Van Wert’s Thomas earns spot on podium at state tourney
Saturday, March 01, 2014 12:28 AM
By Brian Bassett
Van Wert’s Zack Thomas has his hand raised in victory after defeating Matt Hunter at the state wrestling tournament on Friday afternoon. The win clinched a spot in the top eight for Thomas, who will wrestle Saturday morning in the seventh-place match. (Times Bulletin/ Larry Heiing)
Times Bulletin Correspondent
COLUMBUS — The beat kept going for Van Wert senior wrestler Zack Thomas on Friday at the 2014 State Wrestling Individual Tournament inside Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center.
The 285-pounder came into Friday’s action one win away from a spot on the podium, with only West Salem Northwestern senior Matt Hunter (44-10) standing in his way.
Just like he has throughout the tournament trail, Thomas fought. This time from a 2-1 third-period deficit to tie the match which he eventually won, 4-2, after two extra periods.
“It’s amazing,” Thomas said of the win, which clinched him a spot on the podium. “(This is) just what I was trying to do when I came in.”
Thomas (27-15) picked up his second escape point in the third period to tie the match at 2-2, a score which held through regulation.
The one-minute overtime period was a dead heat, which forced a fifth period. The fifth period consists of two 30-second segments with a flip to determine who choses positioning at the beginning of the first.
Hunter won the flip and chose to start down to start the first 30-second segment. Thomas held strong, however, and refused to surrender a point before the segment ended.
“In (the) heavyweight (class), like I’ve been telling Zack all year, It’s going to come down to one move - especially at this level,” explained Van Wert Coach Ben Collins. “Whoever stays in position the best and tries to control the tempo (has the edge).”
Thomas came away with that one move in the second segment of the fifth period. Thomas chose to start down, got a two-point reversal and held on for the 4-2 win.
“It was tough,” said a relieved and excited Thomas after the match. “He had a solid body up top. I couldn’t shoot underneath him. I just tried to be smart about it. We ended up in double-overtime and I won. It was nice.”
Though the flip didn’t go his way to open the fifth, the odds shifted in Thomas’ favor for the second segment having already scored on escape points twice.
“I still had so much energy left. I knew that I could get out there because he was dead tired,” added Thomas.
With a match tied in overtime, any points are crucial, explained Collins.
“We tried to get points in that first (overtime) period, the one-minute period, because those are hard to recover from. We didn’t get it. Then it’s like, ‘hey, I hope we get the flip.’ We didn’t get the flip. We got it into the third and it was a one-move match.
“(Zack) has been good on top these last couple of weeks. He’s found something that’s working for him. And it worked.”
Thomas advanced to the third round of the consolation bracket Friday evening, but lost a tough, 2-1 battle with Sugarcreek Garaway senior Ben Sexton (48-4).
Still, for the second consecutive day, Thomas advanced to fight another day.
Saturday he will take on Delta’s Chance Veller (24-9) in a battle for seventh place.
“It’s a great thing for Zack,” said Collins. “He’s riding high right now and he’s got to ride it through the rest of the weekend.”
Meanwhile, Wayne Trace 106-pound sophomore George Clemens (47-5) saw his season come to an end with consecutive losses on Friday.
After an easy, 16-0 technical-fall win on Thursday, Clemens lost 10-4 to Sullivan Black River senior Sebastian Vidika (42-1), who later earned a spot in the championship match Saturday.
Clemens then took on Shadyside freshman Greg Quinn (45-3) in the consolation bracket and fell 9-6.
The consolation-round match for Clemens went much like Thomas’ - seeing two extra periods.
Clemens was trailing 4-6 with two seconds left in the match before getting two last-minute, take-down points to force an extra period.
In the first extra period, a rib injury Clemens suffered earlier in the match began to flare up and clearly affected him.
In all, Quinn gained three points in the second segment of the fifth-period and held on for the 9-6 win.
Wrestling resumes Saturday morning with placements on the line. Thomas’ seventh-place battle begins at 11 a.m.