By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
On March 1, Troy Caldwell stood atop the podium as Jonathan Alder’s first state wrestling champion since his coach, Ron Thomas Jr., did the same 28 years ago.
Caldwell, a junior, won the Div. II state title for the 220-pound weight class. The 77th Annual Ohio High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Tournament took place Feb. 27-March 1 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Of the results, Caldwell said, “I felt accomplished… just excited.”
Thomas, who won the state title at 175 pounds in 1986, was euphoric.
“It was awesome. I was happy to be a part of it for Troy, for his family. I know my dad was excited, too,” he said.
Thomas and his father, Ron Thomas Sr., have coached wrestling at Jonathan Alder for 19 years.
“We’ve had a lot of state placers, but this is our first state champion,” he said.
Caldwell started the season with the goal of improving on his previous trip to state by making the medals podium.
“After a little while in the season, I realized I could be shooting for a bigger goal,” he said. With a district championship that included wins over previous state placers, he set his sights on the state title.
At state, everything fell into place. Caldwell beat his first two opponents 5-3 and 3-1, respectively. He went on to pin Tyler Pritchard of Upper Sandusky in the semi-finals. One of his only two losses in the regular season had been to Pritchard.
The final match was a nail-biter. Facing Garrett Harding of Uhrichsville Claymont, Caldwell was losing 0-3 early in the second period. He rallied with two takedowns on either side of an escape by Harding to end the period 4-4. Thirty-five seconds into the third period, Caldwell got the pin and the win.
“And we started celebrating,” Thomas said. “We knew that the opportunity was there, but you worry about all the things that can go wrong and the fact that only one thing can go right. Troy wrestled mistake-free all weekend.”
Caldwell credits more practice on technique as the key to his success this year. With that focus, he added more take-downs to his repertoire.
“I think that really was a big part of the reason why I did so much better this year,” he said.
For his senior year, Caldwell wants to do what only one other Jonathan Alder wrestler has done: become a two-time state champion. Mike Stalnaker, a 1979 Alder graduate, holds that distinction, having won titles in 1977 and 1979.