COLUMBUS, Ohio — With time rapidly running down, and everybody’s blood pressure going up, Kaleb Crisenbery knew he had to do something.
What he did was dominate the final 50 seconds of his championship preliminary match —as part of the annual state wrestling tournament on Thursday.
As a result, Crisenbery captured a victory in his opening match — in his first and final state meet — by blanking Rickey Maffett of Ashland 4-0 in the Division II 145-pound weight class.
Crisenbery claimed all four of his points in the contest’s final 50 seconds, and advanced to Friday’s championship quarterfinals — right back inside Value City Arena in Columbus.
With the win, the senior Crisenbery becomes the seventh Blue Devil in the past eight state tournaments to earn at least one team point — and win at least one match.
By simply qualifying for this weekend’s state tournament, he became the 12th all-time Blue Devil to advance to the coveted competition.
However, the goal of Gallia Academy wrestling is not only qualifying for the state meet, but also becoming a prestigious state placer.
That’s what Crisenbery — with a season record of 52-6 — is now focusing on, as only five Gallia Academy individuals have ever reached that elusive state awards stand.
In taking that first step inside the Schottenstein Center on Thursday, Crisenbery took advantage of two stalling calls on Maffett —followed by an execution error on the Ashland senior.
After a pair of scoreless opening periods, he landed two points at the 50-second mark — then tacked on the final two inside of 10 seconds to go.
“It feels great, and it’s an amazing feeling to be here. Unlike any other, really,” said Crisenbery, following Thursday’s triumph. “I knew I had to do something to run the time down a little bit, then I realized there was about a minute left. I knew I had to get out (of Maffett hold), and once I got out, he got called for stalling because he wouldn’t return. Right after that, he let me up for one. Then he took a bad shot, and I went and reversed him and got the two.”
Neither man got the other off his feet in the first period, as Crisenbery rode Maffett for the entire second period, but didn’t score any points.
“We both couldn’t get a takedown in the first period. He was good on defense and so I was I. He was probably one of the better ones I’ve faced this year. In the second period, I had to just ride him out,” he said.
Crisenbery, by stating that he was ranked behind Maffett, said “it was more of an upset”.
Maybe by ranking, but the Blue Devil standout sure looked like he knew what he was doing.
“What I saw was a very mature Kaleb Crisenbery. He did everything he needed to,” said Gallia Academy assistant coach Brandon Taylor. “His match awareness…just the fact that they go scoreless in the first period. Both good kids on their feet and good defense. But for Kaleb to know, and Maffett chose ‘down’ in the second period, that time and riding him out hard on top, it was dominant. Kaleb kept a tight waist on, put pressure on with his wrist. After that second period, Kaleb was at the advantage. And the Ashland kid already had one stall warning at that point.”
Taylor added that Crisenbery choose ‘down’ in the third period, but “took his time, fighting hands, keeping his hips back and not giving up bad positions.”
Crisenbery claimed the first point by getting to his feet and reaching back into a stand-up, forcing Maffett into a stall after he failed to return.
From that point on, and now with a 2-0 advantage, Crisenbery seized complete control.
Maffett missed on a single-leg takedown attempt, and Crisenbery reversed him for the 4-0 lead with only 10 seconds to go.
“You don’t need to win a match by 12 points to dominate it. Kaleb showed a lot of maturity and wrestled a great match, especially the last minute,” said Taylor. “And we’ve gone over the single-leg shot defense so many times in practice. There are so many scramble opportunities he is going to see at this higher level. It was a great smart match Kaleb wrestled.”
He will need a repeat performance, or an even better one, in the championship quarterfinals.
Crisenbery faces Kevon Freeman of Mentor Lake Catholic —the district champion from the Alliance district.
He pinned Alex Kowal of Middletown Fenwick in the preliminary round — in only two minutes and 11 seconds.
Crisenbery qualified for the state meet as the third-place finisher at the Division II district meet at Heath.
Maffett, meanwhile — with a record of now 21-11 — was the district runner-up at Mansfield.
Crisenbery is attempting to join Jeptha Robinson (1988), Jared Gravely (2010), Brandon Taylor (2012), Zack Tackett (2012) and Cole Tawney (2013 and 2014) as the only podium finishers in Blue Devil history.
“One more win and I place. Pretty excited about that chance,” he said.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106