Columbus >> When the official blew his whistle and slapped the mat, signifying Luke McKeon’s first-period pin over Dayton Chaminade-Julienne’s David Frederick, the Lake Catholic senior rose to his feet and gazed upward like his life had flashed before his eyes.
In actuality, what had flashed before his eyes was his family.
Seated there in the first row were McKeon’s parents, Frank and Mary, who had just watched their son clinch a top-eight finish in the Division II, 152-pound tournament with his first-period pin.
McKeon’s eyes never left his parents, but they did well up with tears he had to dab with his fingers moments later.
The journey wasn’t completed with that win — it was just a leg of the journey that, until this point, had been elusive.
“I’ve never placed here,” said McKeon. “This was a need. It was a necessity to place.”
It hasn’t been an easy year for McKeon, who in the span of a few months lost both his grandmother and grandfather. As if that were not enough, McKeon broke his hand on the first day of live drills and found out that his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
With his first-round pin in the consolation quarterfinals, McKeon earned a spot on the D-II state podium, something that he failed to do in his previous trips to the state tournament.
“It’s an honor to place at this tournament,” said McKeon, whose father Frank won two state championships at Ledgemont in his day. “With all the sport from my family, they all knew I can do great with this…”
McKeon’s words trailed off as his eyes filled with tears.
McKeon lost his first match of the day on March 9, falling by 18-8 major decision to St. Paris Graham’s Joey Sanchez. If he would have lost his ensuing match to Frederick, his tournament—- and high school career — would have been over.
“I came up with my single-leg and finished,” McKeon said. “I might have had a turn in there or something. I just wasn’t going to let him off his back. I think I tasted a little bit of blood, but I wasn’t stopping. I was going for the kill.”
McKeon was one of four area wrestlers who had to battle through the consolation bracket to find their way to the state tournament podium. All will wrestle for seventh place when action resumes on March 10.
Chardon’s Jake Hamulak clinched a top-eight finish with a 4-2 sudden victory over Circleville’s Trey Finnerty. He lost his next match in the consolation bracket and will wrestle for seventh place.
Mentor’s Nick Sabin, who lost his first match of the tournament, came back to clinch a place on the Division I, 113-pound podium with a 5-2 decision over Copley’s Kyren Butler. He lost his ensuing consolation match and will wrestle for seventh place.
Riverside’s Alex Farenchak got a late takedown to cement a 5-2 decision over Huber Heights Wayne’s Jordan Hardrick, giving him a podium slot. He, too, will wrestle for seventh place.
“I’ve been dreaming about getting to state since I was a little kid,” Farenchak said. “Now that I’ve placed, it’s about getting seeing how high I can place.”
Farenchak was clinging to a 3-2 lead late in the third period when he got a match-clinching takedown.
“Once I got that takedown, I knew the match was over,” Farenchak said. “Last year I gave up an escape point and lost in overtime in that round. This year, I got through and now I’m placing.”
Standing matside clapping enthusiastically was Lance Farenchak, a Riverside assistant.
“My dad has been coaching me since my very first day of wrestling,” he said. “It’s a great experience having him with me for this.”
While Farenchak got redemption for last year, Mentor’s Sabin got some retribution for last week. With his consolation win over Copley’s Butler, he avenged a 6-3 loss sustained in last week’s district tournament at Hoover.
In a scoreless match, Sabin rolled over top of Butler and caught his opponent in a Peterson he admitted he wasn’t attempting to hit at first. It resulted in a five-point move.
Even though Butler got a reversal to make it 5-2 and was working for a late cradle that he didn’t convert, Sabin got the win to clinch a podium placement.
“I’m really excited,” said Sabin. I can’t tell you how good of a feeling I’m feeling right now. It’s awesome.”
Sabin said his original goal was just to qualify for the state tournament. He had to readjust those goals.
“I went to districts wanting to make it to state,” he said. “Now that I’m here, I wanted to podium, and I did that.”
The same mindset is shared by Chardon’s Hamulak. His first goal was to qualify for state. Then to win a match. He did both, which re-calibrated his goals to place as high as he could on the podium.
With his 4-2 sudden victory in the consolation round, he made sure he was podium-bound.
“I feel pretty confident in overtime,” Hamulak said. “I think the last four or five overtime matches I’ve had, I’ve won. Once I got to overtime, I was pretty comfortable.”
The final day of action begins at 10 a.m. on March 10 with consolation matches.
The championship round begins at 5:30 p.m.