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The road to winning a state wrestling title begins at 10 a.m. today as the 50th KHSAA State Wrestling Championships kick off at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena in Lexington.
Those roads are usually filled with several obstacles along the way, and this year is no different for area teams.
Several area wrestlers received less-than-favorable draws for the state tournament.
LaRue County senior 170-pounder Caleb Canter is among them. He knows how big of an impact – positive or negative – the random draw can have. Regardless of the draw, the top-ranked and undefeated Canter (48-0) has but one goal in mind: win State.
“Last year, it was a lot worse,” Canter said Monday. “But my goal is to win State and I’m not going to be happy with anything less than that. I’ve got to beat them all anyway, so it doesn’t it really matter what order I beat them in.
“I’m always confident,” he added. “I’m always going to say I’m going to win, no matter who I’m wrestling.”
Canter’s path to the title isn’t exactly a walk in the park this season.
He could meet fourth-ranked Walton-Verona senior Lane Jones (44-5) in the second round. Canter beat Jones earlier this season at the South Oldham Dragon Invitational.
“It will be nice to get the toughest match out of the way,” Canter said. “But at the same time, it would be nice to have that match in the finals to have the build up and have a real good match for my last match.”
Also in Canter’s bracket is seventh-ranked Oldham County freshman Alex McIntosh (40-11) and 11th-ranked Fort Campbell junior Ki Ryder (32-7).
“We say that Caleb got a tough draw, but in reality, everyone else got the tough draw,” LaRue County coach Gary Canter said. “It’s just a shame that you have to wrestle maybe your toughest match of the tournament in the second round. Caleb beat the Jones boy at the Dragon and it was a good, tough match for him. We were hoping to see that matchup down in the bracket and not that early.
“It’s bound to be another good match,” he added. “Any time those two get together, it’s going to be a good match.”
LaRue County senior 182-pounder B.J. Carman (53-1) also has a tough bracket. Carman could meet third-ranked Campbell County sophomore Eli Matthews (50-4) in the quarterfinals.
If Carman gets past Matthews, fifth-ranked St. Xavier senior Brandon Pledger (34-5) could be waiting in the semifinals.
“I think B.J. has good confidence where he is,” Gary Canter said. “I think he’s in a pretty good position. He’ll probably see the Matthews boy from Campbell County in the quarterfinals, and that is going to be his biggest obstacle to get out to the finals. It’s a tough draw, but it’s manageable. B.J. beat him last year, so in his mind, he feels like he has the upper hand.”
Caleb Canter and Carman didn’t receive the best draws, but Gary Canter said he’s seen worse.
“They’re not good draws by any means,” he said. “I really haven’t sat down and looked at the brackets, and I’m not going to. Every year I do that I psych myself out and there’s no sense in worrying about what’s going to happen. The bottom line is someone’s going to get upset along the way. It always happens. We’ll take every match one at a time and see where we wind up.”
The Hawks weren’t the only ones who got unfavorable draws:
n At 195 pounds, top-ranked John Hardin senior Wade Holtsclaw (30-1) could meet second-ranked Johnson Central senior Sam Preston (47-1) in the quarterfinals and third-ranked Louisville Moore senior Justin McDaniel (39-4) in the semis.
n At 220, Central Hardin senior Cody Reeser (21-5) – who’s ranked 10th – could run into top-ranked Campbell County sophomore Austin Myers (54-0) in the second round.
n Central Hardin junior heavyweight Matt Daugherty (31-5) and John Hardin senior Kristofer Humphrey (33-7), who are ranked 10th and 11th, are in the same bracket as top-ranked Louisville Trinity senior Bobby Bryant (36-1).
n At 113, eighth-ranked Meade County sophomore Chris Beeler (32-5) likely will face the winner of top-ranked Woodford County junior Nathan Boston (46-0) and third-ranked Oldham County freshman Brady Emerson (38-3) in the semifinals.
n Central Hardin 120-pound senior Jared Coffell (32-17) is in the same bracket as top-ranked Union County junior Trae Blackwell (30-3), who hasn’t lost an in-state match.
n At 132, 10th-ranked LaRue County freshman Dylan West (46-4) could meet fifth-ranked Franklin County senior Roderick Agyeman (35-5) in the second round. If West wins, top-ranked Campbell County junior Sean Fausz (57-0) likely awaits in the quarterfinals.
n A tantalizing semifinal matchup is looming at 138 as top-ranked Union County senior Jayce Carr (37-4) and fifth-ranked LaRue County junior Raymundo Perez (46-5) are on a collision course.
n At 152, Central Hardin sophomore Cole Overman (33-11) is in the same bracket as second-ranked St. Xavier sophomore Dominic Lampe (38-5).
n Eighth-ranked LaRue County senior Jared Whitlock (41-7) is in the same bracket with top-ranked Campbell County senior Stephen Myers (58-1), while ninth-ranked Meade County junior Jonah Shacklette (26-10) could meet second-ranked St. Xavier senior Gabriel French (24-4) in the quarterfinals.
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.