By Chris Chaney
Out of the 40 district qualifiers in Clermont County, only four will represent the community upstate at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Value City Arena in Columbus this weekend as they wrestle for the state championship.
Led by district champion, New Richmond’s Nathan Dixon, Clermont County will also boast second-place finisher Matt Sicurella of Glen Este, third-place finisher JR Forsee of New Richmond and fourth-place finisher Chip Ratcliff.
Dixon, a senior, ran through the 220 lbs. weight class at the Division II district at Goshen en route to his title and a spot in the state tournament.
“It went real well for Nathan, he pinned everybody,” Lions’ head coach Deron Shinkle said. “He was on fire. He found his groove and performed very exceptionally.”
A two-seed coming in by virtue of his finish in the sectional tournament, Dixon didn’t have the easiest road to the district championship, but that wouldn’t have been evident by watching him wrestle.
As Shinkle said, he literally pinned every opponent he went up against, the first two in the first minute of the match.
Heading into the semifinal, Dixon had been on the mat for a combined 59 seconds. In a format that demands endurance, Dixon didn’t need to tap into his reserve energy until a state berth was locked up.
Still, Dixon pinned his semifinal opponent, Sam Oakes of Northwestern, in 5:15 and then won the district over Brandon Davis of McClain in similar fashion, pinning him in 5:34.
Dixon’s teammate, JR Forsee, also qualified for state, albeit by a different path. Wrestling at 285 lbs., Forsee dominated his opening two matches winning by technical fall, 15-0 in the first round and 6-0 in the second.
“JR did well over there as well,” Shinkle said. “He cramped up a bit during his semifinal match and had some trouble getting through that one, but once we got him rehydrated, he wrestled well.
“He was a little disappointed he didn’t get to the finals, but sometimes that stuff happens. He’s a state qualifier.”
After losing his semifinal match, Forsee went down to the consolation bracket where, once rehydrated, he pinned his opponent, Gavin Peacock of Ross, in 2:33 and then won the third-place match by major decision, 9-0.
“It’s really good for the program,” Shinkle said of having two state qualifiers. “It shows the hard work that they put in over the past four years. They’re always working towards something and they’re reminded everyday of the past that we have because we hang plaques of all our state qualifiers on the wall.“
Also wrestling out of the Division II tournament at Goshen, Southern Buckeye co-Wrestler of the Year and sectional champion, Bethel-Tate’s Chip Ratcliff at 132 lbs. made his way through the bracket to secure a place upstate. Despite his top seed, Ratcliff fell in the first round to Mason Kooser of Chaminade-Julienne, but his strategy stayed the same.
“For him, (the strategy) didn’t really change, dropping down to the consolation bracket,” Bethel head coach Tom Donahue said. “He was in the same spot we expected him to be in after the semifinal. If he would have made it to the semifinal, he would have wrestled the best wrestler in the state, Micah Jordan, so he would have been in the exact same spot that he was in anyway.
“It just added two more matches in his journey, but we knew he was going to have to wrestle three good matches in a row to qualify and he did.”
Ratcliff ran through the consolation bracket, advancing to the finals where he dropped a close match to Stewart Oehlers of Fairfield Union, 3-2, but his spot at state was already locked up.
Joining the three Division II state qualifiers is Matt Sicurella of Glen Este in Division I. Sicurella, wrestling in the 126 lbs. weight class, came in as a top seed as a result of winning his sectional.
The sophomore had little trouble advancing into state qualifying position, dismantling his first-round opponent, Lucas Brown of Stebbins, winning by technical fall, 15-0. In the second round, Sicurella pinned Andrew Acuna of Lakota West in 3:29 to advance to the semi where he defeated Ryan Gordon of St. Xavier 5-1.
In the district final, Sicurella fell in an entertaining match to fellow top seed, Brandon Selmon on Princeton, 9-8.
All four wrestlers will head up to Columbus for weigh-ins and first round action on Thursday, Feb. 28. The four will have to navigate through five sessions and 16 other wrestlers to reach the podium and the chance at wrestling immortality as a state champion.