Jarred Ganger became the second Covington wrestler to win a state championship, joining 2006 state champion Logan Brown.

The Covington Buccaneers had a school record five wrestlers compete at state and four state placers with Jarred Ganger winning a state title, Ryan Ford finishing third, A.J. Ouellette fifth and Ben Miller taking sixth. Also competing for the Buccs was senior Daniel Jennings, who closed out his career as a two-time state qualifier.

State Placers A.J. Ouellette, Ryan ford, Ben Miller and Jarred Ganger.

Covington coach Tom Barbee came away very pleased with his five wrestlers after the first day of wrestling at the 2014 OHSAA State Wrestling Championships at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus on Thursday.

That’s because four of the five wrestlers advanced to the second day in hopes of standing on the podium.

“It’s exciting,” said Barbee. “They all worked very hard for this (success at state) and we are very proud of them. Sometimes the big stage and the lights get to kids, but this group did a nice job of staying focused on what they had to do.”

Jarred Ganger, who is looking for a second straight state championship, started things off for Covington with a dominating 22-7 tech. fall victory over Kolby Rayner of Caldwell.

And, it was a performance Ganger was looking for after getting a late start to his season due to an injury.

“Just dominate,” said Ganger in regards to his strategy. “I focused all year on my health, my family and wrestling. I have one goal and that’s to win another state title.”

Ganger credits his teammates for helping him get back into peak wrestling form after being out for much of the season.

“Everyone (in the wrestling room) helped me prepare for this (state),” he said. “It’s everybody going hard in live go and even sprints. Everybody just pushes each other hard.”

Ganger will wrestle Colton Ullman of Loudonville in tomorrow’s quarterfinals and his strategy won’t change.

“Just continue to win,” he emphasized. “That’s the focus – win and advance.”

Ryan Ford followed Ganger’s performance with a 4-2 win over Evan Francis of Kirtland at 132 pounds.

For him, it was a thrilling way to start his state experience after falling short of qualifying a year ago as a freshman.

“It’s was nice, especially after not getting here last year,” said Ford of winning his first match. “I was a little nervous at first, but it wasn’t too bad.”

And Ford had to adjust his style due to the fact that his opponent slowed the pace of the match.

“He was pretty defensive, so I had to be patient and pick my spots,” Ford explained. “The score looked close, but I felt I controlled the match from start to finish.”

Those who are accustom to seeing Ford rack up points in bunches may think the match was too close for comfort. But Ford isn’t concerned with a close score and will look to keep winning any way he can tomorrow in the quarterfinals against Kameron Rayner of Caldwell.

“A win is a win when you get here (at state),” he said. “A one-point win is as good as a pin.”

Daniel Jennings finished his career as a two-time state qualifier.

Daniel Jennings returned for his second opportunity at state and was pitted against a district champion out of the Garfield Heights District, Dakota Stanley of Apple Creek Waynesdale.

And Jennings nearly caught his opponent on his back before falling by the score of 7-3.

“We were close,” said Barbee. “That was a tough kid and D.J. wrestled pretty well.”

Jennings also wrestled well in his first round consolation match against Caleb Stockemaster of Castelia Margaretta, but fell short by the score of 5-4.

The match was tied 2-2 at the end of one, but Jennings was called for locking hands and then gave up the reversal to fall behind 5-2.

But the senior recorded a big reversal in the third period and had Stockmaster locked up in a cradle. Unfortunately time ran out before Jennings could secure the back points needed for the win.

“So close,” said assistant coach Eric Vanderhorst. “I thought we were going to get that one.”

Jennings ends his senior season with a 35-13 record and as a two-time state qualifier.

Ben Miller enjoyed his first stroll down the tunnel and out into the arena as he recorded a very impressive 3-0 win over Ryan Green of Castalia Margaretta.

“I was kind of surprised I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be,” Miller explained with a smile. “It was neat with the bright lights and all of the people, but I really wasn’t very nervous at all.”

And Miller controlled the match from start to finish by eliminating mistakes and taking the action to Green with a reversal and an escape.

“He was strong, but I figured that if I controlled the pace of the match that I would eventually score on him,” Miller said. “I just kept the pressure on him and looked to score when the opportunity was there. It (the match) went the way I wanted.”

