(Posted March 16, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
At the 85th Annual State Wrestling Tournament, the podium was the place to be for wrestlers from Madison County. In addition to several competitors from London (see story on page 1), one Jonathan Alder athlete and one West Jefferson athlete finished there seasons with medals around their necks.
Oliver Byerly, a junior from Jonathan Alder, finished third in the 150-pound weight class in Division II. He qualified for state last year but didn’t compete due to an injury he suffered the week before the tournament. So, this year, he was raring to go.
“It was pretty awesome wrestling in front of that big of a crowd in that big a stadium,” Byerly said. The tournament took place at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
In the match that determined who finished third, Byerly wrestled the same opponent he had faced the morning before in quarter-finals, senior Nicholas Abounader of Cleveland Benedictine. In the quarter-finals, Byerly eked out a last-second win. In the finals, he left no doubt, controlling the match from the start and finishing 12-6.
“We’re super proud of him,” said Coach Tony Watson. “I’ve been around Oliver since he was maybe 11. I’ve watched him wrestle through junior high and high school. I’ve seen him grow. It’s been a great ride.
“He is a super good person, a great kid, a great wrestler. I’m glad just for the opportunity to be around him.”
Byerly is already looking ahead to next year.
“I want to come back and win the whole thing,” he said.
Bryce Keckley, a senior from West Jefferson, is a four-time state qualifier and now a two-time state placer. He finished third in 2021.
Though his 2022 state experience didn’t go the way he wanted, Keckley still made the podium with a sixth-place finish in the 175-pound class in Div. III.
“What he overcame to take sixth place is a feat in and of itself,” said his coach, Ryan Browning.
Keckley suffered a severe shoulder injury prior to the start of this season but went on to wrestle the full season. Then, at state, he won three of five matches before leaving the tournament early with a knee injury.
Browning can’t say enough about the work ethic and character of the senior.
“Bryce is one of the hardest working wrestlers I have ever seen, inside and outside the wrestling room,” he said. “He’s just a really good kid. He’s who you want your daughter to date and who you want your son to become.”
Keckley finished out his high school wrestling career as West Jefferson’s all-time leading winner with 194 wins. He is being recruited by Div. I colleges.