COLUMBUS, Ohio — Getting past Day 1 would be a great start.
Getting through Day 2 is the ultimate goal.
If the Raiders can manage either one of those accomplishments by the beginning of Day 3, it will absolutely be a memorable weekend.
The River Valley wrestling program will be making history this weekend, one way or another, at the 83rd annual OHSAA Individual Wrestling Championships being held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Value City Arena inside the Schottenstein Center on the campus of the Ohio State University.
The Raiders have a program-best three grapplers competing in this weekend’s Division III tournament, surpassing last year’s total of two qualifiers — the school’s previous high mark.
The Silver and Black also have a repeat qualifier for the second time in program history, plus increased their state qualifier list from three to five with this winter’s postseason run.
Sophomore Nathan Cadle will be making his second state appearance in as many seasons, while sophomore Will Hash and freshman Andrew Huck are each making their debuts at the Buckeye State’s largest stage.
Cadle joins Zach Davis (2003-04) as the only 2-time state qualifiers in RVHS history, with Cadle also serving as the first Raider freshman to advance to the state meet.
Hash and Huck also link themselves to Cadle, Davis and Eric Weber (2019) as the only state qualifiers in program history.
River Valley — which went a decade-and-a-half between state appearances before last winter — has never won a match in eight different chances at the state level.
RVHS coach Matthew Huck — now completing his 21st season in charge — believes that this weekend has the potential to be something greater than it already is … even though this weekend is already great in itself.
“It is nice to not have to wait another 15 years between appearances, that is for sure. I think our kids gained a lot of confidence last year with the season we had and it has been rewarding to see how we have followed that up this year,” Huck said. “These kids have worked very hard to get back to this spot and it’s been rewarding to see these kids accomplish what they have over the past few weeks. We’re making school history this weekend with having three kids at the state tournament, so it will be a special moment for the program … no doubt.”
Coach Huck acknowledges that getting the program’s first win is a major goal this weekend, but the venerable mentor is focusing on just one win between the three or one win for all three. As he noted, any win would be historic … but there is a lot of history out there to aim for.
“Honestly, we are going up to Columbus with the goal of having someone reach the podium. We have three very capable wrestlers competing this weekend, so we have some high hopes going into the tournament,” Huck said. “Of course, the biggest step for us would be to win that first match at state. We’ve come up empty in eight matches at state, and we’ll have at least six more chances this weekend to get that first River Valley win at the state tournament. One win would mean a lot to the program because it would be taking that next step forward, but we do have higher hopes for the weekend than just one win.”
Cadle — who is competing at 138 pounds for the second straight year — has posted a 41-9 overall mark thus far this year and will face Millbury Lake senior and 2-time podium placer Antonio Lecki (41-2) in the opening round.
Cadle — a 2-time Tri-Valley Conference champion — notched his second sectional title and was fourth overall last weekend at the district tournament held at Heath High School.
Huck posted a 36-8 overall mark in getting to the state tournament as a freshman at 106 pounds. Huck was a TVC runner-up this winter and won a sectional title before placing third last weekend at Heath High School.
Huck will face Oak Harbor sophomore Michael Judge (26-13) in the opening round, which will also be the first of the three opening round matches for RVHS on Friday.
Hash owns a 43-7 overall record headed into his state debut at 152 pounds and will face Ashland Mapleton senior Jeremy Tracy (46-4) in the opening round.
Hash is a 2-time TVC and 2-time sectional champion and qualified for state last weekend with a fourth place effort at Heath High School.
The Raiders — who won the program’s first-ever sectional title while qualifying six underclassmen for districts this winter — have quadrupled their state qualifier list and double their total state appearances output in the last two seasons alone.
Coach Huck admits their is a genuine pride headed into this weekend, a feeling that comes with putting in two decades of work before again reaching a memorable summit … of sorts.
Huck is also a proud papa headed into the championships, with his son Andrew set to make his first-ever state appearance on Thursday.
The elder Huck is trying to stay focused on the coaching aspect of this weekend, mainly because he feels more like a father-figure to all three of his state competitors.
And, as he says, that’s best part of the entire weekend. It’s all family to him.
“As a coach, it’s a special feeling to see three kids competing at the state tournament … because they are all my kids. It’s also special to see my son be one of them, making the most of his first season at the varsity level,” Huck said. “It’s also very rewarding that all three of these qualifiers are very close friends, so they can all take part in this experience together. The best thing about this, however, is that they are all underclassmen … and this could be the start of something greater over the next few years. It really is a big weekend for River Valley wrestling.”
Session 1 of the OHSAA tournament starts at 3 p.m. Friday in Division III, with consolation first round consolation matches beginning at roughly 7 p.m. later that evening.
Session 2 runs from 10 a.m. until 2:45 p.m. Saturday, with Session 3 going from 6:30-9:15 p.m. later that night.
Session 4 runs from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Sunday, with the championship bouts coming in Session 5 on Sunday night at 5 p.m.
Visit baumspage.com for brackets, pairings and general information on the OHSAA Wrestling Championships being held this weekend in Columbus.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.