Miller will face Jake Datz of London Madison Plains tomorrow in the quarterfinal.

“I’m just going to wrestle my match,” said Miller. “We’ve prepared all year focusing on wrestling our match, staying aggressive and scoring when you can.”

That’s exactly what A.J. Ouellette did in his opening bout against Scott Wolheter of Massillon Tuslaw at 195 pounds.

The returning state placer dominated the match, building a 4-0 lead on two takedowns before surrendering an escape in the final seconds.

“I feel pretty good,” said Ouellette. “I had fun here last year, but it’s a lot more fun this year because we have so many guys wrestling (at state). It helps take the edge off.”

Ouellette advances to the quarterfinal where he will face Hudson Cole of Magnolia Sandy Valley tomorrow morning.

“I’m just going to go back (to the hotel) and relax, get some sleep,” said Ouellette. “Just come back tomorrow fresh and ready to go.”

Staying fresh is a challenge due to the tournament being spread out over three days, but Barbee has helped so many kids over the years stay focused on the task at hand.

“The key is focusing on the things you can control,” Barbee said. “The kids who relax, stay confident that they’re prepared and wrestle within themselves are the kids who are successful. So far this group as done a great job and we’ll come back tomorrow and take it one match at a time.”

And hopefully it leads to more pieces of hardware for the Buccaneer wrestlers.

Ben Miller took sixth at 170 pounds.

The record-setting season for the Covington wrestling team continued in the morning session at the 77th Annual OHSAA State Wrestling Tournament on Friday as four Buccaneer wrestlers assured themselves state placement medals with victories in the Championship Quarterfinals.

First, 126 pound junior Jarred Ganger captured his 100th career win with a dominating 10-2 victory over Colton Ullman of Loundenville. It sets up a huge showdown with Newark Catholic’s Caleb Ohl in the semifinals later tonight.

“I get to get my revenge in the semis,” said Ganger. “He beat me at LCC.”

While Ganger (25-1) was taking care of business on mat 5, Ryan Ford was in the process of putting together an equally dominant performance against Kameron Rayner of Caldwell. Ford cruised to a 9-4 win in what was also his 100th career win.

“I kind of didn’t get away with anything, but I won,” said Ford.

Ford (52-1) will face Beechwood’s Sam Gross (35-3) in the semifinal, a senior who placed third at state twice and runner up once.

After Ganger and Ford celebrated their 100th career wins, Buccaneer junior Ben Miller (45-7) stamped his ticket to the semifinal with a come-from-behind pin in the third period over the Heath District Champion, Jake Datz (52-5) of London Madison Plains.

Miller found himself behind 4-3 heading into the final frame as Datz selected neutral after controlling the match with two previous takedowns. This time Miller pushed the action and locked his opponent up with a special – taking Datz to his back for the thrilling pin.

“It feels pretty good,” Miller said. “You just have to stay in the match and hope to come out on top.”

Miller will wrestle Ryan Harris of Beachwood in the semifinals. Harris is a senior with a 45-3 record. He placed 7th in 2011 at 125 pounds, 3rd in 2012 at 138 pounds and 1st last year at 160 pounds.

Buccaneer 195 pounder A.J. Ouellette (40-3) capped a perfect quarterfinal round for the Buccs with a complete domination of Hudson Cole (45-6) of Magnolia Sandy Valley, 10-0.

“It feels good,” said Ouellette. “Now we need to get all four guys into the finals.”

Ouellette will face Ryan Webber (44-3) of Loudenville later this evening in the semifinals. Webber placed fourth year ago at 195 pounds.

As a team, the Buccaneers are currently in third place with 33.5 points. Delta is in first with 62.0 points, while Dayton Christian is in second with 48.5 points.

Semifinal matches are slated to begin at 6:30pm.

Ryan Ford placed third at 132 pounds.

The Covington Buccaneers were riding high as four wrestlers advanced to the championship semifinals Friday night and the emotions ran even higher after Jared Ganger avenged an earlier loss by beating Caleb Ohl of Newark Catholic 5-3 to punch his ticket into the finals.

But things turned for the worst as Ryan Ford, Ben Miller and A.J. Ouellette came up short of joining Ganger in the finals.

