COLUMBUS — Chalker’s Landen Duncan is looking to make history, and he’s one step closer to doing so.
With a 4-1 decision victory over Genoa Area’s Phoenix Contos in the 120-pound semifinals of the OHSAA state wrestling tournament, Duncan is on the verge of becoming the first state wrestling champion in school history.
“I knew that it was probably one of my most important matches of all time,” Duncan said. “I knew that if I won that I could get to the state finals, and I felt really good going into it. I just wrestled my match.”
In a relatively low-scoring match, Duncan scored a takedown in the first period and a reversal in the third to score his four points, while Contos picked up an escape in the second period to earn his one point.
While it was a low-scoring match, Duncan put on the pressure throughout the match. He controlled Contos from beginning to end and never made any drastic mistakes that would have opened him up to any more points, and that was the game plan going in.
“It was just constant pressure,” Duncan said. “I practice with South Range, and they say it all the time, just ‘Constant pressure, relentless pressure.’ I did it that match, and it showed.”
Duncan will wrestle Dillon Campbell (38-2) from Legacy Christian today in the Division III 120-pound state final. Campbell earned a trip to the championship match with an 8-0 major decision over Barnesville’s Dakota King.
Duncan started off his state final run Friday when he knocked off Seneca East’s Nathan Parks with a 5-2 decision. In the first session Saturday, he defeated Newark Catholic’s Brian Luft with a close 2-0 decision, which came on a reversal in the early stages of the third period.
While Duncan said he had a few nerves, he added that being at the state tournament last year, where he earned a fourth-place finish, helped him realize what he could do.
“The first match was nerves, just being in the stadium for the first time,” Duncan said. “But the other two matches I was fine because I just had the mentality of winning one more match, one more match.”
Since he started wrestling in high school, Duncan has been the only wrestler at Chalker, which has created a unique lifestyle for the junior during wrestling season. He’s often waking up at 6 a.m. to get in a solo workout before going to school and then he frequently has to travel an hour with his father, who doubles as his coach and “hype man” to practice with other teams.
But over the past three days, Duncan hasn’t been alone. He’s had the whole community of Chalker behind him. On Thursday, the school did a send-off for him, and Duncan’s dad, Bobby, said it was like something he’d never seen before.
“The sendoff we had was just huge, we had so many people come out. and they shut down the whole school, K-12, and all the kids got to send him off and that was awesome,” Bobby said. “Our community has just been huge backing him, and that’s pushed him even more to stay in our school.”
“Coming from a school that doesn’t wrestle, with a dad that has never wrestled before, he’s really broken history through everything.”
Now, Landen is looking to bring home the big win and make history for Chalker High School.
“It’s a great story, just all-around, to hopefully bring back a state-title to a small school, where sports really aren’t our thing. It would be nice to bring back a state title,” Landen said.
Landen and Campbell will face off during Session 5 of the state tournament today, which begins at 5 p.m. with the parade of champions.
HUNTING FOR BRONZE
Garfield’s Hunter Andel (165) and Keegan Sell (175) are in the hunt for a bronze medal now. After both lost their semifinal matches on Saturday, they’ll compete for a chance to wrestle in the third-place match. Andel will take on Versailles Carson Bey and Sell will face Waynedale’s Peyton Lemon.
Despite losing his first match of the tournament, Howland’s Gage Gibson is in the hunt for a third-place medal, too, and he’s doing it in style.
After losing to London’s Thadd Huff by an 11-5 decision in the first round, Gibson has pinned his last three opponents in 2:09, 3:15 and 1:56. Gibson will have his shot at revenge when he takes on Huff again for a shot to compete in the third-place match.
After a run to the semifinals, Boardman’s Sean O’Horo (175 lbs.) also finds himself competing for third after suffering a tough 9-0 major decision loss to La Salle’s Chase Stein. O’Horo will wrestle Moeller’s Kurt Thomspon today for a shot to compete in the third-place match. If he loses, he’ll wrestle again for fifth.
THE EDGE OF THE PODIUM
With the second day of the OHSAA state wrestling tournament over, five wrestlers still find themselves vying for a seventh-place finish. Among those five are two South Range wrestlers. Hunter Newel will take on Wayne Trace’s Corbin Kimmel for a seventh-place finish in the 106-pound class today, and Logan Cormell will take on Liberty Center’s Camren Foster after falling to Adena’s Isaac Gray by an 11-2 major decision.
Poland’s Dillon Smith will see a familiar face in his seventh-place match as he’s paired up with Taylor’s Dillonn Davidson. The two squared off in the first round, and Smith came away with a 17-8 major decision.
West Branch’s Steven Marra is another Mahoning Valley wrestler competing for a seventh-place finish. He’ll take on Manfield Senior’s Mekhi Bradley today after losing to Miami Trace’s Bryce Bennet in the consolations.
Finally, Tyler Lintner will take on Barberton’s Mason Valencia for seventh-place medal after falling to Marysville’s Erryl Will.