By Rob Kiser
Call Sports Editor
KETTERING — Piqua 145-pound sophomore Hunter Bryant knows champions aren’t determined on paper.
So, in arguably the most loaded weight class in the GWOC wrestling tournament, Bryant backed up his number one seed with a GWOC title Saturday at Trent Arena, raising his record to 36-2.
“I guess it is nice that they think enough of me to give me the top seed,” Bryant said. “But, like I said, the seed doesn’t mean anything. You still have to go out there and beat everyone. I wrestled two really tough guys today and got two wins. It feels pretty good.”
Bryant became Piqua’s first GWOC champion since Trevor Nickolai won the 2009 145-pound title — and added to his accomplishment by being named the GWOC North Wrestler of the Year.
“It had been five years since we have had a champion,” Piqua coach Scott Kaye said. “And we have had some pretty good wrestlers during that time. This is a tough tournament to win. And I thought 145 was the toughest class in this tournament with all the state ranked guys.”
Bryant met third seed Dustin Keller of Beavercreek in the finals.
In a match in which both wrestlers were locked up with each other much of the time, Bryant got the only takedown of the match in the first period and went on to win 3-2.
“That was a game-changer,” Bryant said. “That gave me confidence for the rest of the match.”
“It looked like (Dustin) Keller was just trying to get through the period (without giving up a point), because he is strong on the mat and Hunter (Bryant) was able to take him down.”
Bryant started down in the second period and escaped for a 3-1 lead. Keller started down in the third period and Bryant cut him loose six seconds into the period to make it 3-2.
But, Bryant was not satisfied.
“That is not how I wrestle,” Bryant said. “I was trying to score. But, everytime I locked up with him, he was able to block me.”
There was no more scoring, giving Bryant the title.
“He is a strong kid and long and lean,” Bryant said. “He is pretty similar style to me. He was trying to do a lot of the same things.”
In the semifinals, Bryant recorded three takedowns in a 7-2 win over fourth seed Cameron Earley of Springboro.
“He is another tough guy — long and lean,” Bryant said. “It was a tough match.”
And another impressive win.
“Hunter (Bryant) is right — seeds really don’t matter,” Kaye said. “It might give you a little easier path to the finals. But, there were a number of state-ranked guys. Hunter took them all on and won. The semifinal match was a tight match. That kid is state-ranked. But, Hunter just didn’t make any mistakes, which was why the score ended up the way it did.”
Andrew Bolin (126) and Jake Hetzler (285) both missed placing by one match.
Bolin was 2-2 with one pin, while Hetzler was 1-2 with a pin.
Also going 1-2 with a pin were Mike Clark (106) and Darien Tipps-Clemons (182).
Going 0-2 were Nick Baker (113), Jacob North (120), Brandon Gist (132), Caje Kindred (138) and Blake Wright (160).
“We set up our schedule this year (with a young team) to build towards this point in the season,” Kaye said. “I think they learned what they need to do to get on the podium at a tournament like this.”
Piqua will wrestle quads at Northwestern Wednesday and Greenville Friday before heading to the sectionals in two weeks.
“There is no better way to go into sectionals,” Bryant said.
Than standing on top of the podium as GWOC champion.
Rob Kiser can be reached at 773-2721 Ext. 209 or on twitter@kizedawg