COLUMBUS, Ohio — Records are made to be broken. Just ask seniors Brandon Taylor and Zack Tackett.
The Gallia Academy duo practically rewrote all of the program’s history this past weekend at the Jerome Schottenstein Center during the 2012 Division II OHSAA Wrestling Championships held on the campus of the Ohio State University in Franklin County.
Taylor and Tackett went a combined 7-4 overall during the three-day event, with each upperclassmen earning All-Ohio honors (top-eight) while finishing in the top six of their respective weight classes. Taylor went 4-1 and finished third in the 170-pound division, while Tackett ended the weekend with a 3-3 mark and sixth place in the 182-pound weight class.
Those collective efforts yielded the Blue Devils a 17th place finish and a program-best 27 team points at the state meet, which is — by far — the best-ever finishes for GAHS at the state level. St. Paris Graham won the D-2 crown with 183.5 points, finishing 86 points ahead of the rest of the 87 teams that scored at least one point at the tournament.
Both grapplers placed as high as any athlete to ever wear a Blue and White singlet, as Jeptha Robinson solely owned the school mark after finishing sixth in the 1988 state tournament with a 3-3 record. Tackett and Taylor also joined Robinson and Jared Gravely (eighth in 2010) as the only podium placers in Gallia Academy wrestling history.
It was the third consecutive year that GAHS had advanced at least one wrestler to the state meet, and it was also the third straight year that the Blue Devils scored at least one point in the D-2 competition — both of which are school records. It was also the third time that Gallia Academy had sent two grapplers to the state level, joining Taylor and Matt Watts last year and the duo of Dustin Winters and Tommy Saunders in 2005.
In watching so many school records fall this weekend, second-year GAHS coach Brent Simms was nothing but ecstatic for his dynamic duo.
“I’m really excited for both of them this weekend. They have both represented themselves and the program really well this year and over their careers,” Simms said. “They’ve been great examples for the younger guys to learn from and they absolutely deserve what they have done here this weekend.
“I’m a big believer in karma, and I believe good things happen to good people who deserve those things. Brandon and Zack definitely deserved this weekend.”
Taylor — who joined Ben Doolittle (2002, 2004) as the only two-time state qualifiers in GAHS history — definitely ended his prep career on a high note after becoming the new standard for Blue Devil wrestling.
Taylor, who is the school’s alltime leader in career wins with 177, is now the highest state placer to ever wear the Blue and White. Taylor is also the only GAHS grappler to have four consecutive seasons with 40 or more wins at the varsity level.
A two-time Southeastern Ohio Athletic League champion, Taylor spoke about his entire journey in not only getting to this weekend — but also how it felt to be where he now is.
“I know that I have given everything I had to get to this point,” Taylor said. “I’ve wrestled since the fifth grade and looked up to so many of the wrestlers at Gallia Academy who have also competed here at state.
“Knowing that I have surpassed all of those guys in the record books this weekend, and absolutely with no disrespect meant to any of those previous guys, it’s an awesome feeling to be the guy that everyone will associate success with when talking about Gallia Academy wrestling.”
Taylor was 2-1 through Thursday and Friday competition, and the senior closed his career in grand fashion by going 2-0 on Saturday. Taylor needed 2:44 to pin Brogan Endres of Dover in his first consolation match, then scored another pinfall win over Jacob Kasper of Lexington in the third place match in 4:26 of work.
Those victories allowed Taylor to score four wins at the D-2 tournament, the most ever by a Blue Devil at the state level. Taylor’s three pinfall wins are also the most by any Blue Devil at the OHSAA championships, as are his 18 points individually at a state tournament.
Tackett, conversely, was 3-1 through two days of work, but couldn’t muster another win in either of his final two Saturday contests. Tackett was pinned in his opening consolation match by Jordan Cole of Milan Edison in 2:58, then lost a 4-1 decision to Clay Rollison of Caledonia River Valley in the fifth-place matchup.
Tackett’s 3-3 weekend and sixth-place finish match Robinson’s program-best efforts at state in 1988, and the senior leaves GAHS by scoring nine points for the Blue Devils.
In speaking of his accomplishments this weekend, Tackett was nothing but humble about having a chance to participate in such a great event.
“It’s been a great weekend. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to get here and compete, and I’m really greatful that this is how I get to end my senior season,” Tackett said. “It’s a goal for every high school wrestler to get here, so to actually do that — it’s just really great.”
Tackett also noted, being a first-timer at state, that it was an awe-inspiring experience — one he was honored to make for his soon to be alma mater.
“It’s crazy to wrestle in front of ten thousand people, but it is definitely something I’ll always remember and cherish,” Tackett said. “I cannot really describe the feeling I have in finishing on the podium, but I am excited. It’s just been a really good weekend for the Gallia Academy program.”
Taylor, in his second state appearance, said last year’s experience was very valuable this weekend. But as much as that experience helped, he commented that having one of his closest friends with him proved to be even more valuable.
“The best thing about this weekend is having Zack up here with me,” Taylor said. “We’ve been warmup partners for quite a while and he’s one of my best friends, so it’s been even more special watching him have success this weekend too.
“It’s a good way to go out personally, but it’s even better knowing what we did together this weekend. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
Complete results of the 2012 Division II OHSAA Wrestling Championships are available on the web at ohsaa.org.