For the fourth consecutive year, North Union grapplers will be headed to the state tournament at The Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
NU coach Garret Andrews has been coaching for the past 10 years and has seen the ups and downs of the program.
“Brandon Cox and Corbin Bunsold both advanced as juniors in 2015 and placed as seniors in 2017,” he said. “In my first six years coaching the Wildcats, we only made it to state twice and in the past four years, we have qualified seven (individuals).
“I think our program has raised expectations and created a more competitive mentality,” he said. “We have good kids who set high goals for themselves.”
The latest two wrestlers to represent the Wildcats at the Division III state tournament will be Dylan Thompson and Chris Cox-Wilson.
Cox-Wilson will compete in the 182-pound weight class as a fourth seed. He will square off against Milan Edison senior Sam Stoll (No. 1) in the opening round Thursday afternoon.
Stoll is a two-time state placer, claiming fourth place in the 170 class in 2016 and seventh at 195 class in 2017.
Despite the tough competition, Andrews believes Cox-Wilson’s mentality will help him at this level.
“Chris doesn’t get psyched out about who he is wrestling,” Andrews said. “He focuses on what he wants to do in a match. Chris has had a lot of tough matches this year, so I believe he will be ready for this one.”
Cox-Wilson, who is making his first appearance at the state tournament, will bring a 39-10 season record with him.
Thompson will also be making his state tournament debut as a junior. He will grapple with the number two-seeded Cole Mefford of Indian Lake in his opening round.
It is not be the first time the two wrestlers have met on the mat.
“Dylan had a chance to wrestle Mefford last year at our home tournament,” said Andrews. “Dylan came out on the losing end and it cost him a tournament championship. I know Dylan remembers that experience and I think it will fuel his preparation this week. I am excited for the rematch.”
Thompson, a third seed, will bring a 41-7 season record with him to the tournament.
To train for their debut at the tournament, the NU grapplers traveled to Marysville this week to compete in practice with the Monarchs’ five state qualifiers.
Andrews said he hopes that level of competition will only strengthen the pair’s chances at the state level.
“I feel anytime we go there (Marysville) the competition in the room is excellent at every weight class,” he said. “We had a few other schools in there and you can really see the focus of all the wrestlers as they get ready for the state tournament.”
With this being Andrews’ fourth trip to the state meet as a coach, he has tried to impart some of his experience on the two wrestlers to give them every chance of succeeding.
“I remember my first coaching experience at the state level and I was a little intimidated as well,” said Andrews. “What it comes down to is managing your emotions and just focusing on your match and nothing else. They have to control what they can do and not worry about anything else, especially prediction reports and rankings.”
The Division III state wrestling tournament will begin Thursday at 3 p.m. and will run through Saturday.
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