Of the six local Division III wrestlers who qualified for state, three are veterans of the competition.
Waterford's Austin Lang, Caldwell's Kameron Rayner, and Monroe Central's Rodney Richter all had bouts in last year's tournament at Value City Arena, Jerome Schottenstein Center, on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus.
Of this trio, only Rayner placed (seventh) and earned All-Ohio status in the 138-pound weight division. Only the top 8 in each weight class gets to stand on the podium this Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Zimmer
Waterford’s Austin Lang, left, is a two-time D3 state qualifier.
"Kameron has his sight set on top 3 at state," said Caldwell head wrestling coach Tom Brown. "He got upset by the district champ in the semis on some questionable calls. He will be ready and focused this week to become a two-time state placer.
This weekend, Rayner (46-4), a Heath District third-placer, will be competing at 132. His opening-round opponent will be Delta's Dustin Marteney (47-6), a district runner-up. Last year, Marteney was also an all-stater at 126.
The D3 championship preliminaries are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. today. This is a double-elimination event which also runs Friday and Saturday.
Rayner, the owner of 155 career wins at Caldwell, got to the 2014 state event by virtue of his 5-2 decision over Lang in the district third-place round. Prior to this bout, the two local wrestlers had never battled each other on the mat before.
"I'm pretty sure both Austin and Kameron didn't want to be wrestling for third," said Waterford head wrestling coach Scott Zimmer. "Both had bad semi matches and felt they should have been in the finals.
"It was a tough weekend, but I'm glad Austin made it out. It was just not where we wanted. That's wrestling at the next level, and it's not getting any easier this weekend in Columbus."
Added Brown, "Once Kameron scored the first takedown against Lang he never looked back. Austin is very tough. They were two great wrestlers going after it. If we were to see him, we were hoping it would be in the finals. I think they both are capable of being on the podium in Columbus."
Lang (42-4) is scheduled to wrestle Willard's Major Moore (44-2) in his first match at state.
"Austin has a very tough (first) match in Moore," Zimmer said. "Hopefully with the help of other wrestlers and a former (Waterford) wrestler, we can get a good three days of workouts in before we head up. "We will be working out with Caldwell along with (ex-Wildcat grappler) Tyler Reed who has been wrestling with Austin for the last week or so."
Rayner no doubt will also be training with younger brother Kolby, who qualified for state at 126. Kolby Rayner (37-9), a CHS sophomore, placed fourth at district when he suffered a 4-3 decision to Ridgewood's Cole Zeigler.
"This is Kolby's first trip to state," Brown said. "He has improved so much from last year to this year. He is wrestling the best I have ever seen him wrestle."
The younger Rayner's first-round foe at state will be district champion Jarred Ganger (23-1) of Covington. Ganger is a two-time state placer, finishing first at 113 last winter and second at 106 in 2012.
Brown said Caldwell has had at least one wrestler advance to state 12 consecutive years and a state placer 11 straight winters.
"I'm very happy for them (Rayner brothers)," the Redskins boss continued. "They both work so hard, and I'm glad to see them accomplish one of their goals (going to state)."
Kameron's and Kolby's older brother is Caldwell graduate Kale Rayner, a state qualifier at 170 last year.
Last weekend, Monroe Central finished 13th overall team-wise in a field of 50 schools at the Heath D3 district, thanks in part to the 120-pound Richter (33-8) and 220-pound Tanner Potts (36-6). Both Seminole grapplers qualified for state.
Richter, a 2013 state qualifier at 113 last year, will be paired up against district champion Evan Cheek 54-1)of Milan Edison. Last year, Cheek was a state placer (fourth) at 106 in D2.
Potts, a district third-placer, will be facing district runner-up Alex Stotter (37-4) of Gates Mill.
Belpre 182-pound and district fourth-place Jamie Barrett (35-12) will be making his first state appearance. The senior Golden Eagles' opening-round opponent will be district champion Armani Robinson (47-2) of Jamestown Greeneview. Robinson is a two-time state placer, finishing third last season and runner-up at 170 in 2012.