COLUMBUS, Ohio — Facing elimination, and the end of his standout Gallia Academy High School wrestling career, Justin Reynolds went into “airplane” mode.
Trailing 2-0 in his first consolation match on Thursday night, Reynolds employed his “airplane” move on Bay Village Bay’s Josh Barr — and punched his ticket to Friday’s wrestling round.
Reynolds — competing in the annual Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament — captured a pinfall victory over Barr in the Division II 182-pound weight class, and advanced himself to a second day inside Ohio State University’s Value City Arena in Columbus.
By Friday afternoon, Reynolds had finished 1-2 at the state meet, as he lost to Valley View’s Stone Day in a 9-5 decision in the second consolation.
Thus, Reynolds wraps up a remarkable career at Gallia Academy, going 48-11 in his senior season — and becoming the 11th all-time state qualifier at GAHS.
This was also the seventh straight state meet in which a Blue Devil has competed.
Had Reynolds defeated Day, he would have placed in the top eight to earn all-Ohio honors — and secure a spot on Saturday’s awards podium.
But winning at least one match meant a lot for the first-time state qualifier.
“I’ve worked seven years for this (compete at state meet), so to be here today means the world. It was either live or die on this match (against Barr), because it’s either go home or stay in (tournament). I just pushed the pace and left it all out on the mat,” said Reynolds. “I picked up the pace to try and wear him down.”
Reynolds dropped into the consolation bracket by losing Thursday’s opening-round match against senior Tyler Wiederholt of Bellbrook by a 20-8 major decision.
Against the junior Barr, Reynolds fell behind 2-0 in the first period, before things turned his way in the second.
He got the “airplane” on Barr, got him on the mat, and got the pinfall win with a minute and five seconds remaining in the period.
The actual official duration of the match was listed at a minute and 54 seconds.
“He took me down in the first period and held me down pretty good. I’m down 2-0 in the second period, so I’m riding him for a second, and I try to go for my special move called the ‘airplane’ and I can’t get it because he sits through it. So then I spin him around the head and I get a lock on his head and arm and just hipped him over,” said Reynolds.
Gallia Academy coach Scott Stanley said the second period-position flip set up the winning maneuver.
“He (Reynolds) got down a couple points and had a hard time getting up off the bottom. At the start of the second period, we got to flip and so we deferred. Barr choose down (starting position for the period), so that was good for us. Justin runs the ‘airplane’ really well and he was staying on his toes working on that,” said Stanley. “He scrambled a little bit, hipped the kid over and stuck him. “That’s a new move that he’s been working on this year. It finally paid off. Justin felt that this was a do-or-die situation, so he was picking up the pace and leaving it all out there on the mat.”
Stanley said Reynolds’ wrestling in the second period played perfectly with his style.
“Justin is a good thrower and likes to be light on his feet. His strategy is to try and tie up and throw and get them (opponents) on their backs,” said the coach.
Unfortunately for Reynolds, he wasn’t able to accomplish that against Wiederholt, the 39-2 senior who was the Southwest District champion.
In fact, Wiederholt was viewed by many observers as a favorite for the 182-pound state championship.
Reynolds — the fourth seed from the Southeast-East District tournament — went the distance against the Bellbrook grappler, but trailed from start-to-finish on points.
“He (Wiederholt) has a good offense and a good single-leg takedown that is hard to defend. I couldn’t really defend it at all. I tried to tie him up and slow him down, but it didn’t work. My strategy was to tie him up, circle around, and not let him get any takedowns. But it didn’t work out too well,” said Reynolds. “He’s really good and deserves to be a number-one seed.”
Reynolds wrestled Wiederholt at the annual Hammer & Anvil Invitational at Western Brown this season, so Stanley said Reynolds knew who he was wrestling.
He didn’t know Barr but managed to get the pin, before losing to Day in a close contest on Friday.
Day, at 31-3, defeated Jackson junior Billy Cooper (16-5 major decision) in the 182-pound first-round on Thursday.
Reynolds was 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.
Starting with Gravely in 2010 and Taylor in 2011, and including Tawney last season, Reynolds continued the growing tradition of the Blue & White wrestling at “The Schott”.
“This is the seventh year in a row we’ve had a wrestler here (at state), so we’re building a tradition at Gallia Academy. I’m happy that Justin was here,” said Stanley. “He’s a senior, it’s well-deserved and we’re all very proud of him.”
Reynolds won’t forget his state meet experience, especially after winning Thursday’s match.
“It’s overwhelming. I’ve tried to soak it all in and have a good time with it. You can’t get all caught up in the action and not enjoy it,” he said. “I’ve tried to have fun and make the most of being here.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106