COLUMBUS — Ian Miller put in hundreds of hours on the mat with the goal of getting to the state finals. Once he got there, he only needed a few seconds to assert his dominance.
The Oak Harbor junior racked up points early and often Saturday en route to a 19-4 technical fall over Lisbon Beaver’s Dylan Ice at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, giving him the Division II state title in the 145-pound weight class.
“It feels great,” said Miller, who finished the season with a 41-1 record. “This was my goal since I was a biddy (wrestler) — to be a state champ. It feels awesome.”
Miller scored his first two points with a takedown just 12 seconds in, and he never stopped scoring. He got the technical fall less than 40 seconds into the second period. He scored so many points he couldn’t even keep track of his lead.
“I didn’t know I had the tech,” he said. “I was looking at the (scoreboard) and I was like, ‘Uh, that’s a lot of points.’ But I didn’t know if I had the tech yet. I was just about to kick him when they blew the tech, and I just thought ‘Oh, all right. I guess I got the tech.’”
Miller’s strong performance helped Oak Harbor match its highest team finish at the state tournament. The Rockets scored 78.5 points to place second in Division II, behind only the top-ranked team in the country, St. Paris Graham Local, which had wrestlers competing in 11 of the 14 weight classes and finished with 223 points.
“This is our state championship,” Oak Harbor coach George Bergman said. “When you’re going up against the No. 1 team in the country, there’s no shame in taking second. These guys met every challenge they faced all year.”
Bergman said this team is the best in school history, accomplishing a little more during the regular season than the 2008 squad that also finished second in the state tournament.
The coach also had plenty of praise for Miller.
“Ian is special,” Bergman said. “He’s gifted with a lot of ability, and he works hard in the (weight) room and is very explosive. (He’s) just a special athlete. And the best thing about him is he’s only a junior, so he’ll be back next year.”
Miller said he was able to build such a big lead because Ice was “shooting with his elbows up.” Miller took advantage of that in the first minute and kept tacking on another couple of points every 20 seconds or so.
Although Saturday ended well for Miller, it wasn’t such a happy ending for two of his teammates. Senior Drew Stone (125) and junior Konner Witt (152) both fell just short of a state title, losing in the finals to returning champions.
Stone, last year’s runner-up in 119, faced the same opponent who beat him last year — Johnni DiJulius of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit. DiJulius controlled the match from the beginning with a defensive game plan that didn’t allow Stone to get anything going.
DiJulius ended up winning a 5-1 decision, handing Stone his second runner-up finish in the past two years.
It was “basically the same match as last year,” Stone said, referring to DiJulius’ 1-0 victory last year.
“With this being my senior year and all, I wanted to be up on the wall at our high school,” Stone said. “We have all (our school’s) state champs on a plaque, and I wanted to be on that real bad. Kirk (Tank), Keith (Witt) and Cody (Magrum) — I wanted to be a part of that.
“But I’ve already committed to Ohio State, so that’s cool. … Overall, it was a good year.”
Witt lost a 5-2 decision to Harrison Hightower of Hunting Valley University School. Hightower has won a state title in each of the past three years.
Witt, the younger brother of Keith Witt, who won a state title with Tank and Magrum in 2008, couldn’t get anything to work for the first five minutes of the match, with the only points he scored coming in the finals seconds of the third period.
“It was Konner’s first time in the finals, and you could definitely tell he had the jitters,” Bergman said. “He didn’t wrestle his style until about a minute left in the match, and he was going up against a two-time state champ. But this experience will really help Konner for next year. He has a goal and something to work on in the offseason.
“Konner’s never placed (at the state tournament) before, so to come down here and get in the finals, he did an unbelievable job.”
Witt agreed the loss will serve as motivation. He said he’s definitely shooting for a state title next year, and he even has one other goal in mind.
“Hopefully I go to college and wrestle (Hightower) again and give it to him,” Witt said.
In addition to Miller, Stone and Witt, Oak Harbor had one other wrestler make the podium — junior Jake Cramer battled back after losing his first match of the tournament to finish fifth in the 140-pound weight class.