“The emotions right now are hard to deal with,” said Covington coach Tom Barbee. “Especially for Ryan, Ben and A.J., because they wanted to be standing on top of the podium. But it’s our job to get them refocused to come back tomorrow and win matches.”

For Ganger, he let his emotions show after his semifinal victory.

“I forgot about this being the semifinals and focused on getting my revenge by beating him,” said Ganger. “Give him credit, he got the best of me the last time (at LCC), but I wasn’t going to let it happen again.”

And Ganger took control of the match early with a takedown and then pushed the lead to 4-1 with another takedown. From there he cruised to the win and will have an opportunity tomorrow night to win his second straight state championship.

Which is where Ryan Ford wanted to be, but he ran into a buzzsaw in Sam Gross of Beechwood, who came into the tournament as a three-time state placer and a state champion from 2012.

“I knew coming in that he was good, but I feel I’m really good too,” said Ford.

And Ford wrestled an outstanding match, proving he belonged on the big stage. But Gross was just too seasoned for the Buccaneer sophomore and handed Ford the 7-3 defeat.

“I got three or four really good shots, but I just didn’t finish,” Ford explained. “He hit me with an opposite side sweep single twice that surprised me. I wasn’t able to scout him like other people, so it took me awhile to adjust and by then he had built a lead.”

At 170 pounds, Ben Miller ran into another Beachwood wrestler in three-time state placer and 2013 state champion at 160 pounds, Ryan Harris.

And Harris showed why he is the favorite to capture another state championship as he dominated en route to a 23-8 tech. fall victory.

A.J. Ouellette followed by taking on Ryan Weber of Loudonville and surrendered two takedowns early to fall behind 4-2.

“I didn’t think he would shoot that early,” said Ouellette. “The plan was to take him to the third period and gas him out. Unfortunately, I let him score too much early on.”

After Ouellette surrendered an escape to start the third, Weber was tagged for a second stalling call that made the score 5-3.

The Buccaneer senior picked up the pressure an attempted three shots that ended up out of bounds, the final one coming as the clock ran out.

Still, all four wrestlers will be on the podium Saturday night.

Tomorrow’s action will determine how high.

A.J. Ouellette became a two-time state placer.

Three Buccaneer wrestlers concluded their journeys at the state wrestling meet in the consolation round Saturday morning by earning state medals, while another Covington wrestlers looks for state gold tonight.

First, sophomore 132 pounder Ryan Ford defeated Major Moore of Willard 9-4 to take third place in his first trip to state.

“I’m happy after not making it here last year,” said Ford. “The ultimate is to be state champion and that’s what I’ll work towards next year.”

Ford advanced to the consolation final with a convincing 8-2 win over Dustin Marteney after dropping a 7-3 decision to Sam Gross of Beachwood in the championship semifinal Friday night.

What makes it a bitter pill to swallow is the fact the wrestler Ford defeated last week in the district final moved on in the other side of the bracket to face Gross in the finals.

“It’s the luck of the draw, I guess,” said Ford, shaking his head. “But I can’t control that, so it doesn’t matter. Getting third helps because the two guys in the finals are senior and I separated myself from the other placers.”

Which makes Ford already looking ahead to 2015.

“I can’t wait to get back here,” Ford said. “It was an awesome week getting my 100th win at the same time Ganger got his and to place in my first time here only makes me want more.”

Another wrestler wanting more is junior 170 pounder Ben Miller, who dropped his final two bouts of the tournament to finish sixth.

First, Miller dropped a 7-0 decision to Zach Sullivan of National Trail, the same wrestler Ben lost to in the district final in overtime.

He then fell to Girard’s Nick Cardiero 9-2 in the fifth place match.

“It’s a little disappointing that I didn’t get a little higher,” said Miller, who started fast in the tournament with two big wins. “I didn’t wrestle as well today as I want too.”

Still, Miller became a state placer and hopes to return next year for a chance to win it all.

“I hope so,” he said. “I have a lot of things I have to improve on. I have to get better on my feet and learn to wrestle more aggressive. I just have to become a better all-around wrestler.”

Senior A.J. Ouellette earned his second state medal with a fifth place finish at 195 pounds to conclude an amazing career for a wrestler who’s love and passion is on the football field.

Still, Ouellette being the competitor that he is, wanted more and took the events of the tournament hard emotionally.

