did have a chance, but I also think last year showed us that we were not as prepared as we thought we were. It pushed us to work even harder this year.”
Andel estimated that he and Coontz have wrestled against each other about seven times.
With each one, Coontz continued to close the gap.
The two had met twice this year and both were defensive struggles. The first came at a dual meet back in December, with Andel winning a double-overtime classic with a 3-2 decision. The second showdown came just last week at the Perry Division III district, with Andel once again edging Coontz in a 4-2 decision.
Sunday’s state-finals matchup was once again close and once again defensive.
The two were scoreless through the first two periods and Andel hit for a point on an escape early in the third period.
Andel then hit a takedown for two points and a 3-0 lead that secured the state championship.
“I feel like Cody and the Rootstown coaches have learned my style more and more, and they have worked all year to combat my attacks,” Andel said. “I knew I would have to take advantage of my opportunities when I could, because I knew there would not be many.”
Sell set the tone for his victory with a pair of takedowns in the opening two periods, with the his combination of speed and strength.
“My coaches watched (my opponent) earlier in the week, and in a lot of ways, he wrestled a lot like the opponent I had in the semifinal round. We kept the same gameplay and it ended up working out really well.
So well that it made history.
What a day to be a G-Man.
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