The National Trail wrestling program has come a long way in just a few short years.
The Blazers, behind district champions Ben and Zach Sullivan, reached new heights as they finished 10th at the Division III District Tournament at Troy.
The Sullivan brothers will compete at the state tournament beginning Thursday, Feb. 27.
The 10th place finish is the best-ever for a Trail team at that level.
“Overall, the level of competition we brought to Districts was higher than I’ve ever seen from our team. With only four wrestlers we broke into the top 10, and that was a fight in itself,” Trail coach Michael Eyler said. “We dropped a few times, but every time it looked like somebody would overtake us we’d get another win and stay up there. It was a great feeling seeing us bump up to the number 10 spot after Ben’s finals win and secure our hold.”
Ben Sullivan, a freshman, had a “great weekend” in winning the district championship at 220 pounds.
He pinned his way to the finals, besting Tyler Boggs of Williamsburg, Cody Carr of Brookville, and Mike McKinney of Reading. Sullinve won his finals match 3-1 in overtime, defeating Adrian Harding of Greeneview.
“Ben wrestled strong all weekend, and really earned his spot at the top of the podium. He’s gotten more aggressive as the season has progressed and has been more successful in pinning his opponents because of it. Ben is just a physical wrestler, he’s just a force, and I think his opponents really have trouble defending against that,” Eyler said. “He’s excited to be going to state as a freshman, and I think he’s going to continue surprising his opponents.”
He will be joined in Columbus by his brother.
Zach Sullivan, a junior, earned his second trip to Columbus with a 7-5 win over Ben Miller of Covington, in overtime, at 170 pounds.
He scored a tech fall win over his first opponent, Jeremy Heglin of Deer Park, defeated Alec Gladwell of Columbus Grove 10-1, and bested Brandon Breezley of Blanchester 7-6 in the semifinals.
“Zach came to wrestle this weekend. I’ve never seen him be so offensive and aggressive off the whistle. Zach has always been a surgical wrestler, he’s meticulous in his strategy, but this weekend it was on a whole new level. Zach got a taste of the state tournament last year and this year he wants to be on the podium. We’ve worked on a lot of new things this year and all of it has given us success,” Eyler said. “I think Zach is more than ready for state this year and we’re going to see him be very successful.”
Junior Cody Hapner made his first career district appearance this weekend at 195 pounds. Unfortunately, he went 0-2 and lost out of the tournament on Friday.
“Cody had a great year and achieved his goal of making it to districts. Although he was disappointed that he’s not moving on, he’s got one year left and now knows what it’s like to compete at that level. We talked a little about what needs to happen for next year, and we’ll work toward that in the offseason,” Eyler said. “Regardless, I’m proud of how far he’s come this year and I really think he’ll have a successful season for his senior year.”
Sophomore Austin Moore also made his district debut at 145 pounds, going 1-2. He started off strong with a 19-2 tech fall over Damon Bridges of North College Hill before falling to Tyler Showalter of Wayne Trace. He came back Saturday but fell to Tanner Vermule of Jefferson.
“Austin had a spectacular season, and really showed a lot of people that he’s a competitor. He was disappointed in not making state, but that just goes to show you how dedicated he is. For a sophomore in a tough weight class, Austin really has some skill. He’s got two more years to accomplish his goals, and I think we’ll see that happen,” Eyler said. “I was very proud of his performance and his sportsmanship this season, we’ll see a lot from him in the future.”
Eyler said he believes the program is headed in the right direction.
“I think a lot of teams realized that National Trail is not a team to take lightly anymore. We’ve proven ourselves over and over this year, and the entire team is returning for the next season, which should allow us to continue improving upon previous seasons,” he said. “Now, though, we’re focusing on staying sharp and healthy for state this weekend.”
The state tournament will be held at Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center, on the campus of The Ohio State University, Thursday, Feb. 27 through Saturday, March 1.