That’s because he narrowly missed on a takedown attempt in the semifinal on Friday that may have stamped his ticket into the championship match and then he was had to default to Tristan Anderson of Apple Creek Waynedale in the consolation semifinal due to an illegal slam.

“I didn’t mean to slam him,” said Ouellette, fighting back tears. “I normally shoot on the right side, but on my first shot I saw he was taking that away. The next time I shot I thought ‘what the heck’ and shot on the left side. I was surprised at how easy it was, but once I got him into the air I wasn’t sure how to bring him down. I tried bringing him down so I would be on the other side of his body and I could take him to his back, but on the way down my momentum came down on top of him.”

It was apparent Ouellette was concerned as he stood with his hands on his knees next to Anderson while he laid on the mat in pain.

“I felt bad,” Ouellette continued. “I didn’t want him to be hurt. I feel even more bad because he couldn’t wrestle his next match.”

As if a kid couldn’t overcome any more adversity than Ouellette has overcome in high school career, the senior had little time to put it behind him as he faced Glenn Zaller of Orwell Grand Valley in the fifth place match.

And Ouellette did just that as he controlled the action in a 5-4 win to earn his second state medal.

“I don’t know what to think,” he said, still trying to make sense of what transpired throughout the tournament. “I thought I would be wrestling tonight in the finals.”

But it doesn’t detract from what Ouellette has accomplished as an athlete through his hard work.

“I know he’s hurting right now, but A.J. will look back and be proud of what he accomplished,” said Covington coach Tom Barbee. “He had a heck of a career in football and placed twice at state in wrestling. He’s one of the best athletes ever to come through this school.”

And when some college finally opens the door of opportunity for a much-deserving Ouellette, he’ll kick it in.

Every day since moving to Covington earlier in the season from Troy Christian, Jarred Ganger has taken in his new surroundings.

“Every day when I walk through the school I always look at Logan Brown’s picture in there (the display case) and every day at practice I looked at the record board and the new banners in the wrestling room,” said Ganger. “My goal was to get my name and picture up there with everybody else.”

And Ganger’s name and picture will be proudly displayed as he became just the second wrestler in Buccaneer history to win a state championship, joining Logan Brown from 2006.

“It feels great,” Ganger said. “I was out for about six months after Tommy John surgery and everybody doubted if I could come back. But I just stayed focused on my family and wrestling and I trained like three times a day for this.”

The training paid off as Ganger rolled into the finals with three straight wins to advance to Saturday’s finals against Zack Durbin of Ashland Mapleton.

And Ganger waisted little time taking the momentum as he recorded a quick takedown to take a 2-0 lead. He then surrendered an escape to make it 2-1 and proceeded to control the action on his feet.

“I always look to get the first takedown,” Ganger explained. “I think if I can get the first takedown I’ll win the match. I stayed on my offense and I knew he would try to slow me down, but I didn’t let him finish his shots.”

Jarred Ganger stalks his opponent during the state championship match.

Ganger chose the bottom position to start the second period and immediately recorded an escape to go up 3-1, a score that remained heading into the third period.

Durbin chose bottom to start the third and Ganger elected to surrender the escape to take the match to where he felt in control – to the feet.

“People always say I’m pretty tall and lanky for my weight and I know I’m pretty long for my size,” said Ganger. “They (the coaches) say at practice that you have four defenses and that’s probably why it keeps in such good positions.”

And Ganger stayed out of trouble by switching shots attempts up and down, side to side without taking any unnecessary chances as the clock ticked away in a 3-2 win.

“Jarred pretty much had his own gameplan for this match because he’s wrestled the guy before and knew him pretty well,” said Covington coach Tom Barbee. “We just set there, help him and encourage him.”

At the conclusion of the match Ganger celebrated with family and friends as he accomplished a goal of winning his second consecutive state championship – last season as a member of Troy Christian.

“When I walk through that tunnel (at state), I see all of the three and four-timers and I want to get my name up there too,” Ganger said, who also placed second at state as a freshman. “Every since my freshman year when I saw that I always wanted to get my name in that tunnel.”

Being a junior, Ganger has his senior season to accomplish that goal.

“I’ve got two,” he said with a smile.

Which begins the journey for a three-peat in 2015.